of rice paper
under the fingertips
of an antenna-like touch
as the gardener,
on his futon,
as if reluctantly,
from the vibrating wall.
deaf he could not 'hear'
the vicious cane-to-flesh contact,
nor the gasps it elicited—urgent intakes of
nor the subsequent whimpering—though subtle and
(for she who suffered
would suffer more
were her shamefaced penance known).
He could, however, 'feel' it.
Tender of Orchids
the gardener was powerless;
far be it from him to petition his
save for compost or trellis or tools of his trade;
a geisha were outside his concern.
Was a man
nonetheless a man,
and the gardener
Was the geisha doomed fairly
or falsely despoiled?
be so egregious,
as to warrant
meted out by
Seventeen strokes; this was somehow significant.
beating—every beating—tallied seventeen lashes.
As if the Lord,
assessed the cost of
not with her playing,
which had been flawless,
"Perfection in all things, in all things
in the uchi (the Master's household) perfection was
the geisha plucked her
koto with utmost proficiency,
set its strings singing like a silver-tongued choir,
sending thrills up listeners' spinal columns,
bringing tears to doting eyes.
Exquisite had been her performance.
Exuberant were the praises—
her bows grown repetitive...
at last betrayed,
compromised by a fleeting indiscretion
apprehended by the Lord-and-Master's scowl.
Castigation would be administered...
... some time later.
she had begged her patron's pardon,
kowtowing gravely the while beseeching
to take her leave.
she had been purchased,
her contract re-procured.
"You are mine, Damaged Goods, bought
My mistake; your misfortune; restitution shall be
He had led her,
from the kyakuma
(full of guests),
down a manicured path of the fortified compound.
The clip-clop of geta—
drumming a nondescript terror.
like a venom-laced snake bite,
disallow thoughts and feelings;
if she could achieve it,
might afford her refuge.
an outlying chamber—
(drab externally, indecorous within),
she beheld graphic shunga
(erotic paintings, prints, and carvings),
smelled incense (or something
detected moist, sultry air (as if a swamp
whereupon dark expectations dimmed to
certain, of a sudden, he meant
to do her harm:
cast her out,
adjusting to circumstance;
the geisha reflected upon calamity's course.
Had pride not been the route
by which she met this downfall?
Alive, although captive,
misemployed, if not yet raped—
when considering her obscene posture:
bare buttocks hoisted and, by bamboo
wrists and rubbed-raw ankles cruelly
cinched by leather thongs,
sex, surrounded by lesions, splayed like a pristine peach—
grown despondent, prayed for deliverance.
still on the flimsy partition,
grappled with his options:
ignore or intervene(?).
He could tell, from percussive footfall, that the girl lay
imprisoned not by guards, bars, or locks;
instead by fear.
Chattel, she had become
(as were all the Master's
enjoined to total obedience and uncontested loyalty.
Duty was ones
life; ones life was owed to duty.
Shirk duty and life was forfeit...
or warped by
Three sepals, three
petals—the third being modified;
a column containing anthers—two, or most
pollen waxy, coherent, or in some species granular;
inferior—as in under each flower;
epiphyte / terrestrial—the orchid's main
vanda / cattleya / cymbidium / paphiopedilum its four main
all so scholarly,
so articulate was the language of orchidaceae,
yet he who knew every phylum uttered not one name—
the name of his
superior, nor the name of any peer—
as though deafness,
stricken since puberty,
likewise struck him
"You were told the precise
at which to maintain these specimens.
Had you wit enough to listen,
none would now bear
the Lord had literally boxed
which had bled.
When the bleeding stopped,
the gardener's world was mum.
Thirty years had passed,
bound to the
for brutality bade the wise curb their tongues.
Nods and bows
had since sufficed—
speech too perilous when ruled "impertinent".
was eventually viewed as dumb.
Yet one name he did
over and over,
forced unpractised muscles to annunciate its sound:
deepen crow's feet,
into reverential puckers:
Hoarse, barely audible...
Straining, he intoned all
instructed by the characters embroidered on Reiko's yukata—
and read as the blind read Braille.
... disrupted by vengeance—
ransacked the gardener's stark calm.
a soldier's conscripted,
war without quarter,
made a martyr of qualm.
Were not some actions baseborn,
irrespective their perpetrator's rank, status, wealth?
Did title confer
immunity from pronouncing conduct "wrong"?
To what end, though?
on his feet
emboldened by indignation,
took hold of the partition as if to wrench it aside.
There was no
chance of rescue.
