japonisme: 5/9/10 - 5/16/10

13 May 2010

a gift for issa

After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

New Year’s morning—
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

A huge frog and I
staring at each other,
neither of us moves.

This moth saw brightness
in a woman’s chamber—
burned to a crisp.

Asked how old he was
the boy in the new kimono
stretched out all five fingers.

Blossoms at night,
like people
moved by music

Napped half the day;
no one
punished me!

Fiftieth birthday:

From now on,
It’s all clear profit,
every sky.

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house

These sea slugs,
they just don’t seem


Bright autumn moon;
pond snails crying
in the saucepan.

Robert Hass

“After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa” from Field Guide.
Copyright © 1973 by Robert Hass.

costume museum @ the met
happy anniversary, issa and haiku guy

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11 May 2010

will we ever really know kimono at all?


(from a Japanese legend)

Disdaining butterflies
as frivolous,
she puttered with caterpillars,
and wore a coarse kimono,
crinkled and loose at the neck.

Refused to tweeze her brows
to crescents,
and scowled beneath dark bands
of caterpillar fur.

Even the stationery
on which she scrawled
unkempt calligraphy,
startled the jade-inlaid
indolent ladies,
whom she despised
like the butterflies
wafting kimono sleeves
through senseless poems
about moonsets and peonies;
popular rot of the times.

No, she loved worms,
blackening the moon of her nails
with mud and slugs,
root gnawing grubs,
and the wing case of beetles.

And crouched in the garden,
tugging at her unpinned hair,
weevils queuing across her bare
and unbound feet.

Swift as wasps, the years.
Midge, tick and maggot words
crowded her haikus
and lines on her skin turned her old,
thin as a spinster cricket.

Noon in the snow pavilion,
gulping heated sake
she recalled Lord Unamuro,
preposterous toad
squatting by the teatray,
proposing with conditions
a suitable marriage.

Ha! She stoned imaginary butterflies,
and pinching dirt,
crawled to death’s cocoon
dragging a moth to inspect
in the long afternoon.

Colette Inez

“The Woman Who Loved Worms” from Getting Under Way:
New and Selected Poems by Colette Inez

(Story Line Press, 1993)

dedicated to janejohn

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