Twenty-twenty luck

Happy New Year 20-20! MMXX. With a name like that, this is sure to be a really cool year — or so I told my haiku students at Kyoto University yesterday! It’s also the Year of the Rat, the first of the zodiac animals.

On January 1st, guided by the coolest of my Japanese friends, I went to the rocky islet of Miyado Benten in Loch Tōgō, Tottori, to pay my respects – as a poet might – to the goddess thought to preside over the Arts.

As we reached the sacred island, something unusual, yet truly auspicious, caught my eye. May my haiqua image bring you, too, some good luck!

New Year —
a water rat
swimming the periphery
of Benten’s isle

in deepening grey

. Seemed I was there, thoroughly involved, but did emerge unscathed. Had tried to find Kaz. Oh, Kaz! Where are you?! Had woken up. She had been here, all the while, in Kyoto beside me…
. I had seen the Earthquake in my dream a number of hours before it had happened, but didn’t know where it was. Now that I do, my heart bleeds for Kathmandu and, further to the west, for Besisahar and the lower Marsyangdi, for the small towns and villages around Gorkha – beautiful places, all, and all of which I know. What might have befallen the Shangri-La that was Manang? So much more to learn in the coming weeks. I do not look forward to them.

.. Obliging rain –
.. It comes at the crest of a ridge
.. In front of a tea-house
.. With a river view…

………… (haiqua, written between Phalesangu and Besisahar, 14.6.90)

. Am feeling the same shock now as when King Birendra and his Queen were assassinated in 2001 and the Nepalese Royal House was toppled. Why does Fate have it in for humble, good-natured, fine-featured Nepal? I worry for my friends, Hikmat, Hariprasad, Indhu, Vinod, and all of their wives and families. How long will it be before I know what happened to them? Punyaratna Sakya, from the same clan as the Buddha, Sakya-muni, rang me this morning to assure me that he, anyway, was alright.
.  Those marvellous pagodas on which I had sat as a fledgling poet and youth philosopher with long hair, where for the first time in my life (1971) I had watched ‘time go by’ – have any survived? We are told that the Khasthamandap, the city’s oldest building, the very one that gave the fabled city its name, actually collapsed in an aftershock onto people donating blood. How unutterably cruel is the earth goddess! Nepalis must be wondering what they have done wrong. ‘The wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Kathmandu’ (Rudyard Kipling). Savage even.
. Peace, peace be unto you, my dear Nepal …

.. The valley smokes in silver twilight…
.. After a storm.
.. The fuming heavens will be our veil
.. For night-time’s tight lament.

.. The crickets and the bullfrogs
.. Pick up the shredded fragments of this day
.. And weave them into night.

.. A lonely temple bell
.. Attempts to break the listless air,
.. But fails
.. (As also does the light).

.. The hour of the dog
.. Is heralded:
.. Today – in deepening grey…

………… (poem, written by the Vishnumati River, Kathmandu, 23.5.72)


Jade beads’
Condensed forest
Around her neck –
Hint of its birdsong.
(For Kazue, Yaoyue Teahouse, Maokong, 5.4.15)
… click on the photo to enlarge and see the beads

A Falcon’s Feather

Dear Hisashi,
The more I think about it, the more amazing it was that I found a raptor’s feather in the shopping precinct at Senri Chuo just after delivering to you my tribute to the late lamented Michio Sano (‘The First Hailstone’) at the Yomiuri Bunka Center English Haiku class on Thursday. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but now I feel like it was some kind of final salute from him!
I had written the following haiku, based on something that had caught my eye on the way to the classroom in Oct. ’96 in Namba, Osaka, just before teaching Michio and the others my first real class for YBC …
…… For the haiku class:
…… Dropped and never picked up again,
…… One velvet button.
As you know, Michio had been both the cement and the oil of that class. In late November, eighteen years later, just after class no. 291, I picked up that dropped feather outside the new Center.
KC4F0063I believe it to be the foremost pinion of a falcon, as its underside matches nicely with the lead wing feather in this picture of a  ハヤブサ peregrine falcon, the fastest creature in the world.
hayabusa1I also carefully checked the internet for goshawk オオタカ, sparrow hawk ハイタカ and kite トビ feathers, but they did not match. Talking with you, and later doing a rigorous Japanese language web-search, shows that these birds are not uncommon in the area in winter.
What is uncommon is for a pinion feather to land in the shopping plaza and for a haiku poet from Britain to pick it up!
So I later wrote …
…… For our Michio prayers:
…… Dropped but then picked up again,
…… A falcon’s feather.
……………………………………………………………… Tito
P.S. Another version (written on the night, unrelated to the Namba haiku):
…… After the memorial,
…… It dropped from the sky
…… To a shopping precinct —
…… A falcon’s feather.
The first version requires a haibun for its comprehension, whereas the second stands up on its own?


At midday
Before making an appearance
Asking for us first
To sleep in the forest –
The baby orangutan.

 …. (Tuaran, Sabah, 22.3.13)


Night granite slopes –
More rain on the peak
Washes down on us
A rebel waterfall.

…. (Sayat-Sayat, Mt. Kinabalu, 24.3.13)