Nothing at all

Last Sunday in January: the dead of winter. Japanese Government toying with extending the latest Covid Emergency Order. Almost the end of the university year. Still one online lecture, three classes to grade and eleven grad theses to go. At home, almost at the end of our tether: getting on each other’s nerves.

Looks sunny. We strip off all our sheets and put them in the washing-machine; futons, out to the terrace to dry. Sunday, right? So, where to go for a kibun-tenkan (change of surroundings)? I ask my wife.

“The Botanical Gardens.”

“There’ll be nothing out,” I say.

We go.

Rounding the first corner… and a freak shower is racing towards us from the north! We rush back home, unlock the front door. Sprint upstairs to the terrace, as icy rain comes blasting through; hurl those futons and sheets back inside… then drape them all over the furniture in our living room.

We set off once more.

Entering the Gardens. Nothing out at all. Just a few bobbly white buds on the mitsumata (paper-making bush).

As a last resort, we head for the glasshouse.

The orchid exhibition —
each one a fashion statement
with its own devotees

There is a small voting-box, at one end of the hall, and a stack of cards and pencils. All are urged to vote for their favourite bloom. I find myself tending towards no. 37.

Taking off my mask
to smell the orchid —
nothing at all!

from the Icebox inbox – 28

deep winter
blending the color
of sky and stone

……… (Michael Henry Lee)

That scrabbling in the radiator: is it the rat my neighbour saw?

Rain. Lead sky. Lifting its bounty to the day: forsythia.

Yes, I have suitcases. No, I don’t want a cab. “Bitch!” one driver calls.

Buffalo. Thick obliterating snow. This electric blanket.

……… (Ellis Avery)

First varifocals
Renew my interest in clouds.

……… (Kamome)

From the Icebox inbox – 27

Sweet smell of summer—
Looking down on bare meadows
the first cut of hay
 . (David Sinex)

autumn winds
nothing bears repeating
but the moon
. (Michael Henry Lee)

maple moon
grandmother’s recipe
settles in the pan
. (Alan Summers)

Cobwebs –
My daily routine is
Lost in entanglement
. (Nancy May)

a diary –
within its ruled lines
anger and tears
. (Elaine Hillson)

wild boars
write in the sand –
october rains
. (Alhama Garcia)

At this stage of life
seasons swirl ever faster—
Years drop like petals
. (David Sinex)

Waikiki Bound

This anecdote is hardly on the same scale as Tito’s, but my ‘hair-raising’ travel experience on my recent round-the-world trip was a taxi ride from the base of Diamond Head to Waikiki beach. The touting driver offered to take a bunch of us tourists (three Japanese and me) for 3 dollars each, only slightly more than the $2.50 the bus cost, and a lot quicker off the mark. Then two more tourists joined our group, and he put the price down to $2 a head. We piled into his minivan, all smiles. When the latter couple got out first and handed over their money, the driver yelled that they needed to pay more — it was three dollars a head. I pointed out that he’d said two, and he laughed, saying “How could I charge you less than the bus?”, and claimed it must have been his accent that had caused the ‘misunderstanding’. In the immortal words of Basho: “Yeah, right”. We all heard two dollars. Three dollars was still a good deal, but for some reason he felt the need to scam us….

It is true, of course, that such dubious characters ensure that they do not simply blend into the background of a journey: their dodgy-ness grants them a certain immortality.

taxi ride
to Waikiki —
the revised fare
drops like a coconut

(Other images from my trip can be viewed at

Tito, whatever the state of their vehicle, your driver and his companion at least seemed sincere in their attempts to convey you. I trust your destination did not prove mythical in the end, and will feature in the next instalment!

From the Icebox inbox – 26

wooded bridge…
a maple leaf settles
into its reflection

(kala ramesh)

day moonー
contrails traverse
the sea of tranquility

(Michael Henry Lee)

dropping a bucket
into a deep well


Morning eclipse
a bell dulled
by winds and miles

(David Stormer)

childhood gamesー
I match a yellow shirt
with today

(Alan Summers)



Young Otis

Holding a placard

And looking forward

To being four.

……………………….. (with Mark Oseland’s son, …… on a demonstration in Kyoto, 29.6.12)

* The placard reads ‘PLEASE PROTECT US CHILDREN’.  This demonstration (outside the Kansai Power Co. HQ) was in Kyoto, just 60km downwind of Ohi, home of two nuclear reactors due to reactivate from July 1st, only 15 months after the Fukushima Disaster. In a land of earthquakes, this is clearly against the will of the majority of people here. 40,000 + marched in Tokyo!

From the Icebox inbox – 25


……. first day of spring –

……. snowflakes’ dancing revelry

……. in the morning sun

(Akira Kibi)

Plum buds peep

At the black March

Cherry trees

(David Stormer)

………….. three wrens

………….. for the price of one

………….. spring rain

(Michael Henry Lee)

a thousand mushrooms

covered in a soft cold mist

quivering in the wind

(Nat Evans)

………….. on the surface of the pond

………….. they are mirrored …

………….. double-flowered cherry trees


……. At the ferry port,

……. One hour before departure –

……. That rolling feeling.


summer sky …

the temple doves somersault

into wingsong

(Kala Ramesh) 

from the Icebox inbox – 19

acorn season
a hollow sound comes
from the Buddha’s head

.. Michael Henry Lee

Pillars of sparks
from the shrine’s courtyard
give birth to stars

.. Ted Taylor

for the New Year
taking a day at a time…
a calendar

.. Keith A. Simmonds

Interdicted zone –
Smackheads pelt the bardic dunce
With pointed pebbles.

.. Kamome

from the Icebox inbox – 17

fog pond
invisible voices
on every side

michael henry lee

Summer people gone.
Skipping stones break the stillness—
My head nods in time.

david sinex

winter night–
rubbing nickels and dimes
into ones and fives

city soup kitchen–
long pink fingernails
with a plate

tori inu

Leaves from
my lone ginkgo
litter the neighbor’s roof

ted taylor

a child’s voice –
the origami box
for Halloween candy

alan summers

from the Icebox inbox – 15 (two welcomes)

Welcome to David Sinex in Washington State, who has submitted manfully to the Icebox these past months. We will now be able to enjoy his own posts and more of his comments on others’ work, it is hoped. Two of his poems have been selected from the inbox. Both have a Japanese feel. The matsutake of the tanka is a delicious mushroom.

Temple irony ..

Monks spraying for mosquitoes ..

Do they not have souls? ..

.. The cool rain subsides

.. Alone in a dense pinewood

.. The scent draws my thoughts

.. Collecting matsutake

.. More than enough to share

And welcome back, Ronan Bligh, Moya’s son! We walked and talked again during the Jizobon Festival in Saga, Kyoto recently. Ronan would like to join Hailstone on a group ginko sometime, but we’ll have to wait: he’s now in China, and back in Oxford soon after … Click on the photo to enlarge.

from the Icebox inbox – 14


riding home

in the bicycle basket

– the glowing gibbous moon

………….……………………….. (Ursula Maierl)

Arrêt à Gadagne –

Jeune fille aux baskets rouges

Balance sa jambe.

…………………………………… (Kamome)

(Halt at Gadagne - / Young girl in red sneakers / Swings her leg.)

I heard your fiddle

Bow ensnarled in raven hair

The last song we wrote

With neither bang nor whimper*

Some things just end-–unnoticed

………..…………………………. (David Sinex)

*Borrowed from The Hollow Men, T. S. Eliot

lotus position–

in my ears


………..…………………………. (tori inu)