A tenjō kudari (“ceiling hanger” yōkai) defends her theft

at night I hover above the beams you’ve hammered

between heaven and your spread silk coverlet


the air, which is nothing to you, is everything to me

the wood, which is something hard to you, is nothing to me


I slip fingers beyond the pine knots and holding on to breezes

with my other hand see the dust dancing between the straw


reach down for your sleeping face


eager for your exhalations      those moist, warm castoffs

they are spirals of rips                     bits of soft driftwood


eddying out from your body           discarded as casually

as you threw down my bones wrapped in kimono-rags


cast away as you did your horse fleeing on the road

from my father’s huntsmen    its lungs bursting      beneath your body


nightly your dead horse and I call to each other      strung singing

as we are from bough and beam sometimes hanging       still as skulls


above your head   as you sleep, as you ride, as you love

others far better than you ever loved us


tonight is the farthest I have ever stretched from the rafters

listening from the hackberry tree the horse whinnies in the cold


your eyelids flicker open as my cold lips fall on yours

no she does not even roll over as I steal your last breath


Inspired by The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits: an Encyclopedia of Mononoke and Magic by Matthew Meyer



Betsy Aoki

Betsy Aoki is a poet, short story writer and game producer. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, Asimov’s Magazine of Science Fiction, 580 Split, The Margins (Asian American Writers’ Workshop), and anthologized in Climbing Lightly Through Forests (a Ursula K. Le Guin tribute poetry anthology). In 2021 she won the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize Honoring Jake Adam York, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown.
Her debut poetry collection, Breakpoint, is a 2019 National Poetry Series Finalist, and was published in 2022 after winning the Patricia Bibby First Book Award. You can find out more at

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