Spring Colors   Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I have a little something special this week. All of my library pieces are from Basho's  The Narrow Road to the Far North, including both his poetry and his prose. It is from a beautifully bound and printed book, "A Haiku Journey" which includes Basho's complete piece, additional haiku, illustrated with beautiful photographs  by Dennis Stock, and introduction and commentary by translator Dorothy Britton.

The book is a first edition published by Kodansha International Ltd. of Tokyo in 1974. It was a great find last week at one of my Half-Priced Book Stores.

My pictures are from 2010, an excellent year for wildflowers here in central and coastal Texas. Wildflowers this very dry year will be sparse, but even if they weren't, I doubt I'd spend a day looking for them as I did these. In fact, I doubt I'll ever do that again, these pictures about as good as I ever expect to get.

In addition to Basho this week, there is, of course, me. Here's what we have for you, the two of us.

no promises
from the narrow road to the far north
from the narrow road to the far north
the universal shadow
from the narrow road to the far north
I hate writing about the weather again
from the narrow road to the far north
my poem for today
from the narrow road to the far north
what the field mice have to say about it
from the narrow road to the far north
the first short sleeve shirt of Spring
from the narrow road to the far north
again today
from the narrow road to the far north
morning before the night things sleep
from the narrow road to the far north
and so:
from the narrow road to the far north
from the narrow road to the far north
don't  expect any hot-diggity dancing
from the narrow road to the far north
when our magic twanger of inspiration fails

Here's my first  for this week.

no promises
the moon
a slight  silver thread
hanging like a fisherman's hook
in a flat  black sea
high banked
clouds  dark on the
eastern horizon
muzzle the morning
not  a day
to  promise  rainbows
or sugar  treats within  shaded
garden walls

I explained in my introduction about my library poems this week, all coming from the narrow road to the far north, by the haiku master, Basho. This version, from the book a haiku journey, includes both the haiku and Basho's introduction to each haiku.

Here's the first note from Basho's journeys.


     The passing days and months are eternal travellers in time. The years that  come and go are travellers too. Life itself is a journey; and as for those who spend their days upon the waters in ships and those who grow old leading horses, their very home is the open road. and some poets of old there were who died while traveling.
     There came a day when the clouds drifting along, with the wind aroused a wanderlust in me, and I set off on a journey to roam along the seashores. I returned to my hut on the riverbank at the end of summer, and by the time I had swept away the cobwebs, the year was over.

     But when spring came with its misty skies, the god of temptation possessed me with longing to pass the Barrier Gate at Shikawa, and the road gods beckoned, and I could  not  set my mind to anything. So  I mended by breeches, put new cords on my hat, and as I burnt moxa on my knees to make them strong, I was already dreaming of the moon over Matsushima.
     I sold my home and moved into Sampu's guest house,  but before I left my cottage I composed a verse and inscribed it on a poem strip which I hung upon a pillar:

          This rude hermit cell
              will be different now, knowing Doll's
                  Festival as well

Here's my first old poem of the week, this one, as all others, from 2012


slender, silver crescent
of a moon tonight, the first
sighting in a week, clouds blown away
to show her thin-shining face,
stars,too, bright companions
all around her, the dark  overcast
of a week  ago surrendering, until,  first,
last night's fluffy washboard and,  finally
tonight, pristine clarity lit by this frail moon
and this multitude of other homes' suns, pinpoints
that shine both on me and on faraway fields and mountains
and meadows with the full force of their  atomic life,
such is all of this
I share with places  and beings I suspect
but cannot imagine

it  is a grand and glorious thing,
this universe of mine,
laid out, in my grandiloquent presumption,
on this early morn for  me  to

it is hard to be humble
when you know
you are part  of  such  a thing
as all of this

Next from Basho's travels

Setting Forth

     On the twenty-seventh day of  the Third Moon, the dawn sky was misty. There was  a wan  moon, and in the faint morning light  I could just make out, in the distance, the summit of Fuji, and nearby, the tops of the cherry trees of Ueno and Yanaka,  Would  I ever see these sights again, I wondered, feeling rather forlorn.
     My closest friends, who had been with us since the night before, came on the riverboat to see us off. We disembarked at a place called Senjy, and my heart was heavy at the thought of the miles that lay ahead.  And though this ephemeral world is but an illusion, I could not bear to part from it and wept.

