japonisme: small town

13 October 2011

small town

why do train whistles, red rooftops,
and abandoned row-boats somehow
make us feel safe, and with our true
souls revealed?


You know.
The light on upstairs
before four every morning. The man
asleep every night before eight.
What programs they watch. Who
traded cars, what keeps the town
The town knows. You
know. You've known for years over
drugstore coffee. Who hurts, who
Why, today, in the house
two down from the church, people
you know cannot stop weeping.

Philip Booth

"Small Town" by Philip Booth, from Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999. © Penguin Group, 1999.


yamazato ya aki no ame yo no tô aruki

mountain village--
a rainy autumn evening's
long walk

Issa, translation by David Lanoue

images that should make us feel
lonely instead make us feel whole
and bathed in golden light.


I'm eating a little supper
by the bright window.
The room's already dark,
the sky's starting to turn.
Outside my door,
the quiet roads lead,
after a short walk, to open fields.
I'm eating, watching the sky—
who knows
how many women are eating now. My body is calm:
labor dulls all the senses, and dulls women too.

Outside, after supper,
the stars will come out to touch
the wide plain of the earth.
The stars are alive,
but not worth these cherries,
which I'm eating alone.
I look at the sky, know that lights
already are shining
among rust-red roofs,
noises of people beneath them.
A gulp of my drink,
and my body can taste the life
of plants and of rivers. It feels detached from things.
A small dose of silence suffices, and everything's still,
in its true place, just like my body is still.

All things become islands before my senses,
which accept them as a matter of course:
a murmur of silence.
All things in this darkness—
I can know all of them,
just as I know that blood flows in my veins.
The plain is a great flowing of
water through plants,
a supper of all things. Each plant,
and each stone,
lives motionlessly.
I hear my food feeding my veins
with each living thing that this plain provides.

The night doesn't matter. The square patch of sky
whispers all the loud noises to me, and a small star
struggles in emptiness, far from all foods,
from all houses, alien. It isn't enough for itself,
it needs too many companions.
Here in the dark, alone,
my body is calm, it feels it's in charge.

Cesare Pavese

translation by Geoffrey Brock

"Passion for Solitude" from Disaffections:
Complete Poems 1930-1950.

Copyright © 2002 by Cesare Pavese.

it's neighborhood,
being tucked into bed,

the smell of fresh bread,
the human voice,

the slam of the
refrigerator door....


sato no hi no furumekashitaru tsuki yo kana

the village fires
old and familiar...
a moonlit night

Issa, translation by David Lanoue

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Anonymous evan said...

beautiful poems & imagery:
ref the Phillip Booth poem:
somehow the suburbs are just the opposite-Painter Eric Fischl once said that the manicured facade of the suburbs gave no hint to the psychodramas going on just behind people's front doors. As a child of the 'burbs, I can say he got it right.
It's probably different for small towns- everybody know everybody else's business- that's the stereotype, anyway

14 October, 2011 10:56  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

which do you prefer, evan?

14 October, 2011 11:28  
Anonymous evan said...

guess my answer would have to be the small town- as long as that fine line between everyone knowing everybody else's business vs everyone being IN everyone's business doesn't get crossed...

...as long as the architecture was cool.

The suburban scenario is a little creepy, no, actually- a LOT creepy.

15 October, 2011 10:35  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh yes-- cool architecture goes a long way.

i can't think of this directly. i'm so solitary that neither seems real. what is berkeley, not village nor suburb. i like that there are neighbors that we know each other, that health food store & produce market are nearby, that it's quiet enough for me, usually, and that wildlife continues to flourish.

15 October, 2011 21:45  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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