Tsuchi-no-Ko’s Sweet Potato Dilemma
Recently, I received this haibun-like piece in Japanese from the Karasuma Haigakai’s 土ノ子 Tsuchi-no-Ko-sensei and got his permission to translate it and store it in our Icebox:
Behind the hawker’s cry, the calm
Of his steam-whistle.
On composing this, I thought to myself, “I wonder if this sort of haiku is OK?” In haiku, one should respect the conventions of season-words, and I’d been asked to write a haiku on the subject of ‘May’, yet produced this! You see, in my neighbourhood (in Uji), from around the middle of April until the end of May, there’s a been a stone-baked sweet-potato salesman who has been going around with his little van with (oven-induced) steam-whistle. ‘Baked sweet-potato’ is a winter season-word, but I have to say that in the late spring season they taste absolutely marvellous! And the way the hawker calls his wares is so very soothing. The steam-whistle wheezes gently away as a sort of background music. When the sweet-potato man’s cry approaches, I will go to my window, open it, and just listen. Amidst the hustle and bustle of today’s taut world, here is a moment of serenity. Unwilling to let such a rare emotion slip away, I composed the haiku.