not knowing what to do
about this anger
the moon drifts among the clouds
not knowing what to do
about this anger
the moon drifts among the clouds
On Easter Sunday last year, I heard an American soldier speak in the Catholic church on Kawaramachi street. He was uneasy, only twenty-four, and by avocation a photographer. The translator hobbled him somewhat, but he had presence, and he told his story––a story of how, south of Baghdad, his unit killed three goats and one child, in error; and of how, in reparation, the Army paid out $200 U.S. for the girl, and $1,200 more for her father’s livestock. The soldier had made his stop in Kyoto, on a long walk from Hiroshima to Tokyo, with a group of Buddhist monks––a walk undertaken for whatever it might accomplish in the name of peace.
After the meeting, the soldier stepped outside for a smoke, and took a seat beside me on the steps. A young Japanese woman approached him. She said she spoke no English––a fact for which she apologized in English. She extended her hand to touch his. “You have beautiful eyes,” she said.
No desert mirage,
in this sorry botch of a war––
three goats dead, one child.
by Nobuyuki Yuasa …
.. When I go river fishing with a long pole on my shoulder, I often see different waterside birds. My most frequent encounter, perhaps, is with white herons. From spring to autumn, they are quite independent, each bird taking its own position in a shallow, waiting for a fish to come. Young herons are a bit clumsy, chasing fish but failing to catch them. As they grow older, they become more patient, and do not move until a good opportunity arises, although their eyes move keenly from time to time. Mature birds usually stand on a rock motionless, like philosophers. When the wind comes, however, their crown-feathers are shaken. In winter, herons form a flock. I can see them from my veranda as it looks down on the River Tamagawa. Their flight is quite graceful, white feathers reflecting on the blue water. The least appealing aspect of herons, however, is the way they nest in a forest. The trees are suffocated by their white droppings, which have an obnoxious smell. During the years of war evacuation, I worked with woodcutters and charcoal-makers in the mountains, but I tried my best to avoid heronries. In Hiroshima, where the River Ota forks into the River Enko, one of its delta branches, there is a small island where herons nest. When I saw it five years ago, its trees were almost dead.
.. Apart from the usual white herons, I sometimes see bigger herons with grayish feathers and black heads crowned with a few plumes of white. According to a history book called Okagami, Emperor Daigo granted the fifth rank of Imperial Courtier to this bird when it obeyed the emperor’s order to return to his seat. Be that as it may, the bird certainly has courtly gentleness and dignity, especially when it spreads its wings to fly.
……. Neath the willow tree
……. Of the royal palace moat,
……. A big gray heron.
A young heron’s dance, ……
With a small fish glittering ..
In its pointed beak. …………..
It happened at the very last moment. I didn’t expect a week off of work this summer, but fortunately I wangled it. I spent five nights and six days in America with my husband and his friends––five nights and six days, a typical Japanese holiday. Three of those nights we spent on the sea shore, at the Isle of Palms, just north of Charleston, South Carolina. The weather was perfect, neither too hot nor too humid; it welcomed me, and I relaxed.
Up to my balcony
A sea breeze carries
The sound of slow waves––
The long, white beach spread out before our holiday condominium. The waves were calm; the tide ebbed. We walked down the sandy beach toward the north end of the peninsula, the green of a golf course to one side, the green of the Atlantic ocean to the other.
On a lingering bubble
A rainbow boomerang forms––
A hand print
On a heart shaped sand castle––
At the close of day, we walked down to the beach again, and listened to the waves as they lapped the shore by night. The sky was quite clear, but lights from the condominiums washed out the constellations.
A shooting star
Draws a fresh line
On a black canvas
A while back, Tito told me of the “Ayame Society,” of which I had been unaware. The society was formed in London a century or so ago “to establish a garden where the poetic flowers of East and West compete in their fragrances.” Seeing as how it now is, or soon will be, moon-viewing season in Kyoto, I post a short poem concerning the moon by the American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963), in the hope that this voice from the West might inspire some replies in haiku, here in the Icebox.
“The Freedom of the Moon”
I’ve tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
As you might try a jewel in your hair.
I’ve tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water star almost as shining.
I put it shining anywhere I please.
By walking slowly on some evening later,
I’ve pulled it from a crate of crooked trees,
And brought it over glossy water, greater,
And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow,
The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.
N.B. “The Freedom of the Moon” was collected first in Frost’s 1928 volume “West-Running Brook.” The image reproduced here is from a signed first edition of the book, given to me by Jack Hagstrom, a dear friend of the poet himself.
When I was a tourist in Japan in October last year, I visited Izu Peninsula and followed late novelist Kawabata’s path from Shuzenji 修善寺 down to Kawazu 河津, the centre of his Dancing Girl (「伊豆の踊子」) lore.
I attempted to capture some of the serendipity (偶然) of the trip in a haibun. Now my travelogue has gone up on the website JapanVisitor, and I would cheekily like to mark the ‘event’ by posting my haibun and a link to the site. I hope these are of interest.
Rain comes on soon after I walk into the spa town Shuzenji in central Izu. I have the modest Fukui Minshuku to myself.
….early to the outside bath —
….rising to meet me, only
The welcoming shower subsides just in time for me to visit the eponymous temple before nightfall. But I slip on one of the slick stone steps on the way out, and come down hard on one hand.
1201 years ago the Shingon monk Kobo Daishi struck his iron staff into the riverbed in Shuzenji and up welled a curative hot spring. Tokko-no-yu is now used as a footbath. I have other ideas….
….plunging my stinging wrist
….thrice into Iron-Staff Spring:
….Kukai answers my prayer.
After a stroll among bamboo thickets glistening in lamplight, I reach the steps that lead up to my inn. To the right is a small torii in the gloom. Something else smoulders orange at my feet.
….rusty toad on the step
….someone croaks from the shrine:
An old woman, obscure in the interior, watches me as I climb up.
— Shuzenji, 23 October 2008
Tito kindly suggested that Mayumi & I commemorate our marriage this past April here, with our friends in/on the Icebox. Reprinted below is the text we chose to place on the back of the program for our wedding ceremony, taken from Shakespeare’s late play “The Winter’s Tale,” together with a photograph of the event in medias res.
FLORIZEL: I think you have
As little skill to fear as I have purpose
To put you to’t. But come; our dance, I pray:
Your hand, my Perdita: so turtles pair,
That never mean to part.
PERDITA: I’ll swear for ’em.
N.B.: In the scene here quoted, Florizel proposes to marry Perdita. In English, we speak of “taking a woman’s hand” in marriage, though Florizel takes it also for a dance. “Turtles” are turtle-doves, which, in English poetry, are emblems of fidelity in love, because they pair for life. (Mark makes bold to add, with a wink––and for those who know Mayumi well––that in “The Winter’s Tale” Perdita, though she remains unaware of it until the last act, is, in fact, a princess. Incidentally, neither one of us ever dances.)