TOBIUME: THE FLYING PLUM OF DAZAIFU TENMANGU SHRINE
When the Emperor of Japan banished Michizane,
A lone plum tree could not bear the scholar’s exile.
Tearing her roots free from Kyoto’s soil,
Sap quivering, branches showering pale
Pink and white stars across the clouds,
She flew over three hundred miles
To entwine her solace with his sun.
What did Michizane know first of the plum’s return?
Perhaps his ears caught the shape of leaves’ lyrics
His lips tasted the subtle scent of her shade
Or a petal like a silk tear touched his hand.
Their reunion was over a millennium ago
Michizane’s flesh now worn fine to dust,
But of Dazaifu’s six thousand plums,
Tobiume always blooms first in spring,
Each flower its own shrine to friendship.