The past three months

.. The rainy season continued until the beginning of August this year.

………………………… though the rain stopped
………………………… the wind roars at night:
………………………… lingering rain front

.. During that long rainy season, I received sad news. One of my cousins had passed away. When I was a little girl, he was kind enough to take care of me, playing chess and Hanafuda. The memory stays with me, emerging today into this deep foggy morning.


………. dense fog
………. even the castle mountain
………. loses its frame
 

.. Then the severely hot summer came in. But no matter how hot it was, the spread of COVID-19 did not ease.  

………………………… meaningless
………………………… as a symbol of the winter,
………………………… facemasks

.. Everyone faithfully wore those masks, feeling almost choked in the middle of the summer.  

………. a dry fallen leaf
………. stuck in the scorching asphalt,
………. patience with pride

.. Recently, a huge typhoon passed by. It has made us feel that we may now have taken a step back down the stairs. 

………………………… one degree Celsius
………………………… I can tell the difference
………………………… late summer room

 

 

Himuro

外は夏あたりの水は秋にして内は冬なる氷室山かな (藤原良経)

The air about, that of summer;
its flowing stream water
has an autumnal feel:
but beneath the ground, Mt. Himuro
is winter to its core
…………………….. (waka by Fujiwara Yoshitsune)

Being admin. ed. of a haiku space that goes by the name of the “Icebox,” I’m always on the lookout for Himuro Jinja (ancient Ice-hut Shrines) … and, so far this year, I’ve managed to visit two.

At the first, not far from Todaiji in Nara City, you can have your fortune told by sanctified ice. You pick your fortune from a box, but it looks blank until you place it onto the block of ice before the worship hall. Then the words come through …

Close by the second shrine, what is perhaps the original Himuro Jinja (at Fukuzumi in Tsuge-mura, near Tenri), there’s an ancient-style 氷室 himuro still used for ice storage till the summer, …

… though they no longer provide ice to the Emperor, as they used to back in Nintoku’s time (early Kofun Period). As a sacred place, the shrine itself is said to go back 1,600 years. The ice, cut as blocks from a nearby pond in winter, is stored underground beneath the hut’s ‘floor’. It is further insulated with bundles of straw.

神秘そも人にはとかじ氷室守(蕪村)

A veritable mystery,
yet he’s not about to let the secret out —
the ice-hut guardian
……………………..  (Buson)

Screen Doors 網戸

Screen doors start sliding as temperatures rise, relieving indoors of heat, keeping papers from fleeing and birds and insects at bay, partially filtering the air let in, and casting a fine blur, a moiré, over the view outside.

Beyond the screen door
Blues, yellows in a vase
A sky of cloud

Gasping curtains
Suck to the screen door
Sudden breezes

A small whiff of
A neighbor’s cigarette
A screen door slams

from the Icebox inbox – 46

Tito asked me to make the final selection as an editor this time. The short comments after the poems are all mine. …. Sosui (Nobuyuki)

Sunset…
I walk alone on the beach, the twilight deep on my eyelashes covering my face. Suddenly, I come across seashells, big and small. I sit flat on the wet sand… waves having just receded.

dark night
stars guide
the boatmen ….. Lakshmi Iyer, Kerala

(Ed. comment – Haibun excerpt: I did a bit of trimming in the prose to avoid over-excitement.)

almost spring . . .
a cuckoo starts
haltingly ….. Kanchan Chatterjee, Jharkhand

(This poem expresses our feeling well when we can hardly wait for the coming spring.)

Emergency extended –
school children in line too
at the food bank ….. Yoshiharu Kondo, Shiga

(What a pitiful scene! I feel this poem is the best among the poems submitted this time.)

