“Sentient beings can get completely lost in it”: the erotic poems of Ikkyū

Ikkyu and a Lady of Pleasure

Ikkyū / 一休宗純 (Zen Buddhist monk, 1394-1481, Kyoto, Japan)


It is nice to get a glimpse of a lady bathing—
you scrubbed your flower face and cleansed your lovely body
while this old monk sat in the hot water
feeling more blessed than even the emperor of China.


A woman is enlightenment when you’re with her and the red thread
of both your passions flares inside you – and you see.


A sex-loving monk, you object!
Hot-blooded and passionate, totally aroused.
Remember, though, that lust can consume all passion,
Transmuting base metal into pure gold.


Ten days in this temple and my mind is reeling.
Between my legs the red thread stretches and stretches.
If you come some other day and ask for me,
Better look in a fish stall, a sake shop, or a brothel.


Follow the rule of celibacy blindly, and you are no more than an ass;
Break it and you are only human.
The spirit of Zen is manifest in ways countless as the
sands of the Ganges.


With a young beauty, sporting in deep love play;
We sit in the pavilion, a pleasure girl and this Zen monk.
Enraptured by hugs and kisses,
I certainly don’t feel as if I am burning in hell.


A Man’s Root

Eight inches strong, it is my favourite thing;
If I’m alone at night, I embrace it fully—
A beautiful woman hasn’t touched it for ages.
Within my
fundoshi there is an entire universe!

Fundoshi, traditional Japanese underwear, is a loin cloth made of one length of white linen or cotton.

Fundoshi, traditional Japanese underwear, is a loin cloth made of one length of white linen or cotton.


A Woman’s Sex

It has the original mouth but remains wordless;
It is surrounded by a magnificent mound of hair.
Sentient beings can get completely lost in it.
But it is also the birthplace of all the Buddhas of the
ten thousand worlds.


The Dharma Master of Love

My life has been devoted to love play;
I’ve no regrets about being tangled in red thread from
head to foot,
Nor am I ashamed to have spent my days as a
Crazy Cloud—
But I sure don’t like this long, long bitter autumn of
no good sex!


To Lady Mori with Deepest Gratitude and Thanks

The tree was barren of leaves but you brought a new spring.
Long green sprouts, verdant flowers, fresh promise.


(Mori, a blind minstrel, was 77-year-old Ikkyū‘s young mistress.)


Pleasure, pain, are equal in a clear heart.
No mountain hides the moon.


I’m up here in the hills starving myself
But I’ll come down for you.


I think of your death, I think of our touching,
My head quiet in your lap.


Suddenly nothing but grief
So I put on my father’s old ripped raincoat.


Translations from the Japanese: John Stevens, Stephen Berg

.     .     .     .     .

“Bird-songs accompany our laughter”: poems of love and desire

Yellow Hibiscus

Suzanne Dracius (born 1951, Martinique)

Women’s Wicked Desires”


Women too revel in riding

Thighs spread apart

Seated astride shamelessly

As they say in polite language…

À la Andromaque

That’s why you won’t talk about it

That’s how you will be happy to

Do all of these things you are saying

Promptly at dawn

All of these honeyed things

Forbidden in theory

As they say

Women’s wicked desires

What can befall us

By doing all that you are asking for

If we do them for fun

Since today’s strong woman

Won’t be abused for it

I do hope you can grasp

How I defy the kind of feminine prudishness

That wants to hold me back

When I dare perform

The saucy somersaults you ask

Even though I know I shouldn’t

Since I’m a well-bred young lady

As they say

Now I am the wicked one

And I am asking you to do all these juicy things

And sing my song in tune with me

As they say

A woman’s wicked desires.

Do I really need to leave my senses

For us to enjoy some pleasure

The wild way

With dazzling unbridled wantonness

With cuddling which was not done openly

The snuggling that we see today

Wickedly as they say

With a frenzy to swoon

To women it is pleasure

To ride astride

As in the frescoes of Pompeii

Thighs wildly spread apart

Soaking your potent organ

Just like on Rue d’Enfer in Saint-Pierre

Doing all these forbidden things

Truly paradisiacal

Women’s wicked desires

To put myself in all the positions you ask

In mystical cries

Ho misticri, krik krak monkey!

To offer myself in all these forbidden positions

And krik and krak

And krik krak

So the audience doesn’t fall asleep



Oh Lord! Dear, dear, dear Lafilo!

