Mountain of Souls
writing by Michelle Egan
Japanese itako were traditionally blind girls who learned the craft of spirit communication, how to command nature, cure the sick and educate the crowds who gathered to consult them. They have been located at Mount Ozore in Aomori prefecture for centuries.
Itako-san’s shrill rhythmic laments
(for itako trill their unspoken chants)
are broken snatches of incantations
that ring through my ears perhaps salutations.
Improvised songs filled with composite rules.
A clutching hand shakes beads to heal wounds.
Kneeling before her approach the bereaved:
a lover, a mother, those who are grieved.
Itako-san swiftly snatches for pains,
evoking solutions from alternative planes.
Itako-san with a hallowed face,
transporting anguish into a place
of comfort, of joy, of images bountiful.
Sharing a moment in awe insurmountable
when poised in your tent, sweltering love,
surrounded by desolate fissures above
on the hillside leading down to a lake
whose sulphurous shore gives respite to heartache.
Glowing white sand where undead linger on,
offerings stark left to those who are gone,
sadness resting in pungent air.
In a temple, priests are kneeling for prayer,
beating a drum to uplift and empower.
Crows watch over each fading hour.
Banners creak, beneath pinwheels whirl,
life at its darkest gives cause to return.