On this summer night

by Jusammi Chikako

English version by Edwin A. Cranston
Original Language Japanese

     On this summer night
All the household lies asleep,
     And in the doorway,
For once open after dark,
Stands the moon, brilliant, cloudless.

-- from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield

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/ Image by George Lu /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

A beautiful moon last night quietly watching overhead as my wife and I went for an evening walk. I believe the official full moon is tonight -- a blue moon. A perfect opportunity for a moon poem.

I have loved this poem by Jusammi Chikako for years, so I was surprised to discover that it has been years since I featured it on the Poetry Chaikhana. Let's rectify that omission...

We are instantly made aware of a warm summer night, and everyone sleeps, except the poet, who is awake. The door is left open to invite a cooling breeze, and through it we see the moon, large, glowing, pure, watching us just as we watch it. In that timeless still moment, it is as if we have met the gaze of an old friend or lover, a quite moment of mutual recognition. No words are spoken, none needed. We are fully present in each other's gaze.

If we want to read this poem on a more metaphorical level, we might understand the "house" as the individual self. So when Jusammi Chikako says, "All the household lies asleep," she could be stating that the mind has finally settled into perfect, still awareness.

The "doorway" becomes the threshold of open perception.

And in the doorway
For once open after dark,
Stands the moon, brilliant, cloudless.


The moon can be taken to represent the individual awareness perfectly reflecting the eternal light (of the sun). The full moon is Buddha mind, original mind. She has suddenly discovered it, been flooded with its "brilliant" light, utterly at peace beneath the unobstructed, "cloudless" night sky of awareness.

...Or we can just look up and meet the moon's gaze.



Recommended Books: Jusammi Chikako

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women
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On this summer night