Thursday very Short Poem: Washika’s “No”

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.

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0 thoughts on “Thursday very Short Poem: Washika’s “No”

  1. Thanks, I love bite-size ones.
    Why does that remind me of Dorothy Parker?

  2. I believe I need to copy this one down (or perhaps just add it in the blog) — it captures more succinctly than I ever could the exact reasons I’m not dating.

    I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to explain this to my father. He’s offered to pay for an eHarmony subscription for me, because he doesn’t want me to be lonely. How do you explain that sometimes, being around people (without a real connection) is much more lonely than being *alone* ever could be?

  3. Indeed. As one ex-girlfriend said to me once, “it’s better to be lonely than to wish you were.”

  4. I am in love with Matilda. Is she a chinchilla? (A fat gerbil? guinea pig?)
    I came to your site via Google search for very short poems.

  5. It has a “Fire and Ice” sort of brevity to it, replete with the “twist” in the final line. I like it.

  6. Pingback: Japanese Poems

  7. Firstly: greetings to a fellow ex-Monterey Peninsulan; I’m a Pacific Grove High boy, myself. Now, onto the meat (pun intended): I’m glad celibacy worked for you, Hugo. Usually, though, celibacy by Westerners who aren’t clerics raises my eyebrows until they resemble the Arch of Constantine. Why? Because it’s the usual Western allopathic approach to a condition that for most, isn’t a malady, much less a disease. Gratuitous sex: it’s something to outgrow, perhaps, nothing to be ashamed of. It’s contribution to “intimacy issues” (whatever happened to good-old fashioned words like “problem”?) isn’t such that giving up sex will make much difference. I’ve seen way too many SLAA members made even more miserable by sexual sobriety to be convinced otherwise. To be sure, if love and “connection”—another silly word and a poor substitute for “amity” and “friendship”—is what one seeks, take a break, even a moratorium if one isn’t finding what makes one happy. In doing so, though, I hope the celibate does him/her self a favor and ask him/her self if s/he doesn’t have ridiculous feelings and outsized expectations. That’ll be a tall order; in Judeo-Christian societies, one is expected to have one’s ducks lined up at all times; God after all, ain’t at fault for your faults. I suppose that’s why the Hindu idea of the deity, which is that God enjoys your depravity, too, appeals to me more. But what do I know? I watch porn and had sex as a teen.