Songs for Spirits 魂のうた

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A selection of 59 tanka, 11 haiku and 3 English haibun by Kiyoko Ogawa (Taibowsha Corp., 2022). The haiku and tanka are given in both Japanese and English.
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From the Preface: “There are some Japanese poets… not in favour of the idea that one poet writes both haiku and tanka… I myself would like to feel free… Sometimes I intend to compose a tanka, ending up by writing a haiku, and vice versa. I won’t mind if my flexibility is criticized.”
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The five sections of the book are focussed, respectively, on the death of Kiyoko’s mother, journeys to Leipzig and Australia, rural scenes around Lake Biwa, and the transience of our ‘Floating World’. Highly recommended!
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In Japan, ¥1,000 + p&p.  From abroad, US$ 10 incl. p&p. Enquiries/orders to: kiyoko66ogawa”at”gmail.com

Green Pigeon Man

the old pond
a freedom fighter drops his pants
and plunges in

Simon Piggott wrote this haiku one hot summer’s day in Oshika-mura, Nagano, at 1,000m in Japan’s Southern Alps. He lived there for decades in an old wooden house he had named Saimon-tei 祭文亭, occasionally opening it up as a theatre and concert venue. He worked primarily as a translator, acted for a time as Kamasawa Village deputy headman, and led the organization supporting the local Shinto shrine, while also tending the nearby cairn to Prince Munenaga 宗良親王 (son of Emp. Godaigo and 14th century resistance leader for the Southern Court against the North), who had fled there. Simon had once presented on Munenaga and Oshika-mura to our Hibikiai Forum seminar in Kyoto.

Born in Northamptonshire, England on 7 April 1950, he passed away after a bout with skin cancer on 8th June, aged 72. He had studied Japanese Language & Literature in the 1970s at SOAS, London University, ahead of me, and much later, David Stormer, too. After graduation Simon returned to Japan and never left. We had played in the same football team in Tokyo in the early 1980s: the Hachiko Boys! Simon was a gifted, independent soul and taught those of us who visited him much about the art of country living. A breath of fresh air! He leaves behind a wife, three daughters, and seven grandchildren. We will sorely miss this unsung freedom-fighting Englishman here in Japan. Thank you, Saimon.
+ RIP +

いづかたも山の端ちかき柴の戸は月見る空やすくなかるらむ
on every side mountains
tower up around
my brushwood cottage
so narrow is the sky
in which i view the moon

(by Munenaga, trans. SP)

look past the garden
snow mountains are welcoming
stars, the confetti

(by SP)

Finally, and movingly, a short excerpt from a piece he wrote on his blogsite,  back in April:

… It was a beautiful spot, looking out to the high mountains across the valley. It was also adjacent to the place where he had cut down trees for firewood all those years ago.

He walked very slowly, still not confident whether his body wouldn’t be damaged by the exertion. But, so far, it seemed to be holding up.

As he neared his destination he saw an uncommon bird flying horizontally through the trees. Jays and rooks were common here, but it wasn’t one of those. By the flash of colour that he had caught sight of he identified it as an aobato, a green pigeon, a bird whose distinctive call he occasionally heard, but which he had only actually seen a few times. To see it today of all days seemed auspicious.

Immediately he decided that, in accordance with the Buddhist custom of taking a new name after death, he would call himself aobato-koji — Green Pigeon Man.

It was a joke. But he was also serious. Green Pigeon Man.

Presently he arrived at the clearing where the small statue for the dead farm animals stood. He searched for a suitable place to put the stone that would commemorate him, the Green Pigeon Man. About ten metres away he found four closely grouped pines. He would put his stone here between the trees.

Thus he would become the Green Pigeon Man of the Four Pines.

Then, satisfied with what he had accomplished, he set off back down the mountain.

He didn’t see the green pigeon again, but, in the forest just above his house, did faintly hear its call.

my gravestone is up:
unknown, unvisited, this
virgin rock perhaps
one day will kisses cover
like oscar’s in père lachaise*

Notes – *alluding to Oscar Wilde’s tomb, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.
The old pond haiku was later published in our 2005 anthology Enhaiklopedia.
The full piece, Green Pigeon Man of the Four Pines, is available at Simon’s blogsite, here.
Richard Donovan and Tito hope to go to Oshika sometime to pay our respects at Green Pigeon Man’s gravestone.

from the Icebox inbox – 48

a coruscation
of moonlight across the dark sea—
election results

Sydney Solis, Florida

My sandwich vanishes—
A kite flies away
Into the autumn sky

Hiyori Nakao, Kyoto Univ.

Crossing Sanjo Bridge
white hilltops in the distance
he blows on his hands

Peter MacIntosh, Kyoto

pause in the traffic…
the pop of monsoon raindrops
on the road

K. Ramesh, Tamil Nadu

thick webs
in between the branches
gardener’s long leave

Lakshmi Iyer, Kerala

mud pies…
what could smell better
than a handful of earth?

Ingrid Baluchi, North Macedonia

After the rain
falling on my shoulder now…
gingko leaves

Takumi Harada, Ryukoku Univ.

on New Year’s Day
the twinkling stars descend
down the shore
I lit the lamps of hope
erasing grief’s shadow

Pravat Kumar Padhy, Odisha

Onions

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The Onion Field …………………………………………. by Dimitar Anakiev
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If you happen to be walking in the northern part of Kyoto, known as Kitayama, you may notice near the Botanical Gardens a middle-aged man watching over an onion field located right beside his house. His name is Branko Manojlovic, a Serbian poet who has been living in Kyoto for quite some time now. Although the onion is an essential part of Serbian culture – I can’t recall a dish that has no onions in it – these were planted not by Branko but by a nameless neighbour. Two years have already passed since the planting, yet the onion is still unharvested.

