some recent stuff

While digging a hole in the back garden to bury some old ingots, my hoe struck a box I’d buried previously and forgotten. In it I found some things penned when I was younger, about last July. At that time, Kimiko and I were staying in a hotel on Lake Biwa to do some concentrated,  intensive resting up. The days then were overcast, grays on grays, sky, lake, land. I couldn’t help but write some haiku for the occasion.

Crushed between flowing liquid and air,
a thin line of stilled earth.

The horizon fascinated me. It was there and not there.

Gray lake, gray sky,
divided by a thin line,
figured by a gray haze. 

Part of the haze was the pollution from Otsu’s factories. Hence:

Old, vast lake, older sky, sliced apart,
a thin line of gray human noise. 

Docked below the hotel is my end-wheeler (paddle-steamer), the Michigan, a gift to Shiga Prefecture. I stood staring at it as memories of my childhood jumbled thru my skull.

A vision of Michigan
floating ‘tween sea, sky;
I longed for my home. 


For those of us who have lived in Kyoto longer than a tour bus ride, we recognize the early morning droning of the begging monks from one of the Zen temples that dot the city. I have made it an unvarying habit to stand in front of my home and donate coins, rice, fruit to these men when they come to my neighborhood. And they come, knowing I will be there with something. (Once, about 30 years ago, when Kimiko and I were living in this very same area, we invited the monks, four of them at that time, upstairs to have some hot coffee and chocolate.) Here are a couple of haiku about this:

Awakened by dawn’s monks’ droning,
rush to donate rice; 
my day blessed. 


Shortchanged of sleep,
dawn’s droning
deserves its just reward,
handful of small change.


More Classic Stuff

You’ll remember that I was editing some translations of Santoka’s haiku and shared a few with you all. Here’s more, plus a bonus of works by Hosai, Santoka’s contemporary, and a lovely Chinese poem I wrote long ago when my name was Liu Tsung Yuan.

Santoka’s 8 haiku:

A dragonfly atop a sedge hat; I just walk on.

On a rainy day, walking barefoot thru my hometown.

Into my iron bowl also falls a shower of hailstones.

His back soaked by the rain; still, he just walks on.

In a rain shower, I walk to a nearby mountain.

Santoka was the prime modern example of Walking Zen, following Ikkyu’s example set in the Muromachi Period, tho S. only walked for a few years, whereas I. probably walked for over 20.

At a loss what to do, I walk alone on this country road.

Thinking nothing, just tasting the water gushing from a wayside spring. (Is this zen, or what?)

When the leaves begin falling, the water will become tasty.

Hosai’s 6 haiku:

I have a loud cough, all alone in this quiet hut.

Such a bright moonlit night; in bed alone, still I can enjoy the view.

I can see a little of the sea through a small window, the only one in my hut.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day; only Buddha and I will greet it in this lonely hut.

The pine’s branches are all hanging down; I chant the Name.  (the Name of Amida Buddha, presumably.)

Winds singing thru the pines; at dawn and at sunset I toll the temple bell.

Hosai passed away almost 20 years  before Santoka. Both were recognized in their lifetimes to be superior poets.

An old Chinese poem: ‘On a Snowy River’

Birds have ceased wheeling thru the mountains,
Footsteps are no longer seen on any snowy path.
An old man, strawclad, is seated in a small boat,
Engaged in fishing alone on the snowy river.

Such nice morsels to chew on. And here’s a haiku written with the name, Richard:

Beside the winter river
neither birds nor fish are seen;
nothing beside myself.

Maudlin to  be sure; must be the influence of some earlier poets. But hearing the call loudly in my ears for contributions, just had to pen something out.

The Woodchopper

Back from abroad

Was out of Kyoto avoiding the street fighting and burning flares, went over to Matsumoto to thrash around the castle at the carp, so innocent looking in the moat yet at heart, as mean as megalithic whales, and was attracted to a Young Thing in her late 20s, at the latest, whom luck favored to draw us together for a nonce, until I noticed her undercovering colors, which make me flee for my life to the safety of the zoo.

her face, so pretty
her hands, nicely soft.
her legs, just right,
her tattoo…

Hopping the nearest Jin-riki-sha, I returned to the country we all love and know best, Kyoto, and discovered that Mt Ogura needed some revision in our thinking. We all know and love Mt Ogura, and some of us (but not me) have spent time cleaning up the trash there. I found out in my investigation that Old Ogura has always been a collector of castaway and useless objects, now as back then.

Ogura, hill of abandonment;
before, minds and hearts,
now, just garbage

Long ago, the rejected priests, poets and princes made their abodes there, huts, hideaways, hermitages all over the place. The poems they wrote make one weep just as they wept.

“Hearing a stag calling, I look into my heart, living alone at the foot of Mr Ogura.” Priest Saigyo

“Even living in a hermitage on Mr Ogura, not a single day passes without my crying about this world along with the deer.” Takakura

On Mt Ogura, morning after morning a drizzling rain; yesterday maple leaves all around were tinged in faint colors.” Teika

“So desolate is this wintry mountain village, autumn remains only in the sound of a stag.” Prince Kakusho

cleaning up Mt Ogura,
first, junk and garbage,
but next, minds and hearts?

for Moya III

Moya’s funeral left many of us with uncountable memories. Interestingly for me, the end, when her casket was placed into the car, and the gentlest of rains began to fall, was remarkable. Moya was a gentle, and a sharing woman. I connected the event this way:

she held back the rain

until her funeral finished;

to the end, putting others first


(kan no ame/hitsugi tatsu-yori/furi-somenu, Jap. trans. by Hisashi Miyazaki)

Some recent feathers

………………………….scattered over rice fields,
………………………….a thousand crows load up on stones
………………………….then lumber nestward

Crows figure frequently in my poetry, need I say? Smart birds, in their way. Humans have had a long love/hate relationship with them. Unlike dogs, with whom homo sapiens has had an equally long and mostly loving relationship, with crows there is linked to the dislike a kind of admiration, or certainly curiosity. Sitting and watching them go about their business provides ample fruit for the poet. Where I live, just behind Shimogamo Shrine, from early morn I am “blessed” or tested with their presence and caws. About twice a year, or less, hundreds gather in the very high sky to discuss something or other. Diving, circling, soaring, crying: for a couple hours the conference continues, until the day begins to draw to its close, and the discussion calms down. What a performance! I never tire of it.

