Basho’s Bed

May 26, 2012

Set a ballade–

Be not sad.

No plan, I forego regret.

A wet I? Mere folly…

Dim, lacy moths, in a vigor, fall.

Ill at last, I move to (no regrets) a faded dale–

A glade, pools.

Some more go too?

No…

Jump! ol’ frog, or flop.

Mujo no oto1

…gero2

Me, moss-looped, algael,

Added a faster gero note,

Vomit salt, all ill.

A frog, I vanish

To my calm idyll of eremite water

…gero gero…

Final pond –

A stone bed

All abates

 

***

Notes and comments

1. Mujo no oto. Japanese for ‘the sound of impermanence’. Mujo or impermanence is an important concept in Buddhism and central to Zen aesthetics. This phrase also references Basho’s original haiku, the final line of which is ‘mizu no oto‘ – the sound of water.

 2. Gero gero is the Japanese onomatopoeia for a frog’s croak, but is also used adverbially to describe vomiting. This pun was one of the inspirations for the poem.

I cobbled together this longer poem from some ideas generated as I created the first Basho poem, After the frog. In this one, I imagine Basho retiring to a solitary hermitage (in a shady glade, with lacy moths, pools, etc.) and himself diving into a pool to join the frogs. The ‘gero‘ grows more urgent inside him until he can’t contain it (‘a faster gero note’). He vomits salt, and sees that he himself has become a frog.

The final stanza is itself a haiku, and nicely captures the essence of the poem: all regret and suffering disappears in this hermit’s final resting place.


After the frog

May 24, 2012

I, Basho, sit in a rigor, fond.

No plop, ol’ pond? No frog? I ran

It is – oh! – sabi.

***

Notes and comments

Fond: Used here in its archaic sense of foolish

Sabi: A Japanese word with no simple translation. An important aesthetic concept in Japanese art and life, it denotes a kind of elegant, refined simplicity with implications of solitude and antiquity.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is Japan’s most famous and beloved of haiku poets.

This haikiah was inspired by his most well-known haiku

furu ike ya

kawazu tobikomu

mizu no oto

Which translates fairly literally as

Old pond –

A frog dives in

The sound of water

In a twist, I imagine Basho sitting by the pond again, on another day, waiting for a frog to plop, but becoming overwhelmed by the lonely beauty of the scene as no frog appears.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 35 other followers