Hare silhouetted
sharing the hillside
where I rest ….. Jane Wieman, Wisconsin

(This poem is peaceful and conveys the feeling of oneness of the universe. It would be nice, though, if we knew the time of the day.)

shimmering orange needles –
distant towers dance
in the fading sun ….. Albie Sharpe, New South Wales

(This poem describes a beautiful evening scene when everything looks different from what we normally know. I like the image and wording of the last two lines.)

feeling I just heard
a turtle’s whisper in the garden:
stay-home afternoon ….. Hisashi Miyazaki, Osaka

(This poem is imaginatively stimulating, but I wonder what exactly HM heard in the turtle’s whisper.)

summer morning
a skim-milk sky spills
over the sea ….. Joanna M. Weston, British Columbia

(A beautiful description of the sky, although I am not sure what it might predict. Is it a sign of another hot day or of a storm gathering far away?)

Salt Rock

Slankamen (lit. ‘Salt-rock’) is a port village sandwiched, like a slice of ham (today roasted), between precipitous loess hills and an inlet of the Danube, where the water hardly moves at all. Mum and I approach the village on a descending serpentine road incised into brittle, yellowish sediments. Alas, no chance to stop the car to take in the postcard view… of red-tiled houses, boats and small yachts dotting the bay, and a church spire dominating the village as might a German governess.

Ten minutes later, we are pacing along the riverside. The Danube is teeming with swans, gulls, pigeons, ducks. The birds have found their cool respite.

We come across a man in an orange baseball cap, checked shirt, slacks and tall rubber boots. He has just locked up his small, shabby boathouse and is now on the move: in his left hand, a sizeable shopping bag. All smiles, as he gives us a rundown of the village’s main points of interest.

‘We’re looking for a weekend house to buy’, I say. ‘There seem to be plenty of empty ones’.

The man points at a couple of houses across the street, says they are on sale.

‘That one over there? 25 grand, the asking price. But, if you ask me, I’d forget it’. Indeed, the broken windows and heavy patina speak of decades of neglect.

‘Must be off now’, the man says. ‘Hunters’ meeting to attend.’

I sneak a look into his bag: it is filled with bottles of the local ‘Deer Beer’. I begin to wonder about this ‘hunters’ meeting’ on such a scorching afternoon.

‘So, what do you hunt in these parts, then?’

‘Partridge, hare, duck. You name it!’

The heat is relentless: Mum, now so dazed by sunlight she forgets where we are walking to.  At last, the floating restaurant, ‘Quay’, with a terrace overlooking the stagnant inlet and its legions of birds.

As Mum and I gorge on pan-fried perch, a large fish jumps from the Danube’s muddy shallows, each time falling back with a loud splash. I sense it may be pleading, ‘Hey, that’s my cousin you’re eating there!’

 

From time to time

the flap of outstretched wings –

a windless afternoon


Summer, in the shade

Summer exhibition —
the folks assemble
dressed in blue-and-white ….. (Tito)

On 18th August, a scorching day, a few Hailstones got together for an art exhibition 真夏の芸術祭 held at Galerie Aube inside Kyoto University of Art & Design, where one of our members, Yoshiharu Kondo, was showing his creations. There were about 100 pieces on display; the majority, paintings. We walked around, each person choosing one or two favourites:

A school of ceramic salmon —
an Ainu Upopo, now sung
at the art festival ….. (Yoshiharu)

Dandelion seeds
enlarged in the painting …
he fears they might assault him
at night! ….. (Keiko)

A big brown pot —
written right across its body
in replicated characters,
“Seven Gods of Good Luck” ….. (Yoshiharu)

Cinnamon  background;
the dark-amber skeletons of
Chinese lantern pods ….. (Ursula)

Pleasingly, we all fell in love with Yoshiharu‘s two pieces, a ceramic tsubo-daiko and a handmade storybook featuring his own haiku and tanka.

Summer, in the shade —
A bisque-fired drum
Resounds through the hall ….. (Mayumi K)

Clear Moon —
in his poem,
a villa for his students
who’ve passed away ….. (Keiko)

 

Glad to report that the subsequent mishap that befell one of our number has now resolved itself!

