japonisme: 3/27/11 - 4/3/11

02 April 2011

the hum of bees

sasuga hana chiru ni miren wa nakari keri

when cherry blossoms
no regrets

Issa begins the haiku with the word sasuga: "truly" or "as one might have expected." Here, the first meaning seems to fit. He proposes that, "truly," the cherry blossoms fall to death without regret.

This undated haiku resembles one that Issa wrote in 1821:

miren naku chiru mo sakura wa sakura kana

without regret
they fall and scatter...
cherry blossoms

In a related haiku (1809), he urges the blossoms to trust in Amida Buddha's
saving grace:

tada tanome hana wa hara-hara ano tôri

simply trust!
cherry blossoms flitting

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms
in the shorthand of haiku.

my yoshino cherry tree outside my bedroom window goes so quickly from blossoms to leaves. when it's newly fully flowered it fills so with bees that the sound of them comes in through my bedroom window, and fills the garden. and as quickly gone, on to other pollen, other trees.

a movie i just saw a bit of, cherry blossoms, says that the cherry blossom festivals, gathered in groups under the landscapes of yoshino cherry trees, are the perfect reminder to all of us of impermanence.

at 60,
it's something one has learned a bit of;
i wonder how much i will have learned
when i am 80.

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01 April 2011

historical find

we now have startling new evidence
that our understanding of japanese art
has been a bit off, by about 100,000,000 years!

we have always attributed china with being
the progenitor of the japanese style,
but now we see that even they are preceded
by an earlier european style.

we have it all: the darker outlines,
the asymmetrical arrangement,
the blocks of color; we even see what
will later trend to hokusai's manja.

most surprising, though, has to be
the amazing foresight of the artist
in anticipating 'nude descending a staircase.'


31 March 2011

the nest of rapture


No one says
it anymore,
my darling,
not to the green leaves
in March, not to the stars
backing up each night, certainly

not in the nest
of rapture, who
in the beginning was
an owl, rustling
just after silence, whose

very presence drew
a mob of birds--flickers,
finches, chickadees, five cardinals
to a tree--the way a word
excites its meanings. Who

cooks for you, it calls, Who looks
for you? Sheaf of feathers, chief
of bone, the owl stands
upon the branch, but does he
understand it, think my revel,
my banquet, my tumult,

delight? The Irish have a word
for what can't be
replaced: mavourneen, my
darling, second cousin once
removed of memory, what is not
forgotten, as truth was
defined by the Greeks.

It's the names
on the stones in the cemetery
that ring out like rungs
on a ladder or the past
tense of bells: Nathaniel Joy,
Elizabeth Joy, Amos
Joy and Wilder Joy,

and it all comes down
to the conclusion
of the cardinal: pretty, pretty, pretty
pretty--but pretty what?
In her strip search
of scripture, St. Teresa
was seized, my darling, rapt
amid the chatter
and flutter of well-coiffed

words, the owl
in the shagbark hickory,
and all the attending dangers
like physicians
of the heard.

Angie Estes

From Voice-Over by Angie Estes. Copyright © 2002 by Angie Estes.

so many love the bullfinch! a cross-cultural item of adoration. looks more like the grosbeak we have around here than any of our local finches, but still, who knew? this sweet little offering is dedicated to gerrie at his blog the linosaurus. his blog is the source for the top left image of this post, just part of the ongoing introductions to gerrie's finds in his tireless searches.

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29 March 2011

the fire & the rose

what are we then to do?
knowing that the world has seen holocaust,
war, genocide, and, yet, come this far...
were you there, now, what would you do? swim?,
or stand tremulously, waiting, at the water's edge?


Ash on an old man's sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended.
Dust inbreathed was a house-
The walls, the wainscot and the mouse,
The death of hope and despair,
This is the death of air.

There are flood and drouth
Over the eyes and in the mouth,
Dead water and dead sand
Contending for the upper hand.
The parched eviscerate soil
Gapes at the vanity of toil,
Laughs without mirth.
This is the death of earth.

Water and fire succeed
The town, the pasture and the weed.
Water and fire deride
The sacrifice that we denied.
Water and fire shall rot
The marred foundations we forgot,
Of sanctuary and choir.
This is the death of water and fire.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known,
because not looked for
But heard, half-heard,
in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames
are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

T. S. Eliot
from Four Quartets

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27 March 2011



This had happened before: rain that began
as mist — thick and windless, slow to fall.
In the bottomland, bloated spiders
caught fog and bound it; the webs sagged,
white and wet.

The second day, the creek
argued with the rain, grew bolder before
losing itself, overcoming the banks
that had defined it. Its current cut,
the water grew still, intent on rising.
This changed everything.

The third day, skeletal
corn-balk was lost. The trees waded in, waist-deep.
Boundaries drowned — the wire dead. I had
moved the cows to higher ground, and, puzzled,
they looked down on that placid other
that was not lake or pond.

The rain abated
midday, and I knew the next morning
I would see the field reappear as if rising.
I would see the fenceline discovered,
and, more, some ancestral bone, white now
as a root, would appear in the storm-gore
that would gag the creek, sagging in its bed.
I would find crows, those disbelievers, drowned
in their sleep, feathers strewn in the cattails,
their mouths filled with mud.

But long before
dawn, I would be there as before, at the edge
of what could not be sailed or sounded, watching
moonlight move over the body of that
black depthlessness — and I would be lost
as if I were in some distant place.

Claudia Emerson
from Pinion: An Elegy
Louisiana State University Press

i wrote about my friend midori -- which means green --
and the experiences of her and her family,
just 37 miles from the fukushima nuclear power plant.
i am providing her email address here so that
any donations you might want to make
can be sent by paypal. though her own house
was severely damaged, she wishes to use any donations
to help her family, but to also help those she knows
who are in even greater need than they are.

somehow to me, giving to midori, or giving to
the japanese red cross: both vitally important, one,
somehow, more personal.


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