The Crane Wife
–a Japanese Folktale
by Sayuri Matsuura

When you shot me down
did you mean to wound
or kill? For a maimed wing
is kinder than
a splintered heart.
I was a love-struck beast
sprawled in the crimson snow,
pierced by your arrow.
Under the haze of moonlight
I mistook the glint
in your eye for tears.
In your home, I wove for you,
stripped my feathers,
silk for the loom.
My suffering,
an act of worship,
that you brushed off like ash.
Husband—you drew back
your bow and poached
the stars. Now, I spread
my newly feathered wings
and plunge into the night.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This Japanese folktale centers on the themes of sacrifice, suffering, and relational fidelity. I wanted to give the crane a voice in this poem while preserving the tone of the original tale.

IMAGE: “Grace of Descent” by Bill Searle. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sayuri Matsuura has been a lover of poetry since her undergraduate years. She earned her MA at The Ohio State University and has taught English as a Second Language at the community and college level. Her work has been published in an anthology, The Santa Clara Review, and Relief. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and son.