Shunga 1-6


Over the bedspread

His pipe is well-used, and he fills it again.

You’re wearing a mantle over your gown

Because he likes to enter the reserve,

Searching here and there for its waterfall.


You have done up your sleek black hair

With a fine comb and ivory pins,

Done it up with particular care

In contrast to the wilderness below.


Taking another puff of his blow,

He thinks of it all in a dopey dream,

Imagining what he’s about to do,

And comes too soon, annoyingly for you.



That curls the toes.

She has been attending his creative writing class.

He has invited her to his summer-house,

He says it’s where he does his best work.

It overlooks an undulating stream.


She has put on her loveliest kimono:

The one with the chrysanthemums:

Pink and yellow pompons floating on a grey

Watery silk with raindrops maybe


Or discarded petals. Goes so well with the hot

Pink of her sash.  It’s crimson underneath,

Which he discovers – when he lets her read

His latest verse while dipping in her pot.



Behind a screen

There’s no point in fussing with her hair,

Left on her own all summer,

Belly getting heavier and heavier,

Her black-necked crane sent off somewhere


Remote.  His fault for lines that discomfited

An emperor.  She keeps the lantern lit,

And now he’s sent her this totally

Horny book, with an intimate note in it.


He’ll be back with the cranes this winter,

If he can wheedle his way back into favour.

Now she dribbles cum all over her loose

Maternity smock.  She knows he likes her flavour.



Fuck the exam!

I turned up to show you my prep, not my pussy,

And don’t see why you should need to inspect

It here in your bedroom, not in your study.

Anyway, as far as you’re concerned,


There’s nothing to see.  The sight

Of what you’ve got leaves me sealed up,

As good as intact.  Get that discoloured instrument

Away from me.  It makes my toes uncurl.


You should treat a nice girl with respect.

I don’t give a shit about your intellect.

Wrap your arm around my thigh

And you’ll see red – I mean to scratch your eye.



Feeling him again.

The cherry scent of Spring offset the nip

That was still in the air.  My maids had spent such ages

On my coiffeur, and he was home at last from his business trip.

A coat well-travelled and well-stuffed wallet.


I’d had the towels laid out for his bath,

But my plan had been to feed him first

His favourite noodles.  Carefully prepared,

Dressed in my opulent best, I came in with the tray.


I knelt and set it down, and he

Had an appetite, yes.  His hunger like a tree.

He had been a fair good while away.

The noodles?  Not exactly his priority. 



On a floating carpet

Delicate hands, delightfully slim, such a darling hen.

She should be on stage, so able is she

To typify the perfect courtesan. 

This is why I begged her to come over.


We could study the classics together, the key roles:

Suicidal lover, nemesis of the conqueror,

But how should a game cock tread her – since she proves

As eager for the ride but actually


As cocky as myself?  No need to worry,

Love will always find a way to enter,

Turn the tables on what’s said in Persia,

After a summer of girls, one boy through the winter.



Shunga, literally “spring pictures”, is an erotic artistic tradition that emerged from early modern Japan, featuring graphic images of sexual activity. Produced by the thousands during the Edo period (1600-1868), shunga offered sexuality a shameless visual platform, where sexual pleasure, female sexuality, and homosexuality were not only acknowledged but encouraged.

(Artsy, Sept 24, 2013)

About anthonyhowelljournal

Poet, essayist, dancer, performance artist....
This entry was posted in art, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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