Bear her off?
He would gladly... but could not think to where.
The greenhouse was his universe—
and had been for three long decades—
beyond which even his dreams
dared not venture.
Perhaps, at the very least,
he could treat
her throbbing sores?
For the scourge, that night, had ended...
a match for
the gardener's slack bravado.
an evocative variety:
alias Lady's Slipper...
the present case: Bound Feet.
she lay helpless against her injuries' caustic smarting;
disrobed (except for foot-wraps)
Reiko lay mortified—which grieved her worse.
As a geisha, she was accustomed to austere, stringent discipline
(rewards garnered grudgingly,
self-sacrifice the norm),
but respect for her profession had been an age-old tradition—
hence her shock and simmering outrage at being
insidious was its hold on
for flexing it incurred her Lord-and-Master's wrath.
regardless this effect, pride
Thus 'earning' her
For how, elsewise, explain the torturous routine—
after ignominious night?
would rise upon his signal,
Exhausted by the rigors of
both mental and physical anguish,
quit the kyakuma,
numbly gain the
be battened down,
awaiting dawn's release—
resentful and un-contrite.
Did he sense this?
flail until her spirit, at length, lay broken
(or she conceded that her purgation was apt and well-deserved)?
Reiko now succumbed to a bout of wretched sobs.
(its candle aflicker
from an ingress of air)
illumed what was best left unlit.
was the gardener's
finally having entered...
his feelings in a tumult;
beauty and its corruption
taking his conscience hostage;
by her bound and thrashed anatomy:
all four limbs outstretched,
tethered to pegs in the wooden floor,
buckled like an inchworm
caught and pinned in place,
marred by welts black-and-blue;
for the carnage laid waste
her backside's twin globes,
an untouched oasis between.
let his eyes roam at will.
brought lilies to mind—
Complex emotions laid siege
to the gardener
(whilst cowardice, gallantry, lust, pity vied),
airways, infusing his tear ducts,
libido / compassion confounding
his motives held suspect by virtue of virtue-upended,
Approaching on bare feet,
lambency lent by the
chochin's soft glow—
the gardener drew so close his breath shrivelled
exposed yet unaltered,
design?) left intact.
Waylaid by such unequivocal
moved by a damsel's distress un-allayed,
the first time,
by unchecked dominion over some 'one',
appalled by the spectre of profane
torn between urges.
The geisha lay stock-still,
if indeed she committed one,
except by reprisals engraved on her rump,
a crosshatch of seventeen
fresh with torment,
their throb keeping pace with her
her backbone reacting to an unwelcome presence
Master's, she hazarded),
her senses transfixed:
alerted to the
the subtlest shadow,
the feeblest odour,
the taste of
hence braced for renewed degradation.
'years' of keeping his own company,
followed by more work, want, solitude
(until loneliness fit like his hand-me-down threadbare kimono)
served only to prolong the gardener's indecision...
giving him more pause to mull over choices that put his position,
For the tasks he performed
be they mandated harshly
were much to his liking; he adored what he did,
nursing natives and cultivars,
species indigenous next to species imported from remote,
erotic were the orchids assembled,
delighting their caretaker,
fed by his flair for adjusting conditions conducive
to thriving in a
climate sustained by unorthodox means;
moisture and nutrient,
among the factors he was taxed to coordinate—
his 'fondling' each
plant a tonic eccentricity.
What was he waiting for? Why
was he staring?
Admiring his handiwork? Spoiling for more?
Or was it morning already; had he come to untie her?
Reiko, lids tightly shut,
For as much as she welcomed release from her bondage,
eyes on her body stung worse than
Why he leered, defiled visually
(if not yet corporeally)
she neither could fathom nor forbear.
was the gardener's
skilled were his fingers,
practiced and astute was his nurturing touch.
He could diagnose maladies,
ward off most insects,
extricate roots when diseased
often cure plants of plagues
(or at least speed recovery)
the time-honoured balm of laying-on-hands—
perhaps compensation for his
whose condition, even now, occasioned him to wince...
recalling his infirmity's trifling cause...
a mere two degrees
three orchids damaged, none lost...
in exchange for a lifetime
Hovering over another of his Master's hapless victims,
gardener once more focused
on the geisha's pummelled haunches...
her infraction could be as trivial as had been his...
wondering if such
abuse ever could be justified...
wondering if her 'transgression'
might somehow be
at the nape of her
chills raising goose pimples,
nether parts tense
for their postponed penetration),
Reiko prepared for the
then flinched upon impact of a solitary droplet...
