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The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

Morning and the fishers put out to sea,
With joy and farewells to their families,
Unaware today, they would meet with fate,
To fight for life with a giant rogue wave.

“Bend your backs to the wind, row and repel,
Vain Kanagawa, reprieve yourselves!”
Spewed in boast the Kami Tsunami,
Amid the background of the great Mt. Fuji.

Fear seized their hearts and terror blazed their eyes:
Their hands bled and muscles groaned agony.
They who boldly bragged, coward in the throes;
As the boats were tossed on the vast ocean.

Frothed with rage, the tempest would not relent,
Incensed that they take without recompense,
The bounty of its trove with gluttony,
As if deemed chosen to exploit with greed.

The challenge met and defeat imminent,
Victory, though sweet, claims countless victims.
In disbelief, they maintained their postures,
As the wave splinters the wooden structures.

The end is near. “All is lost!” or so they thought;
On their knees, one by one, made peace with God.
And this, their last hour, they in despair;
Prayed that the storm to abate and were spared.

About this poem

Ekphrastic poem of the woodblock print of "The Great Wave off Kanagawa", (circa 1826-1833) by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Although the wave in Katsushika Hokusai woodblock print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” is often portrayed and described as a tsunami, it is uncertain whether it was Hokusai’s intentions to have it be interpreted that way. The waves in his famous work of art can be referred to as okinami (great off-shore waves).

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Written on May 18, 2018

Submitted by Dennis_Spilchuk on February 11, 2022

Modified by Dennis_Spilchuk

1:03 min read

Dennis Spilchuk

Canadian poet residing in Dryden, Northwestern Ontario. more…

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"The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 2 Jul 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/120093/the-great-wave-off-kanagawa>.

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