          Loath to let spring go,
              Birds cry, and even fishes'
                  Eyes are wet with tears.

     I composed this verse as a beginning to my travel diary, and we set off, but our feet dragged and we made little progress. Our friends stood on the road and watched until we were out of sight.

Sometimes it's interesting a truism and a metaphor everyone knows  and turn it upside down just to  see  what  falls  out.

the universal shadow

we live  in the universal
of  God's dark forces

our only ally, the light
of Lucifer,
the snake who taught us
to be human -

over magic;
over ignorance

this is where
we find
our greater humanity...

no new  pope
will ever help us
in our search,
for dark  never
concedes  willingly
to light

which  must  shine
ever stronger  in its
if the shadow  of
God's dark face
is to ever
from it's dominion
over us

God damns the light,
so we must
and protect 

Further along in the travels of Basho.

from Nikko

     On the first day of the Fourth Moon, we paid our respects at Mount Nikko.
     In olden ties, the name of this mountain was written, "Ni-ko," using the Chinese  characters  for "two" and "wild," but when Saint KuKai built a temple here, he changed the characters to "Nik-ko," meaning "sun" and "light." He must have foreseen what was to come a thousand years later, for now the august light of Tokugawa rule illumines the whole firmament, and its beneficent rays reach into every corner of the land so that all the people may live in security and peace.
     I was filled with such awe that I hesitated to write a poem.

          O holy, hallowed Shrine!
             How green all the fresh young leaves
                  In they bright Sun shine!

Actually, it'd be kind of nice  to have some weather around here,  especially if it  had some  rain in it.

I hate writing about the weather  again

I  hate to write
about the weather again,

but there's  so  damn  much
of  it

rain in the desert,

in unsnowy places,
record heats

and record colds
and tornadoes blowing

and twisting
and pound good green

and main streets  and playgrounds

and  thistles
and shamrocks


that's a music program
on NPR

and they don't do tornadoes

just bagpipes
which are the next worse

thing to  twisting and blowing

closely edging out

and good night irenes
and battle hymns of the  republic

experiences to be avoided
at  all  cost

unless it's Flaco Jimenez
doing conjunto and Tex-Mex

and German, Polish, Mexican

you see

even in  the realm of accordions
there  are  gradations

of good and

which  is not  the case
with  tornadoes or bagpipes

and, jeez, I really hate all this
writing about

the weather again
even  if  there  is so damn much of it

Basho's journeys, a life of traveling.

more from Nikko

     I knew someone  who lived in a place called Kuroane in the Nasu district, so we decided to cross Nasu Moor. We took a short cut in the direction of a village we could see far off in the distance, but before we reached the village, it began to rain and night came on. We  spent that night at a farmhouse and the next morning started off again across the moor.
     We came upon a horse  grazing. Nearby, a man was cutting grass and we inquired the way. Although he was a rough country fellow, he was not lacking in kindness.
     "Dear me!" he said, concerned. "This moor  is crisscrossed with paths, and a stranger could easily go astray. Take my horse and when he will go no further, send him back"
     He lent us his mount. No sooner had we set off when two children came running after us. One was a little girl who said her name was Kasane, which meams "Manifold." It was such an unusual and charming name that Sora composed the following lines:

          Were she a flower,
              She would be a wild, fring'd pink,
                  Petals manifold.

     Before long we reached a small hamlet of a few dwellings, and so, tying some money to the saddle,, we  let the horse go to find his way back.