Calling and calling
my lost cell phone —
no reply ….. (Ursula)

Tennozan Clouds

On June 22nd, Tito and I joined William Russell and his New Zealand friend Matt at Suntory Kyoto Brewery for a tour, concluding with a welcome sampling of three of their wares.

My friend,
first one into
the beer-tasting room:
summer clouds
………….. Tito

Though it was a hot, sunny day, Tito and I, thus fortified, proceeded to walk west to Ogura Shrine and from there up to the peak of Mount Tennōzan (270 m). Clouds rolled in as we climbed, and for a while threatened rain, though in the end only a few drops fell. The air was dense with humidity and mosquitoes.

A black haze
circling my legs,
but never landing —
our Aussie mozzie lotion!
………….. Richard

The woods were fecund, sustaining us with red bayberries and orange raspberries. We paused at Ryūjin Pond, embroidered with duckweed. Our descent into Sakatoke Shrine brought us more of nature’s bounty:

Pulling drips
from out of the stormy sky,
purple hydrangea
………….. Tito

from the Icebox inbox – 44

.
jingling cry for peace
a poet’s soul flickers
the spring lights

Masumi Orihara

Standing here
dazzled by new green leaves –
the road to the shrine

Masahiro Nakagawa

Graceful heron looks
Past his own still reflection
Finds the fish beneath

Seth T. Tolbert

redcurrant jelly
shoots from the spoon
summer days

Joanna M. Weston

The ground, infinite
with infants
following ants

Keiko Yurugi

Roller Coaster – extension

I read aloud the original 19-verse Roller Coaster sequence from the Icebox as a contribution to an international haiku meeting held in Ljubljana, Slovenia in early September. I had not been expecting a further episode, but Kansai was again badly hit by natural disaster when, on Sep. 4, Typhoon Jebi (No. 21) blew through, our strongest storm for at least 25 years. I have here collected some of the recent haiku written by our Circle as a kind of extension of our summer 2018 ‘roller coaster ride’. Thank you to our members for sharing them. .. (SHG)

STORM (9)

last sunflowers —
they stand to attention
facing the typhoon

signboards and roofs
plucked into the air —
the autumn gale ……………………………….. both, Mayumi K.

mountains crumbling,
rivers flooding,
the typhoon, past —
anyone alive? ……………………………………. Michiko

after the typhoon —
over wet tree bark
inches a white snail ………………………….. David McC.

a derelict garden —
that large, loaded kaki tree
toppled by the storm

after Jebi
sweeping up our alley:
in the debris
a gold thread …………………………………….. both, Sally

five days after
the terrible typhoon
the old tree, still
propped against my roof …………………… Yoshiharu

crimson spider lilies
stand erect by broken trees —
that stormy night! …………………………….. Ayako

oh, moon in the sky!
above our patient town
of blue tarp rooves ……………………………. Teruko

from the Icebox inbox – 42

Early spring morn —
again, that pair of silent crows
atop the old pine

A black caterpillar
eating a big taro leaf —
the long dry spell …………………………. (Yoshiharu Kondo)

Wandering at night
I see my father’s face in
an old cobblestone.

A lonely thatched hut
two poets shared—one leaving,
one staying behind. …………………………………. (Maria Lin)

The smell of honeysuckle …
the night lights up
with first lightning bolts ……………………. (Julia Guzman)

Gion Festival Reading and Ramble

Late afternoon, 21 July 2018. A dozen Hailstones fell together for a reading in the Museum of Kyoto’s Maeda Café, which used to be a vault of the Bank of Japan, Kyoto branch. At a long table, we took it in turns to read our own, or others’, haibun or haiku sequences.

