Yoshiwara

Yoshiwara girls in their brothel; photo Wikipedia

Yoshiwara girls in their brothel; photo Wikipedia

Yoshiwara red-light district

Yoshiwara red-light district

Japan’s floating world
once known as Yoshiwara
city of desires
created and ruled by men
where girls were procured
tutored and groomed for service
to high-ranking courtesans
and one day replace
educated in the arts
writing of haiku
performing in kabuki
coached in seduction
of coy looks and expressions
and language of love
to gain favoritism
hair, makeup, clothing
a countenance of façade
to lure, please, flatter
this world depicted in art
romantically
glossed over illness and pain
many died young through
disease and botched abortions
life spent indentured
women and men both
existing in the sex trade
captive behind bars
ugliness hidden
for gratification’s sake
and to stave off loneliness

Join me at dVerse Poets for Meeting the Bar as I introduce the Choka.  We would love to have you join us!  The bar opens Thursday at 3PM EST.

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54 Comments

  1. Historically correct and poetically poignant! I love choka but haven’t written in this form in years! Good to see you reviving it, Gayle!

    Jane

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  2. I read a documentary or movie about this. Yes, it’s part of their culture but I feel sad for those men and women enslaved and caught in this web, to please men of power. (Note-I think the ending lines should be revised though?)

    A nice form to try Gayle ~ Thanks for hosting this wonderful challenge ~

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    • Yikes, Grace, I goofed up! Thanks for catching that. I think it’s correct now. I’m glad you like the form. I had written one long ago and thought it may be a fun one to try for everyone. You’re welcome, and Happy New Year to you! xo

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  3. I’ve only ever tried this form once before, Gayle, back in the summer, so your prompt was a great opportunity to have another go. Your Choka is so interesting and so sad.

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    • I’m glad the prompt gave you another try at the choka, Kim. I like the idea that it’s longer and tells a story. As I was researching the form an article showed up about Yoshiwara. It was in use for over 300 years and was finally outlawed in the 50s.

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      • Why was it outlawed? Especially after 309 years!

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        • The government outlawed prostitution. But the article also said that there is still some of the sex trade activities going on there still today in spite of the law change. It’s now known as Tokyo.

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          • I think I misunderstood – I thought you meant the Choka was outlawed. I had to go back and read the comments again. 😞

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            • Oh, gosh…sorry about your misunderstanding, Kim. Maybe I could have been more clear.

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              • It’s probably me, Gayle. My brain’s a bit fuzzy with worrying about my mum. I’m visiting her today – a 7 hour round trip with only an hour and a half to visit, if she’s up to it. It could be the last time I see her.

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                • Kim, I’m so sorry to hear this. My support is with you today during this emotional time…I wish you well. I hope it won’t be the last time you see each other. Hugs. xo

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                  • Thank you, Gayle. We got back early yesterday evening and I couldn’t go on-line. What we saw was just so devastating – there’s nothing left of her. Her breathing is birdlike, she’s skeletal and can’t move. But I think she recognised my voice as there was the ghost of a smile and her eyes moved as if she was trying to see me. Thank you for the hugs, they are much appreciated.

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                    • Dearest Kim, today I’ve received your email telling us that your mother passed away late this morning. My heart and thoughts are with you as you process your emotions during this difficult time. Blessings for you and all of your loved ones…hugs. xo

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                    • Thank you so much, Gayle. As you can imagine, I’ve been hiding a way for a while and will be back at the Poets Pub on Monday. We don’t know when the funeral will take place yet as undertakers are very busy this time of the year – it could be at the end of February. So I am taking deep breaths and trying to carry on. At least I got to see her on Sunday.

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                    • Bless you, Kim. Yes, deep breaths are good and I’m so glad you got to see her one last time. xo

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  4. This made me shiver, and also being ashamed of sometimes being duped by the glossy sheen of beauty that always covered the dirty part with its thin veneer…

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    • I was duped too, Bjorn. I just have seen the romanticized and glorified side of this life and not the truth. Now we know.

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  5. sex slavery – even at it’s most “glamorous” was still slavery. You have written this tale powerfully.

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  6. Glenn Buttkus

     /  January 5, 2017

    The tale and word smithing catapulted me along, hardly noticing the form. Choka is certainly new to me–the examples seem to show the 7 syllable line at the end of every 5-7-5 or 5-7-7 internal stanza & that the poem is not broken up into individual stanzas. Oh well, it was fun to try something new.

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  7. Thank you, Glenn. You know I almost didn’t separate the stanzas and then I did…oh well, I’m learning as I go along just like the rest of us. I actually would like it better as all one poem, not broken up. Next time!

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  8. Oh my, you really went to town on this form! Mine is meagre by comparison. I love your retelling of this. Quite riveting.

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  9. I am amazed how many actions are considered an art when it really is an unconscionable behavior, legitimized by the fact it is considered an art to do…I love haiku, so l nice to do a lot of the..kinda 😉

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    • Yes, the powers that be back in the day, made sure that only the glamour of the “art” was presented. I guess few knew the truth about the sad state of affairs for those poor girls…indentured slaves.

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  10. Loved your poem. Think I’ll shelf my effort until OLN. It needs some serious work and will do it during the weekend.

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  11. Your Choka tells this very sad tale in a very poignant way and the form suits the subject very well. Thank you so much for introducing me to this form and a very happy new year to you xxx

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  12. Things are not as they seem on the surface…thanks for revealing truth.

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  13. The beautiful curtain hiding the ugly truth.Historically, and most unfortunately, currently accurate in the form of sex trafficking. Heartrendingly told.

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    • Good way of putting it Raivenne…a beautiful curtain, and there’s really no other way to tell the story is there…it was tragic and ugly. Thanks for adding your choka to the prompt.

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  14. you socked it to us with this poem Gayle – with every line the romance fades into stark naked truth.
    p.s. thank you for the introduction to the choka form – enjoyed trying it out

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    • Well, I had never heard of this entire district where the sex trade was such a part of society for over 300 years. It was totally glamourized and people didn’t know the truth of the suffering that went on behind the scenes. I’m so glad you enjoyed the form…thanks for adding your choka to the prompt, Laura.

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  15. Great prompt and a fabulous example here. Thanks for this.

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  16. Your piece reminds me of Memoirs of a Geisha. Beneath the glamour is darkness and pain.

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  17. A grim version of reality for so many young women.
    I feel a strong sense of desolation and hopelessness.
    Awesome write for this prompt.

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    • Yes, that’s a good description, grim. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me Stacy and I appreciate your compliment.

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  18. Romanticism can sometimes hide real pain and words like “demure” can really mean an entire gender stifled.

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  19. Whenever I am a bit dissatisfied with my life, all I have to do is remember this (or situations like this) to feel truly blessed that I escaped living that kind of life. Thank you for putting my petty complaints into perspective.

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    • That’s right. There are so many who are suffering greatly all over the world…too many whose lives are horribly dismal. It does make us stop and count our blessings doesn’t it. I hope you are well, Lorna.

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  20. I have read in the past many different books by Asian authors that are based on historical fact but fiction and am amazed by how things were done in their past. I often find the history of other countries more interesting than our own as the US is quite a new nation in the scheme of things. I like your write and how you have tied it all together. 🙂

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    • I’m amazed at those “older” cultures too, Renee, and the rich depth of history that they have. Yes, the United States is quite new compared to other countries. Thank you for coming by. 🙂

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