Had he drooled!
Scandalized by the notion,
she mentally cringed,
hoping against hope that she might have
The gardener (inadvertently)
having let fall a tear,
froze above the cleft by which it was absorbed,
heartsick at the prospect of being apprehended,
nabbed in an act opprobrious—if
For something in his aura—
Reiko sensed it—
As if remorse, of a sudden,
to the Master's temperament.
Still, she did feel less threatened.
Reappraising the wetness...
Could her Lord have shed a tear?
What was 'one' tear compared to the
'thousands' she had shed?
tear could scarcely dissolve her enmity.
Nor cleanse a guilty conscience.
Nor atone for utter shame...
as inflicted, blow upon blow,
each time he beat her,
if the force, number, target purposed to degrade.
He would leave then,
sometimes hurriedly (sometimes extendedly).
raw like some trussed-up slab of meat—
she resigned herself to cope,
suffering unto morning,
when the Master would return and
loosen her wretched thongs...
she, pretending to sleep, impatient for his
at last breathing freely,
safe from his barbarity—
though confined within its
forbidden to quit her quarters—
except to relieve herself or
Yet, from break-of-day to sunset,
revelled in her solitude,
forgetful of the nightmare...
destined to recur.
Hardening her heart—
grown intolerant of him who lingered—
Reiko chanced a glance,
shook with horror.
Not her Lord.
Instead, the gardener.
How dare the brute
on her loss-of-face travail!
Reiko blushed then blanched,
at the culprit,
a look of detestation.
uttered a sound,
or incidentally blinked,
the captive would have shrieked,
his pose was passive:
hands clasped prayer-like,
his suspended countenance kindly,
if cloyingly deferential...
pitiful in its
eyes awash with tears...
a track from the first
still glistening on his
hollowed out cheek
other features withered
like leaves resigned to
Neither spoke nor attempted to
a mood they quietly shared,
testing its solicitude.
like the spine of some weighty
over which he loomed...
eyes meeting hers...
touch thereby reinforced by the strength
of her consent...
the scope of his dexterity taking away:
caress like a poultice,
drew pain from her body,
and from her troubled mind,
for her bane was their Lord's,
through warm intimation that coddled,
plied pressure so deftly her stricken skin sighed,
the sweet relief magical,
Why was one subject, she mused, one in charge?
Whence came authority; how hold it culpable?
What was the value of deference coerced?
Questions peculiar arose,
soaked up her sorrows,
depleted her woes.
whose primary function was rendering pleasure
to ear, nose, tongue, eye,
infrequently asked what requited her talents—
if malice perverted them,
made them vile.
make worms turn?
A wave of disquietude
A stranger was handling
male, coarse, subordinate—
pawing in places
she ought not permit,
skirting her sex organ,
mimicking him who had wrought her disfigurement,
her upside-down mons with his cane,
whacked with a vengeance perverse in
what must have protruded unduly,
unable to hide from
and no more invulnerable now.
wherein beauty increases allure when withheld;
respectful of boundaries intuited,
nonetheless savoured what
throbbed, he discerned, when he brushed its
dampened, he noticed, in the nook between folds—
and enticingly ajar,
blushingly tinged and engorged.
Another wave washed
might well be exacted
by his property
(her un-ruptured hymen notwithstanding)
so long as the
Intrigued by this contrivance,
wooed by the gardener's
with her striped derriere
(revenge and relief
the geisha succumbed to a tingly sensation
that crept from
her skull to her coccyx.
the absence of agony making her giddy,
the tingle turned ticklish,
duress all but drained,
(still lit by
the flickering chochin)
relaxed just enough to surrender a smile:
her small mouth upturned at one corner,
a dimple indenting her right-side-up cheek,
lips oh-so gradually parting.
It was then that he saw it;
or even untoward,
a tooth that had grown
misaligned with its
the shadow cast causing a gap to appear
in her widening grin's
Why he took note of so trivial a detail
(one heretofore he had
failed to remark)
the gardener knew not;
it was scarcely significant,
somehow the sight made him shudder.
Daybreak's approach found the gardener
and the geisha (still bound) sound asleep.
No, you must not!
She felt slackness at her
She turned to entreat him...
recoiled from her Lord!
It was he
who now fumbled at the pegs to untie her—
brusquely, as usual, unconcerned
with her needs,
indifferent to her drawn-out
was executed strutting.
The dolorous process of
reclaiming her body,
working out kinks—
coming to grips with the onus
attached to misuse of legitimate gifts—
But the pangs she had learned to expect
were less brutal,
her muscles less
her wounds less inflamed.
