On the Bullet-Train

That graveyard there among the stubble
of how many rice-fields and seasons?–
the merest glimpse from a window.

9.30.2010

5 Responses to “On the Bullet-Train”

  1. Shinkansen
    another bento box
    gets on with me

    Tokyo Bullet train –
    only three corners
    to my bento box

    Alan Summers

  2. Got a rush of something like ‘sabi’ from this poem. It reminds me of some of Ezra Pound’s imagist short verse. Of all places to apprehend a grave, a stubble field is best. I have found myself shed a tear sometimes in fields once the harvest is in (rice, wheat, barley). They always remind me of close relatives who died far, far too young. This is not haiku, of course, and that’s quite fine by me. In this poem, I feel your distance, your hurry, your temporary daze… Thanks

    • Hi Tito,

      Well, if I’m to be in the Pound w/ old Ez, our favorite money crank from Idaho, I’ll just Americanize the title and have done. ;-) That lets in a doubtful pun that may have its way now that I’m well out of haiku anyhow. The sight gave me that shudder, that frisson we know. Aren’t we all going Nowhere Fast? Down into the dark, decayed, as Frost has it: “However it is in some other world / I know that this is the way in ours.”

      Just back now from Nashville and three nights of jukin’ and honky-tonkin’. Riding the bullet again. To old 京都。

      Thanks, and yours as ever,
      M

  3. For me, the first two lines says it (shows it) all: past and present.

    I’ve seen this scene in ricefields in the city, and ricefields in the less populated rural areas in Japan. It sparks my imagination as to what a farmer’s life might have been like working the land, and in the end, truly becoming a part the land. a kind of monument of sorts.

    Stephen’s comment above mentions sabi. I too, at times, get a sense of loneliness from seeing a graveyard right there among the life sustaining image of a ricefield.

    • Thanks, Gerald. It was the fresh poverty of the autumn stubble that got me. Though I certainly hope the farmer got the good of it. Spes alit agricolam, I believe the old saw goes, though I’m no Latinist.

      The skies were pallid.

      Yours, M

      PS, Gerald: I had in mind, reading your comment on the bullet, what now I have in hand, arrived, as I have, back at my apartment. Namely, this passage from “Walden”: “I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man’s life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh. But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost.”

      What heretics those New England Transcendentalists were.

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