This is another new one from last week.

my poem for today

I'm going
to fix the back fence
today, and the latch on the gate
up front,  and pull some weeds from the places
where weeds are not pleasing
to the eye

might sit by the fire
as I burn some old fence
in my chiminea,
drink coffee or some hot chocolate
or maybe a beer
as I watch the flames
eat away at the
when the fence boards were new,
long  before they were
and pitted with holes
and cracks
and long before I became a factor
in their eventual fiery

and wonder about my own
and burn what fires will I
could be hell
I'm bound for some say or maybe
the center
of a new star  that shines
at night
behind a bright October moon...

and I'll probably take the do
for an extra walk
at the park,
think some more of the fires of hell
and of stars
new bright, their fires fed to  bursting
as my soul and other atomic
remains drift in
to become an  eternal part
of  unending destruction
and rebirth

and probably then
set  aside the fires,
the only sane response
to contemplating the end of  it
which was me,
and take a nap instead and read a silly book
and prepare  some pulled  port and hot French bread
for dinner

and go  to bed early
and maybe dream a little,  maybe
pick up where  I left off
in last night's

all that,
I think, will be my poem
for today

me being me
together with me
all day

sitting by the fire
that will  consume us all
one  day,
like  a dare to the inevitability
of fate

Further along the Basho trail.

Sesshoseki,  or "the slaughter stone"

     We returned to Kurobane and from there we went to see the Slaughter stone of Nasu. (According to legend, when Lady Tamamo, loved by Emperor Konoe was  found to be a fox in human guise and was put to death, her fox-soul turned herself into this noxious stone.)
     The lord's caretaker, my friend Joboji, let us horses for the excursion. The man leading my horse asked me for a poem. What an artistic request for a stablehand to make, I though and composed the following verse for him.

         Turn across the moor,
            O horseman, for i hear
                A cuckoo singing there!

     The Slaughter Stone was in a mountain niche where there was  a hot spring. The stone's poisonous vapors  were as yet unspent, and bees and moths lay dead around in such heaps that one could not see the color of the sand beneath.

The view from an alternate reality.

what the field mice have to say about it

the field mouse
see grandeur
in the spread wings
of the hawk

I think not

the field mouse
sees sharp  talons
and the flesh shedding 
that means death
to field mouse kind

there is not majesty
in the bloody
of himself
or some other brother
he would say

only dull and unimaginative men
see magnificence in such as

Next from Basho.

Saigyo's Willow  at Ashino

     The  poet Sigyo's  weeping willow that grew "Where pure, crystal waters flowed" was in the village of Ashino. There we found it, still growing on a bank between ride paddies.
     Lord Ashino  had often urged me to see this willow, and I used to wonder about it. And now,  there I was, actually standing in the shade of that very tree!

          One whole paddy field
              Was plated ere I moved on
                   From that willow  tree!

Suggesting a terrible  summer is  ahead, it was 95 degrees a couple of days ago, a new record for that date. And no rain, extending an already awful drought, probably at least until next fall.

All one can do is make light of it.

the first short sleeve shirt of spring

I'm wearing
this short sleeve  shirt
it's supposed to hit
90 degrees

my wife
bought the shirt
for out so who is built
like a linebacker
and I'm not, a difference
between us
of some inches across the
chest and shoulders
that she has never really
so the shirts she buys
are usually too small  for him
but perfect for me
so I end up with them
whether I like them
or not

as with this  shirt...

a green-blue checkerdy thing
that looks like a tablecloth at  a St. Patrick day picnic
for the old folks home, a shirt  that
look at me, I'm an
old coot setting-out from the home
to play shuffleboard
or horseshoes with all my old fart friends in ugly shirts
just like mine...

I'd like to be wearing
one of my Hawaiian shirts today,
but they're all packed away
for winter
and WalMart won't get its new  season  supply
of Hawaiian shirts
for a couple of weeks
but I recognize the requirements of reality
so that's why I'm wearing this
shirt that makes me feel like
Shuffleboard Sam, an  old guy
content to spend his days pushing pucks
from one end of a concrete strip
to the other,
instead of a good, flowery
Hawaiian shirt
that makes me want to pick coconuts
at a quiet beach where pretty girls in dental floss bikinis
hang out all around like coconuts
fallen from their trees and  waiting for me to
pick up, whispering  in their small, pink  ears  all about
the wonders of gerontological
sex,  the extreme, lustalicions quality
which makes up for its

the difference in shirts is obvious,
there being hardly ever smooth-skinned girls
in dental  floss  bikinis
hanging around the shuffleboard crew
in their checkerdy shirts
at the old folks

More Basho.