Could the dream she was having...
prior to waking...
when she cried "No, you must not!"...
She certainly had not 'invented' the gardener,
him who bowed
deeply whenever she passed,
whose gaunt face and ungainly figure seemed
Not-of-this-world was his
recluse, by the look of him.
Deaf, it was rumoured.
Had he spoken on entering her chamber
Outrageous, his barging in, much less...
curled up foetus-like,
rocked on her hindquarters...
painlessly; how so?
She stopped rocking.
leaned forward, chin
tucked, to examine the ridges
that spread from her buttocks and thighs
Ugly, they were still.
Reaching, like tendrils, to encroach on her crotch—
which also she scrutinized,
flaring its labia,
maidenhead safe and unharmed.
a gossamer flap, a mere membrane
should hold men enthralled,
prized and assailed,
an emblem of purity,
status dependent on who got to tear
And now there were
two men encircling her chastity,
one bent on brutishness,
the gardener's unworthiness trumping
whatever induced him to
in their Master's affairs—
which truly imperilled them both.
Lost in a reverie,
as if a third disability indisposed him who stared
(at a koi, superficially...
then at a pair of them...
scales glowing in the dank greenhouse
reminisced to himself about soft spots
engaged while effecting the geisha's
lieu of untying or even tampering with her bonds,
understanding that to do so
would court disaster.
Far better to render what comfort he could,
factors unlikely to alter.
Like earth, wind, rain, fire,
their Lord was a
to be brooked with grave caution
and never disobeyed.
flagrantly, much to the gardener's frustration,
no matter his motives be
Or were they?
Were his own desires any
more noble for being diffident?
Did he really not relish her
Was he no less possessed by her un-plundered
his craving in orbit,
like a moth flame-beguiled?
even conscience it—
flushed tip to toe—
let a commoner,
a blunt labourer lay hands on
Lords were 'entitled' to manhandle servants,
their rule incontestable,
be it mean or humane,
servants were unfit for naught
their lot was to toil
Remitting these strictures wreaked havoc,
upshots on a rampage
through Reiko's mind
as her self-described 'dream' faced reality...
as memories, sensations, emotions revived:
the gardener's attention to
transforming initial distress into swoons,
pangs become ticklish,
bashfulness yielding to feelings...
Titillation and absence of ache were related.
pampering, back-to-back, overlapped.
Fear of becoming inured to brutality,
mingled with inklings of ecstasy—
spurred by infringements
she yearned to invite.
The beatings continued,
their fierceness unflagging,
succeeded by him who (in secret) assuaged,
expanded the scope of adroit ministrations
to include her pudenda
restricting, at first, his exertions to margins,
kneading her groin from beyond its chaste groove,
tending to tissue from
outside lush confines,
condoned by her moans,
conducting the mucous that oozed from her aperture
over and under and round,
round, round skin
gone tumescent once teased by a finger so pliant
often felt more like a tongue...
lapping up Reiko's
Perception of oneness—
that two halves conjoined make a whole.
coupling in conjugal fashion,
both geisha and gardener,
consumed by their sub-rosa passions.
One pond fish orange, one pure white,
... hours passed...
swam like spectres...
sank in unison...
their wakes forming circles concentric,
faint as a palimpsest...
The gardener and geisha persisted in 'treachery'
on who judged)
Their Lord, then his minion would come in
the former to lambaste, the latter to soothe,
the sadist, the
the flogger, the healer,
subjecting their locus to foul, fond
trauma, euphoria tandem reactions
accosting the geisha through
wherein bondage, with bliss-based degeneracy,
'enhancing' her beauty,
withal, like an orchid
foremost when fed on decay).
pursuant a most savage thrashing—
Lord throughout ranting about "snaggletooth smiles",
groping himself all the
while he chastised her,
then scurrying off to his seventeenth bride,
most green-eyed helpmate,
who balked at her
groom's ill-famed impotence,
like all sixteen before her,
be blamed for her Lord's dearth of progeny
(not one child sired),
to seek out the source of erections
that drooped, more than not, by the time
from 'whomever' he called upon
prior to dispensing
discerned, nervous strides.
Not the gardener's,
nor their Lord's—whose gait
Reiko stiffened as the fusuma chafed...
breathlessness—hint of some ill-omened enterprise...
felt her hair seized, yanked taut, head
then a blade slit her windpipe ear
in due course,
He confessed and,
with the geisha,
* * *