………………………………………………….early autumn dusk
………………………………………………….black on black, I listen to
………………………………………………….caws invisible
……………………………against a golden dusk
……………………………a black cloak of crows
……………………………aims towards the eastern hills

“Crows generally live 30 years,” instructed the doctor at the zoo rehabilitation center. He advised against having a crow as a pet, because it would probably outlive its owner. Being released into the wild, as it were, it would be swiftly killed by other crows. On this nature note,  I once witnessed the ducks on the Kamo River attacking a newly-arrived duck, ganging up and striking it with their beaks. Eventually it sank into the water. Mother Nature at work. Don’t ya just love it?

in the fall

It’s November, yet we have warm rains, balmy days, zephyrs at our elbows, and the promise of another harvest moon.

….what will it be,

….short sleeves or down vest?

….puzzled, I run naked thru dreams

Back pains from too much endless hauling around of exhibition paraphernalia, the doc says I just need to walk more. Aromatherapy oils rubbed in here and there, I smell like a drugstore in heat.

….simple: don’t haul, just

….load up shoulders and walk

….thru the odors smiling

Could be worse.

Things spring

Went to Niagara Falls and Washington, DC last week with 18 Japanese, as their translator and America-interpreter: “What is that building over there?”, “Why doesn’t this place have chopsticks?”, and more. Pleasure first at the Falls, then work in the capital. In Canada, I saw no sakura, and the Niagara River down-falls was frozen into huge blocks of ice. Cold indeed. However, in Washington, it was mid-National Cherry Blossom Festival, and them pink things were everywhere. Fabulous. A lot of rain, but none of it in the downpour mode, thank goodness. I couldn’t find the time to write, so on the flight back (13 hours, not one movie worth watching, so it was United’s channel 9 all the way) I penned these, then reworked them at home.

Lincoln and I and rain;
he’s gone, I anon,
sakura forever

Indeed, the Lincoln Monument is fantastic, a must see.

pink views in raintime
the Mall, the art, the power
all bow to sakura

The Tidal Basin is the place to see ten million petals in one glance, but the view from the Mall is equally amazing.

Here is a haiku of the sort which can be read in any line order you please:

in the pink
a light rain
my heart sings
my eyes shine
springtime sakura.

This haiku could take place anywhere in the world where there’s a cherry tree:

petals whorl ’round me
wind caressed, rain kissed,
look up, pink turning to green

It marks the end of the pink season. Returning to Kyoto, I am just in time to see its version of the season, and found this on my lips:

old capital’s, new capital’s
sakura, awesome
all the same

Mist and roar and power

Early off

Winter has never been my season. In the order of Like, it’s springsummerfall, any weather, winter. The cold requires too many layers of cloth, natural and now man-made, both Western and Oriental (think: hara-maki).For males, mostly, there is the additional protection of facial hair. A full beard does add necessary and efficient protection against lower temperatures. (We can also store morsels there for snacks later.) But, alas, it does itch when the air temp gets higher. So, from about these days, the hairs begin to fall off, area-by-area. My new avatar shows Offness in two respects, the most important being the missing chin stuff. As April proceeds into Hot, the moustache will drop and I will upload a close view of my upper lip, perhaps. To celebrate this:

birds redo plumage,

cats shed everywhere,

bare chins view spring anew.

This year my cherry blossom viewing will be of the Japanese variety, but on the Potomac, not the Kamo. No singing and drinking parties beneath the boughs, either. If there were, the highest murder rate would only grow higher. Ducking drunken tunes is better than ducking sniper fire, true, but a job is a job, so off I go momentarily.

spring blossoms’ faint smell

mixed with gun smoke –

New World blend’s not a poem.

Longing for spring

This Ides of March warmth bids us to awake at last, accompanied by the nightingale’s mating song, to the Season Most Desired. Years back, remember? In April, Kyoto had snow. Amazingly beautiful, for its unusualness as well as for its briefness: melted away in hours. Loved it. This year, I will view the cherry blossoms as usual; but not in Kyoto by the banks of the mighty Kamo. Because of business in America’s capital, will be sipping Milwaukee’s finest beneath the boughs brought from Meiji (?) to Washington. (From Korea, if truth be known.) They had some very nice cherry saplings to give away.

Am reading a book now about when Japan was a colony of Paekche, in the 5th and 6th centuries. No haiku then, so here is one to make up for it:

horseriders we were;

fearing none, gave iron for land

and disdain.

Well, it’s a start. Not much reliable information from back then, tho we can guess that the natives were somewhat glad to have the visitors around, teaching how to throw pots, smelt gold, bang out brass. Poetry is everywhere.

15 degrees

How sweetly wonderful, dizzyingly so. This is Early Spring, and I feel like chanting something, like “Triple scoop, triple scoop, triple scoop” or related hymns. Soon, a cold beer will be truly delicious, not just a drink out of habit, or because there’s nothing else in the icebox. And I remember yesterday at Arashiyama:

in spring, finding

a fine view to sketch,

the chosen scene’s cat

adds herself