How swift the seasons!

It was winter when I last posted on Icebox, and in what seems the blink of an eye it’s October already! Let me share three haiku spanning this summer and autumn.

Cicadas’
cacophony—a song of
blistering skin

Sweet-smelling grass,
a tiny brown frog leaps
among it all

Paddies at dusk,
crows flee a rising
gibbous moon

And finally, a light-hearted non-seasonal haiku inspired by a statue in a park. (A “tribute” to what birds do best!)

Brave man in bronze
white-lipped, mute to
the birds’ disrespect

Haiku from The Tokyo 2020 Olympics

We had 兼題 (suggested topic) at both of the Hailstone English Haiku seminars in August: ‘Olympic sports’. As they watched on their TV sets, poets in both Kyoto and Osaka composed haiku and haiqua on athletics, swimming, cycling, skateboard, gymnastics, surfing, karate, table tennis, baseball, sports climbing, and so forth. To celebrate the Games’ conclusion, here’s a small selection of them after slight 添削 (tweaking).

August sun —
beckoning deities to her chest
her hop step  j  u  m  p! (KY)

Tattooed eagle
on the Olympian’s arm
cleaves the water —
the final length (YA)

peeking over
the ping-pong table
a tiny girl’s happy face —
training for the Olympics (TY)

Neptune’s billow
brings the surfer to …
glory on the beach (HS)

a climber, hung
upside down
poised for the next move …
sweat beads on her cheeks (AK)

To watch the bobbing heads
of BMX cyclists …
illegal crowd
on a distant bridge (T)

Kyoto Isshu Trail Haike VI

Typhoon weather forced postponement of our Kyoto Circuit Mountain Trail haiku hike from Aug. 9 to 10. Until that typhoon, we had had daily highs of 37-38C and the day after the haike we entered a period of unrelenting rains, so the 10th turned out to be a blissful window of fair weather, cooler and drier than anything on either side. Postponement, however, meant that we lost a couple of haikers (haiku hikers) to other commitments. Sorry for that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the day, 5 haikers headed out from Keage Station in Higashiyama via Himukai Jinja, said to be one of Kyoto’s oldest shrines, a kind of mini-Ise for those who cannot get there. Near the entrance, we came across a friendly jewel beetle, tamamushi, who seemed to want to come along with us. We all walked through the slender Amano’iwatoya Cave and thence on and up through mountain woods towards a still-hidden skyline. The soundtrack to our walk was most beguiling. There was even a horagai-blower.

In a tall cypress forest,
pine twigs scattered
by yesterday’s storm
………. Tito

somewhere
among these hot hills
the sound of a conch
………. David McCullough

Like dewdrops below
Kyoto streets are glittering —
summer realization
………. Akihiko Hayashi

Cicadas and birds —
on a cool mountain breeze
their music melds
………. Margarite Westra

from the top of Mount Daimonji
my primal scream
over Kyoto
………. Duro Jaiye

The panorama from the summit of Daimonjiyama (466m) was superb – much of Kyoto, most of Osaka, a suspicion of the Inland Sea, Mts. Atago, Ikoma, Kongo, and even the cloud-capped Omine Range beyond Yoshino.

On the steep descent, we came upon a refreshing cascade at the head of Shishigatani Valley. After a brief stop there, we walked down into the vale as the sun began to set.

An impromptu haiku sharing was later held in a cafe near Ginkakuji. Deep red shiso (perilla) soda was its long, cool accompaniment. We look forward to seeing some of you on the Trail again for Part VII this autumn.

A Parcel of Plums

Dear Stephen and Kazue-san,

The season of our plum harvest has returned.

Due to the rain and our delay at harvesting, some of the ripened ones may be bruised. Sorry for that. We selected those relatively young and green to avoid the above mishaps. Please water-wash their surface before taking a bite.

Akira and Shigeko, the residents of Rakuki-sha (落李舎)


Sleepless night,
another impact on the ground …
Ah, the ripened plums!

Tomonoura

In this most unhurried, most forsaken of villages where not a single shop seems worthy of the term, where a ferry timetable hangs redundant, we are trying to locate a Basho kuhi. When at long last we bump into a local fisherman, and ask about Matsuo Basho, he looks dismayed: ‘There’s nobody by that name around here.’ Must rely on instinct. An hour later you spy a flight of stairs leading up a verdant hill. To reach the shrine on top one must tiptoe through a minefield of dozing cats in front of a grey torii.

Octopus traps…

Fleeting dreams

Under summer’s moon

                           Basho

The octopus is said to be one of the most intelligent creatures of the sea, able to figure its way out of all kinds of mazes, puzzles and traps. Long ago, however, the Japanese figured out the invertebrate’s love of hiding in small spaces and devised a deceptively simple contraption for catching them: a baited cylindrical clay pot lined with a mesh net and a trap door. These takotsubo (蛸壺, octopus pots) can be found piled and stacked up against seawalls in towns and villages along the Seto Inland Sea, where octopus is part of the daily diet.

Looking for one thing

finding another

octopus traps

Late Summer, 2015

kuhi – a haiku stone on which a poem is engraved

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)