The Shinobu Mottling Stone

      The next day, we went to the village of Shinobu to see the  stone against whose rough naturally patterned surface textiles had been mottled long ago by rub bin fonds of shinobu, or hare's foot fern, over the cloth.
     In a tiny hamlet  at the foot  of a distant hill, we  found the stone, half-buried in the earth. Some village children came and told us that the stone used to be at the top of the hill, but people going to see it kept pulling up barley to try their hand at rubbing, and the farmer's were so annoyed that they dislodged the stone and set it rolling down into the valley. The children said the stone now lay face down. Their story was quite probably true.

          Those hands transplanting rice
             Were printing cloth in olden days!
                  Did they look as nice?

One of the things I have  learned as  I've grown older  is that it is  important  to keep your ambitions in check.

again today
I didn't 
fall out of love
again today
and   I didn't
all the secrets
of life
again today,
but I don't despair
which is one of the
secrets of life
I did  learn again
I  didn't win
the lottery again
or grow taller
or thinner
or  braver
or smarter
once again
of those  things
did  I  do 
didn't out box
the reigning heavyweight
world champ today
ad neither
did  I win the Indianapolis
of those things
did I do again today
I didn't  submit a plan
for world peace
again today
and watch, grateful
tears of joy
in  my eyes, as  my plan
was adopted
unanimously, winning
of  all the varied  diplomats
and dignitaries
they all,
of all the varied nations
on this  small ever-spinning earth,
gathered in a circle
singing kumbaya, dancing
together, Arab and Jew, Shite
and Sunni, evangelical and atheist,
young and old
white and black,
of  healthy body
and interminable pain,
broad minds
and narrow minds,
witty and half -witted,
tall and short, fat and  thin,
thieves and suffers  from theft,
murders and the murdered arisen,
all together in tripsichoric
in death grip entangled,
in forgiving and forgetting,
mercy plead, mercy given,
and all  the oppressors of all the masses
and all the masses,  dancing, all,
in tearful acceptance
of  forgiving and forgetting,
mercy plead and mercy given
I didn't  do that again
but  I have  still  a few  days  left,
who knows
in the meantime,
I did write a poem
again today,
another entry in the log
of a good-time-Charlie's
at a day that counts
for better than
nothing-much to brag about
again today

Basho, like many hermit-poets of his time, spent most of his life traveling, living simply and humbly when he was not.

Obanazawa, or "Pampas Vale"

     At  Obanazawa, we visited a man called Seifu. Although  he  was a rich man, he did not have a coarse manner or vulgar mind. He often went to Kyoto and he knew what it was like to travel. So, he insisted we stay with him for several days to rest from our long journey, and he showed us all kinds of hospitality.

          What a cool summer breeze!
              Here, I make myself at home,
                 Rest, and take my ease.

          Come into the  air!
             Crawl from 'neath the silkworm shed,
                Dear toad, croaking there

          Ladies' power puffs
             Came to my mind when I saw
                 Rouge-flowers in bloom.

          Girls who tend the trays
             Of silkworms, look just like those
                Of the ancient days.

It can be a little scary walking all alone on a dark and stormy morning.

morning before the night things sleep
a sky-mugged
the street cloud-
tangled and flat
under night-cicle
and dank
slippery to  the touch
and quiet
as breath held
till  near bursting
in memory shades
of haunted forest,  black,
trees heavy, low,
and reaching
familiar paths
by mythic shadows
of childhood horror
the low creak
of trees
in sinister
before the night things

Basho's were not all fancy hotels and room service.

Shitomae-no-Seki or "Passwater Barrier"

     The road to Nambu went on, invitingly, even further north,  but we  reluctantly turned and retraced our steps to Iwate Village where we spent the night. the next, passing poetry's Oguro-zaki, "Small Black Promontory," and Mizu-no-Ojima, "the Islet in Midstream," we raced Passwater Barrier. When Yoshitsune's wife gave birth as they fled north together, this was where the newborn babe first passed water. We had come by way of the hot spring at Naruko (Crying Baby).
     We planned to cross over the mountain into Dewa Province. Ours was a road used by few travellers, and the gatekeeper regarded us with much suspicion, but finally allowed us to go on.
     Night overtook us in the mountains, but we found the house of a border guard and asked for shelter. A storm marooned us there for three days, and our mountain sojourn was a miserable one.

