(Editor’s note: below is Part I of Carrie Preston’s English-language noh “Miya.” This entry includes the kuri/sashi/kuse sections as well as a brief ai-kyogen interlude. The Boat Captain appears in his true guise as Hata, the builder of the boat. He states “I return to bless all who accept love’s journey.”)
The city behind him, scrabble blocks.
The ocean before him,
waves, a cursive scrawl,
illegible. But also comforting,
with no pretense of logic.
There is something to read
in the way of promise keeping.
He chose an outgoing tide,
a June morning, raised Miya’s sails,
she sipped, drank deeply,
took her shape, narrow rib,
against the heart of the sea.
Around the docks they whisper:
madness, suicide, crazed by his wife’s death.
Only water for weeks
stretching to a dark line.
He hit a typhoon, left the helm,
crawled into the cabin to wait
but Miya stayed afloat.
He lost the mast
crashed into a fishing boat.
The fishermen collected funds
for a new mainsail.
Finally, the breakers
his island’s wheel shaped rock.
Hata returned his wife’s ashes
to her ancestral shrine.
He could hardly walk,
the ground was too solid there
without the sea’s pulse.
Kurumaishi had turned.
He went back to Miya,
Her voice calling me
in the wind whipped sail.
Her voice calling him
in the wind whipped sail.
Fishermen found Miya
sailing the coast of
said he couldn’t make
the journey home,
too tough for an old man.
Don’t believe it.
He was home.
He steps from the dock and sinks
below the waves.
(BOAT CAPTAIN exits.)
(DECKHAND enters with a case of beer and drinks a few throughout the scene. Husband rises.)
DECKHAND: Are you getting ready to shove off? Need a hand?
HUSBAND: We hadn’t planned on sailing in this fog.
DECKHAND: Ah, you don’t need to see to sail. Best case, I’m seeing double after a few of these. (Drinks beer and looks at Wife.) But, I like what I see there. (Takes another drink.)
HUSBAND: My wife is visiting.
DECKHAND: Your wife! And she let’s you live aboard! My old lady wouldn’t hear of it. Her or the boat, at least I get to sail more now.
HUSBAND: Well, she doesn’t live here all the time.
DECKHAND: How’s that? One in every port then, eh?
HUSBAND: No, she works…
DECKHAND: I don’t care how you work it. If the boat’s rocking, I won’t come… (Stamps three times in shimai imitation. Catches Wife’s attention and she stands.)
HUSBAND: This is the deckhand who knew Hata.
WIFE: What was he like?
DECKHAND: Odd one. Kept his wife’s ashes in a box on the boat. Always making tea and lighting candles in front of it. I told him he’d never get the smoke stains off the naugahyde. But, he was all right. I did some work for him to get the boat ready to sail. Every time I screwed in a stanchion, he would yell bonsai! I thought he was going out to scatter those ashes on the water, and then I heard he up and sailed to Japan. He had guts anyway! Well, if you don’t need a hand, I’m shoving off. (He exits.)
HUSBAND and WIFE:
Should we sail into the fog?
How to be worthy
of Miya, Hata, each other?
Have we so far lost our way,
we imagine ghosts
telling us to sail across
the ocean for love?
We’ll light a candle for him,
promise to remember,
make his journey our guide.
(The Nochijite returns as the spirit of Hata.)
A candle’s flame is like a sail,
moving with the wind.
Sailed with love, Miya, a shrine
for the lesser gods
of journeys and passages.
Love is a used boat,
tangled lines, rusted stanchions.
No direct route,
to sail is to travel
at right angles to the wind.
I return to bless
all who accept love’s journey.
Candle glowing through deep fog,
wind’s duet -flame is like a sail-.
A boat must follow the breeze.
With light wind, there’s little work,
sails fall limp – clang against the mast-.
then sails fill -work to tend the lines. –
Water wears away high cliffs,
by flowing around hard rock,
not crashing -against what won’t move.
All lovers can learn this dance.
All can learn -dance of wind filled sails-.
Dance of sea -pulse of the waves-.
Let currents guide your journey.
Two white gulls – soar on one breeze – [Tsuyogin]
then swirl apart, dive away,
return to touch clouds with wings,
white feathers –sweep away the fog –
climb above, -wings are like a sail-
Hata tightens the jib line
then steps from Miya, sinking
below waves, leaving behind
lovers, candle, wing, and sail.