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Afflicted with an incurable stammer
The novice acolyte constantly endured
The mockeries of the senior monks
Within the confines of the monastery
Where Yōsuke was given the name Dōshin
Who sought the Way to Liberation

Without the precincts was an island in a lake
Where the Temple of the Golden Pavilion stood
A triple-tiered structure covered in gold leaf
Its thatched pyramid roof topped with a bronze Phoenix
The lake pristinely mirrored the Golden Pavilion
Unrippled even by the dozens of multicoloured carp 

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The ornamental koi had various hues and designs of great beauty
Deep scarlet, rose, blanche, silvered blue
And one that was completely gold just as the Pavilion itself
The lake was surrounded by a ring of beige stalks of withered lotuses
As a cold December sunset gilded the roof
The scenery took on sublime majesty

The Pavilion contrasted greatly with Dōshin’s tormented mind
His disfigured body with a club foot and a scar that cut deep
From his elbow to his shoulder blade
Yōsuke envied the glorious beauty outside
Where visitors would gaze at its splendour
Mockeries continued however diligently he strived to be free

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In the stillness of the midnight
He crept out of the monastery confines
A gently arching bridge led Yō to the gilded island
It was despair that took him there
With just a small pile of fallen leaves Yō ignited a fire
That within a few minutes set ablaze the entire Golden Pavilion

Yō intended to perish within the flames that licked the blistering gold leaf
Climbing the steps to the upper chamber
Whose inner walls were also covered in gold leaf
He banged and shook the locked door but it wouldn’t open
In a fit of reversal he fled dashing over the all consuming fire
Back to the shore and up the nearest hill

On the hilltop he sat under a crooked pine
And gazed on at the pyromaniac conflagration that he had created
To him it was somehow a magnificent fire that lit up the sky
Illuminated at its zenith with Venus shining brightly
A crescent moon hid low behind a red pine covered hillside
And Yō lit a cigarette like someone at the end of a good day’s work 

As the sintered charcoal beams caved in
And the burnt balustrade plunged into the waters
Yō admired the spectacle of vermillion licks
He just sat there shivering on a moss covered rock
The sirens of police cars whirred in the distance
Their red lights revolving against the piney woods

Snow began to fall lightly at first
But soon covered the green of the pine needles
And the branches began to bend a little
He just sat there thinking about a golden koi
Somewhere out in the lake
Motionless in the depths just flickering its fin
Over a sunken bed of crimson

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 〜 With a deep bow to Yukio Mishima

三島 由紀夫 (1925 –1970), a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor, film director.
The poem is abridged from his novel “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion 金閣寺”

Paintings by kind permission of Daniel Kelly

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