          Fleas and lice did bite:
             And I'd hear the horse pass water
                 Near my bed at night.

Apparently there was a last one day in April last year when I felt quite silly, or desperate, often the same thing.

and so:

I see a fella running down the street
flames leaping fiery from his feet

and then:


that's the  reason  I don't try to rhyme
in my poems cause once I get two simple rhymes
in a row, I'm done

by the way, is that  street/feet thing
one rhyme or two)

I don't even  know something as  simple
as that...


thinking about putting the poor poetry bizwacks down
and writing a great novel
like Dostoevsky
but pulling that many words
from just my head is ochen pesky

tiny poems
with just a very few words


"the moon settled
into  a sharp-hawed marsh of lunatic
as I
screamed at the metaphoric
rending  of flesh
and sinew
Feodor forgive me,
and he did, saying, as the moon bubbled
and burped marsh gas
like a diesel truck
idling at Mary Jo's
Gas and Squeeze
similes -


Essential beggars,  Basho and his companion venture on, rarely knowing what they will encounter next.

Tada Shrine

     At Komatsu,  we visited Tada Shrine. There we saw the helmet of the warrior Sanemori and a piece of his brocade armor robe. They are said to have been given to him by Lord Yoshitomo of Minaoto,when Sanemori served with the Genji clan.

It was no ordinary helmet. From  its  peak to the turned-back ear flanges, it was embellished all over with chrysanthemum arabesques in gold. The crest was  a dragon's head, and the helmet had proud and graceful fla, gilded  "horns."
     When Sanemori  was killed in battle, Kiso Yoshinaka sent Jiro of Higuchi to offer these relics to the shrine. All  this is vividly recorded in the shrine's chronicles.

          What a tragic thing:
             "Neath a mighty warrior's helm
                 Grasshoppers chirruping!

Another dark poem from last week, though this one, being ultimately about life isn't so dark in the end.

in a shaded
evening grove
white shadow
white shadow
pale tide
corpse worms
life in the process
of rebirth

There is an epilogue to Basho's. written by Soryu,  a scholar-priest who prepared the final draft for the original addition. Rather than use that here, I have the final of Basho himself as he completes his journey.

from Ogaki

     And now, though I have not yet recovered fully from the fatigue of my journey, it is already the sixth day of the Ninth Moon,  and I wish to go to Ise Shrine to see the ceremony that takes place only once every twenty-one years, when the Deity is transferred to a newly built shrine.So I shall set  off once more in a boat and go to see  the "wedded rocks" on Futami-ga-Ura shore where the clams are delicious, but now,  alas,

          Sadly, I  part from you;
             Like a clam torn from its shell,
                I go, and autumn too.

One must always do one's best to achieve hip-ness. At  least  that's what I was thinking when I  wrote this last  year.

don't expect any hot-diggity dancing

three young women,
great each other
with squeals
and smiles and hugs
and little hot-diggity

used to  be
when  I  was  a kid,
men didn't hug,
even if they were related
and never squealed
or did hot-diggity

men in San Antonio
upon both greeting
and leaving,
except they don't call it
a hug,
they call it an abrazo
which is Spanish
for hug me  and pound me
on the back and go hardy-har-
har with a big smile in your
(but no squealing, ever,
and no hot-diggity dances
unless there is a sombrero

younger men
have taken to hugs,
modified abrazos without mustaches
and with less vigorous back pounding
(but still no  squealing
or hot-diggity dancing) and it seems
to be catching on - just yesterday
I saw two  older,pin-striped business squires
engage in the act right outside the coffee
shop as they departed from a business
meeting,  but that  may be a false reading
since it may be only pin-striped business squires
who have their business meetings at coffee shops
instead of the conference room on the 37th floor
who go in for the hugging and pounding, but
I've always been one for coffee shop  meetings
myself and I feel no  persistent urge
to  hug and pound,  though I did  hug my father-
in-law a couple of weeks ago when he  was  leaving
after a couple  of days of visiting, so maybe I'm slipping
into the hug and pound culture (or full bore abrazo
in his case,since he is  Mexican and has a mustache)
or maybe  not, since I, personally, look silly,
a bit  Ichabod Craneish,  in  fact
with a mustache, and  prefer not
to  present  myself in that manner, so  the furthest
I'll ever go with non-fathers-in-law
is a quasi-abrazo, where upper lip
are not de rigueur, and a fifteen  second,  minimal-pounding
hug qualifies as having done one's humanistic
duty to be open and welcoming to one's fellow
but it may take a while since to this date
I do  not recall ever hugging a non-relative human
of the male spectrum but I have hugged
the other kind who don't have
(not counting Aunt Tildy)
and don't  take well to pounding
so  maybe I could  ease into hugging
men by starting, at first, doing it just like I hugged
Aunt Tildy, with vigorous pounding added to the mix...

