Oriori no Uta : Poems for All Seasons

Woken from winter sleep,

the frogs ascend

the last thin layer

of snow and

spread their bodies flat

Saitō Mokichi

From Shirokiyama (White Mountains, 1949), A tanka poet who was born in Yamagata Prefecture in 1882 and died in 1953. Mokichi was evacuated from Tokyo to his original home in the closing days of World War II, and stayed on after the war’s end, moving in early spring of the next year to the Ōishida region near the Mogami River. There he lived alone for over a year. This poem dates from early spring of 1947, when Mokichi was in the habit of taking his lunch and walking about near the Mogami River. The precision of the last line, “spred their bodies flat,” pulls the whole poem together and at the same time opens it up. The masterty og craft is absolute.


斎藤茂吉(さいとう もきち)