I, too, was taken with this field. During my stay in Branko’s house, I watched it every day from the window of my room: a field that through its very existence seemed to hint at something that, although not obvious, was at the same time significant.
Looking out of the window – the onion field still wet after rain – I wrote a haiku:

In its second year
onion languishing – who will
come and harvest it?

At breakfast, Branko looked moody and with dark bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. As I was stirring my tea with a questioning expression he swigged his coffee in a hurry and, before going off to work, handed me a folded piece of paper: “Last night’s haiku”, he said. After he left I opened the paper, it read:

Unable to get back
to sleep… the onion field
lashed by storm

I noticed that Branko had a special relationship with the onion field, but we did not discuss it. One afternoon I noticed him pacing about the field as though looking over each stem, each green leaf that was pointing toward the sky. The following morning, I got another piece of paper that read:

A group photograph:
we are the onions
hanging under eaves

I myself wrote haiku on the subject of onions, which seemed to have dominated our thoughts and emotions. On the other side of the street, where the bus no. 4 was passing, I noticed a small Shinto shrine set there perhaps because of some superstitious belief. Like some Christian chapels, such shrines would often have been established by local people, and this particular one was leaning against a neighbour’s house.
When I was leaving Kyoto, I left Branko this haiku:

In Kitayama
the onion field watched over
by some Shinto god

I do not know if this field still exists today. If by chance it does, I’ll bet Branko is keeping an eye on it.

 

 

Onions …………………………………………………………. by Branko

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Out of snow
green tails of onion stalks
slicing the wind

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How past repair
this aging onion field…
how the umbels
still hold on for bees
and swooping swallows!

*
By the field’s edge
he glances left and right,
uproots an onion,
stuffs it in the plastic bag
together with his conscience

Persimmons – part 4

. At this point I should like to turn to the subject of how persimmon was treated in literature. Persimmon seeds have been dug up from some archaeological sites of the Jomon period. So I believe that persimmon trees must have existed in Japan long before the Man’yo period, yet the Man’yoshu has no poems about persimmons. Judging from his name, the poet Kakinomoto Hitomaro (柿本人麻呂, fl. ca. 680 during the reign of Emperor Tenmu), lived in a house standing beneath a persimmon tree. But he is silent about his persimmon tree. In the Kamakura period, Fujiwara no Tame’ie (藤原為家, 1198~1275) wrote the following poem:
……………………………… Autumn has arrived.
……………………………… I wonder about the leaves
……………………………… On higher mountains.
……………………………… Our garden persimmon trees
……………………………… Display deeply coloured leaves
. I like this poem because the poet expresses his concern for the leaves in the high mountains. He is wondering whether they have taken on their autumn hues like the persimmon trees in his garden, or whether they have already been scattered by the wind. Probably the latter was the case, and if so, he may have been equally concerned about the persimmon trees in his garden. In the Edo period, Ozawa Roan (1723~1801), who stood for tadagoto-uta (honest poetry), wrote the following poem about persimmons:
……………………………… Chestnuts are smiling.
……………………………… Persimmons are getting red.
……………………………… It is indeed time
……………………………… For short-haired children to be
……………………………… Proud, and enjoy the season.
. This poem is so cheerful that I cannot help laughing with the poet.

(To be continued…)

from the Icebox inbox – 35

zoo visit…
after the downpour
a rainbow of macaws

……. (Grace Galton)

spring morning
how i fiddle with piano keys
missing her caress

……. (Payal Aggarwal)

indulgent mother
cow licking her calf
till he shines

……. (Joyce Joslin Lorenson)

Waiting for summer
The ice and snow are melted
But tempestuous storms
Wreak havoc
And I pine alone.

……. (Jane Wieman, Madison, Wisconsin)

from the Icebox inbox – 34

gleaming coals burn to ash –
the day begins
as a new slate

Brinda Buljore, France

early morning
uneven feet zig-zag
along the icefield

Payal Aggarwal, India

grey clouds
cover the tiny village …
trickling snowflakes

Keith A Simmonds, France

long-tailed tits
gathering in the hawthorn
first flurries of snow

John Hawkhead, U.K.

true “sky blue”
beyond bare branches …
the scrape, scrape, scrape
of a shovel
clearing away snow

Jane Wieman, Wisconsin

lingering cold –
through the shōji
the cry of a crow

Lawrence Jiko Barrow, Japan

Between two lights

IMG_0521b-.

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.Halt and yield
.. At the path that leads
…. Along the chalky downs
…… From red sun
…….. To risen moon

(Hackhurst Downs, Surrey, 15.3.14)

photo: Kazue Gill (click on it to see the full moon at extreme left)

from the Icebox inbox – 29

inchworm ~
little by little
the lengthening day

…… (Michael Henry Lee)

Too soft their voices
for me to hear the words
of next-door neighbors
this night of the Full Worm Moon

…… (Jane Wieman)

At the bend
A hundred fresh trees –
Spring

…… (Kanchan Chatterjee)

Across my heart
the night worm scribbles hours
ink pours from the moon

…… (Jane Fenton Keane)

asleep/awake

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

 …. (Tuaran, Sabah, 22.3.13)

P1190236-

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

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

P1190357-

Manoa

Morning dew …
Its clear, transparent drops:
If only I could run
Without stepping on them
With my white shoes.

朝露の透き通る球できるれば踏まで走らん白シューズ

I ate Manoa lettuce full of dewdrops for my breakfast.