japonisme: 6/20/10 - 6/27/10

24 June 2010

losing currency

one of my favorite mystery writers, stuart kaminsky, i recently learn, died. oddly, nobody told me. why should they? but....

this is one of the things about getting older about which no one would ever even think of mentioning, but to me it's surely emblematic of becoming part of a fading time.

i don't mean to be morose! not at all. if you're paying attention you notice stuff. that's all. young marrieds are nostalgic about stuff you grew up with. stuff like that.

you find that things that you knew were valuable -- everyone agreed -- now are unheard of. having not only been to woodstock, and seen the beatles in person, you were a groupie with roadies for both dr john and bonzo dog, and, like, what's cooler than that? they humor you with a quick smile, if they have even heard of any of these. your currency is no longer worth a thing, and you realize it probably never was!

and it doesn't matter if it wasn't, either.

sometimes really finding out "whatever happened to..." completely breaks your heart. and sometimes something that you've forgotten having done gives a gift to someone you didn't meet till decades later. oh joy!

in the end, what point has there been in your life deciding what's important, what is not? aren't you going to change your mind some day and then feel yourself to have been a fool? are your memories filled with what you would have expected?

there's every chance you will be known then remembered by some impression you left, even if it was a misinterpretation, or a misunderstanding, or an attribution that was assumed but never deserved. in fact the chances of that lasting impression have anything to do with the real you are very very small.

isn't that freeing? or is that a shade of green you're turning? and then you realize you must turn it around. did you ever know anyone at all? if your opinions, your agreements and disagreements, your mad dervish plans and your careful arrangements, looked silly one day, would that matter?

if you can't just laugh at this point, well then, i guess you just can't.

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20 June 2010

summer night-- the moon

natsu no yo ya kawabe
no tsuki mo ima mikka

summer night--
the moon by the river
just a sliver

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. The rhyme in my translation is accidental--so I decided to allow it. The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver.


Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.

Mark Twain
nese-tsukete soto e wa detari natsu no tsuki

it's bedtime
but out I go...
summer moon


Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,—
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer's smile,—
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
where would they carry me?

William Carlos Williams

mijika yo ya kusa wa tsui-tsui-tsui to saku

short summer night--
the grasses bloom
swish, swish, swish!


My kind? I don’t know my kind.
I see the sunlight speaking
in the windy leaves — a clear,
cold, early summer day that says
whatever is lost will come down
the daylight to meet you.

Forget it. There’s never anyone.
And I find myself wanting
to invent a new language. My
country’s the scratch of rain on
glass, these straight miles of
crucified wire — empty as a rose.

Remember the night skies? Navy.
A silk drawn slowly from the
breast pocket for the last deep
trick of the stars: the splash,
the scraps of silver tinselling
down in the flooding white light.

Robert Dana

(all haiku by issa, translated by david g. lanou, here.)

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