The programme was:
Branko Manojlovic, 2018 Genjuan GP haibun The Forbidden Pet
Ursula Maierl, haiku Mantis Yoga (from Lost Heian) & sequence Aftershock
Eiko Mori reading David McCullough’s 2018 Genjuan HM haibun Reflections
Mayumi Kawaharada reading Doris Lynch’s 2017 Genjuan GP haibun Season of Snow & Milk
Ayako Kurokawa, haibun Boomerang in the Blue Sky
Hitomi Suzuki, haibun Lanterns on the Water
Kazue Gill reading Tito’s haibun A Scottish Journey
Tito, haiku sequence Roller Coaster (using work by 15 poets; see previous posting)
Four others were present, but did not read.

Evening. After the Café meet was over, most participants went for a short ginko (composition stroll) to enjoy the spectacle of the huge festival yama and hoko floats parked in the nearby streets and lit with tiers of lanterns. Some private houses had opened their windows and doors so that all could see the treasures inside. There were several small shrines to visit down narrow alleys. The Gion Ato-matsuri proved much less busy than the main Saki-matsuri and therefore more conducive to haiku-senryu composition! Many people wore yukata.

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A small sample of the verse that emerged:

Innocent girls chant
a song about their folk talismans –
Gion Festival eve              ………..   (Hitomi)

Divine emissaries*
watching over the Festival crowds –
that pair of turtle doves    ……….. (Mayumi)

Flute players tonight
nearly two stories high
on the deck* of an ancient float       (Duro)

Exploding
earth sensation
of the taro* in my mouth –
a dinner with friends                    ..  (Tito)

.

* emissaries, 使い tsukai messengers of the warriors’ god, Hachiman
* deck, 大船鉾 ofuna-boko boat-shaped float
* taro, 里芋 sato-imo potato variety

Roller Coaster, a haiku sequence

The Kansai region of Western Japan was hit by a damaging earthquake (mag. 5.5) on 18 June, then by a monsoon-ending deluge on 5-7 July, and has been gripped by a severe heatwave ever since. 19 July saw 40 degrees C in Kyoto. The only respite in temperature was the typhoon of 28-29 July, which was cruel in its own way. I compiled a haiku sequence from recent work by 15 Hailstone poets in order to commemorate the fearsome summer we have had so far. You’ll see that haiku poets find ways to ‘coast’ between the ‘rolls’.     (SHG)

QUAKE (4)

morning birdsong
in the monsoon garden:
epicentre
right beneath my pillow!                             Hisashi

35 floors up
an earthquake rocks
and rumbles –
it clutches my heart                                    Sydney

summer earthquake –
ground spangled with glass,
sky full of stars                                           Mizuho

after the tremor
healing my unease,
the fragrant white gardenia                          Hiroko

RAINS (9)

broken muzzles
of the shrine’s stone foxes –
the rainy season returns                              Yaeno

gray rain-screen,
a fear of floods …
yet a kingfisher
blesses the pond                                        Teruko

endless rain –
in our entrance hall
a large garden spider
now resides!                                              Tito

to this land of
green ears of rice,
the Thunder God’s
long siege                                                  Hitomi

helicopter hovering
by people on a rooftop –
never-ending rain                                       Kyoko

a village
obliterated by the rains –
a cicada’s chant                                          Mayumi K.

the rain eases …
along a path between paddies
coloured umbrellas move                             Takashi

jumping into the puddle
with his tiny boots on
the wrong feet –
the rains let up                                           Hisako

monsoon away –
new sunlight on the girl
in the red coupé                                          Akira

HEAT (6)

leaving for work –
the heatwave,
no longer air at all
but wall                                                       Tito

crimson coins of blood
on the bike park floor:
the heatstruck lad
clasps his nose                                             Ursula

on the fence
two turtledoves out of breath …
sagging grasses                                           Branko

fierce sunlight –
a bitter gourd hanging down
like Godzilla’s tail ………………………………………….. Mayumi S.

the brook at my feet
murmuring away heat –
the mountain peak ahead                             Akira

the sun beat down …
but, slowly now, enjoying
the long night wine                                      Hiroko