There’s a personal story behind my love for this medieval Japanese poem by Lady Ki No Washika. I found it in the Los Angeles Times Book Review back in the late summer of 1998. This was a time in my life where, after a very turbulent couple of years, I had taken a temporary vow of celibacy. I was spending time with friends, working out, and busy coming back to God. I found myself struggling many times — it is axiomatic that when we make these vows, tempting offers tend to come along at once! This poem comforted me instantly, because those last four lines ran so unbelievably true — they summed up in 22 words what had been up to then my entire sexual history.
I had this poem on my refrigerator for months.
It’s not because I’m now too old,
More wizened than you guess..
If I say no, it’s only
Because I fear that yes
Would bring me nothing, in the end,
But a fiercer loneliness.