I’m taking to flying

I’m stepping out

Running like a maroon

To get myself off

Epicurean Caribbean style.


Translation from the Creole: Hanétha Vété-Congolo

. . .

Here is the original poem – in Creole:


Suzanne Dracius

Fantasm Fanm”


Pou fanm tou sé bèl plézi

Di monté adada osi

An mannyè kal…


À la Romaine, à l’Andromaque”

Sé pousa ou pé di hak

Sé konsa ou ké kontan

Fè tout sé bagay ou ka di

O pipiri

Tout sé bagay ki intèwdi

An téyori

Kon yo ka di

An fantasm fanm

Sa ki pé rivé nou davré

Di fè tousa ou ka mandé

A sipozé ki nou ka fèy

Dépi nou fè sa épi

Ti bren foli

Puis fanm jodi

Pé ké modi

Mwen ka espéré kou pé konpwann

Sa ki sé kalté pidè fanm

Lè man noz fè

Sa ou ka di-a

mèm si man sav

Ki fo pa fèy

An jèntifi

De bonnfanmi

Kon yo ka di

Atjolman sé mwen ki bandi

Ek sé mwen ké mandé-w li

An mélodi

An narmoni

Kon yo ka di

An fantasm fanm

Es fok tèt an mwen pati

Pou nou pwan titak plézi

An vakabonnajri

Kon yo ka di

An féyéri

An barbari

Pichonnaj ki pa té ka fèt an gran lari

Dousinaj ki nou ka vwè jodi

An pitènri

Kon yo ka di

An frénézi

An malkadi

Pou an fanm sé bèl plézi

Di monté adada osi

Kon sou lérwin Ponpéyi

Alabodaj an bèl péyi

À l’Andromaque, à la Romaine”

Pa an sèl wozé pijé grènn

An mannyè pakoté Senpyè

An mannyè a lari Lanfè

Fè tout sé bagay intèrwdi

An paradi

Fantasm fanm

Fè tout sé bagay man ka di

An mistik kri

Yé mistikri

Fè krik krak

Kon yo ka di

Yé krak yé kri

An filozofi

Pou lakou pa domi

An poyézi

An malapri

An malfini


Lavol an pri

Épi kouri

Caribéenne épicurie –

. . .

Obediah Michael Smith(born 1954, Bahamas)

Bee Mad” (for L.M.M.)


how can you withhold from me

where your thighs meet

like honey in the crotch of a tree

and not expect me to buzz as angrily as a bee.

. . .

Chapel Steeple” (for M.B.)


I’ve had my head between her legs,

where her thighs meet

bushy place to ramble wild,

berries growing by the spring I make flow

in this I wash my face to wake myself

face in the Bible she opens to let me read

to convert me to true love, to the truth of love,

to let me taste the fruit of love.

Love is Grand 1_Image from Saddi Khalid PhotoLove is Grand 2Love is Grand 3

Ken Forde



In this tome

of silence,

I will enter

your quietude;

have you come

with me

to a place

of red and yellow bloomings,

humming birds

their feathered flash

tongued nectar

sweet and fragrant.

With you

I will leap

across the distance

to this place

of caimate purples

and sapodilla browns,

our skins caressed

by warm fingered sun.

Bird-songs accompany

our laughter.

. . .

Colin Robinson

Loosening my Tongue” (for Reggie)


is an old

metaphor is a young

man you

are an old

metaphor loosening my tongue

flicks to the back of a youthened


a second set of teeth




flies hungry

watering for a metaphor that I can swallow whole

that will go


that will last a whole poem

something hard and round and risky

musky ancient hairy language

reaches back

coughing up cotton

congealed in

big blue balls

of speech

old stiffened yellow rubber socks

policy       proposal       political       position       posture

place sex into my mouth again

unsheathe, untangle old poetry

poke at my prostate

full of old fragments

waiting for your big hands

to rub it      soothe

a gasping warm white

stanza flows between my legs

into a purposeful brown



envelopes my tongue


man you

are a

metaphor on the tip of my tongue

making my poems come

whole again

. . .

The above poems are © their respective authors:

Suzanne Dracius: “Fantasm Fanm”

Obediah Michael Smith: “Bee Mad”, “Chapel Steeple”

Ken Forde: “Nectar”

Colin Robinson: “Loosening my Tongue”

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