so  I'll  see how it works out
and if I should happen to see you and you are male
and I hug you,  please know  that I mean nothing
of an untoward nature to ti, I'm just trying
to adapt to the cultural shifts and the developing
ethos of the new  male in the feminist society
and have no  desire to demonstrate
by my clumsy attempts
at with-it-ness

just don't expect any hot-diggity

(and by the way, ninnyhammer
is and entirely new word for me and I wanted
to  use it even though it doesn't exactly
but I'm used to that)

There is much more to Basho's book and many journeys that I couldn't include here, many more haiku and many more prose observations. In addition, the book that has the whole piece, A Haiku Journey, also includes some individual haiku, illustrated by beautiful color photographs. I can't reproduce the photos here, but I can include the haiku.

          A mound of summer grass:
             Are warriors' heroic deeds
                Only dreams that pass?

          In this hush profound,
             Into the very rocks it seeps:
                The cicada sound.

           The autumn wind blows through
               Little Pines - a lovely name -
                  Bush clover and pampas too.

          How hot the sun glows
             Pretending not to notice
                An autumn wind blows!

          There we did begin
              Cloistered in that waterfall
                 Our summer discipline.

Here's the last  from me  for the week.

Sometimes, you know, you just have to go with what you've got.

when our magic  twanger of  inspiration fails

was thinking
I'd hold  off  on writing  this poem
until some inspiration
stumbled by

but there's the whole issue
of the new ice age
as carbon buids up in the atmosphere
and the magnetosphere
reverses it's spin and the whole world turns
upside down
and all  the other stuff
and appropriate  doomsday

and I  didn't want to end up
dangling upside down,
my participles frosting over
while waiting for said inspiration
to  poke its head,
like Phil whatshisname groundhog,
out its hidie-hole
and present me with the inspiration
to write an A-Number 1 poem
so I thought,
defunct magic twanger of inspiration  be damned,
let's just write the sucker
and see how it turns

and  speaking of ice  ages
I read about the people  who do discovering
discovering a camel fossil
in the arctic,left over from days
when it was cold, but not yet
arcticky,  a camel 9 feet tall
which scares me even more
than dinosaurs because I've never  met
a dinosaur, but  I do have  some experience
with camels, nasty, vicious,  ugly beasts, spitting
and biting without forewarning
and the idea of  a  pack  of 9-foot camels
wandering in my neighborhood
would certainly make me want to move

and I'm thinking
that's maybe what happened
to that ice man, that fella from olden  times
they found encased in  a  glacier
when it started melting,
poor fella, was just minding his own business
when  he ran  across a rampaging  herd
pf  9-foot camels  and said,
holy shit, look at that rampaging herd
of 9-foot camels and, fearless warrior and hunter
that he  was,, found  the better part  of valor
in running away but slipped on the  ice
and fell into the glacier
last known victim of  rampaging  camels
before they fell into the glacier
themselves  and shrunk
into  the regular-sized, though equally vicious
camels that we've  come to  know


just my opinion
of course

That's it for the week.

All the usual cautions apply. All material included in the post remains the property of those who created it. My stuff, though mine, is available for your use if you want it. My only stipulation, please give proper credit to me and to Here and Now.

My next book, New Days and New Ways, is being edited and proofed with an expected publication date of mid-summer. Thinking about an audiobook after that.

In the meantime, I still have these books to sell.

And here's where I sell them:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Sony eBookstore, Kobo, Copia, Garner's, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd and eBookPie


Places and Spaces

Always to the Light

Goes Around Comes Around

Pushing Clouds Against the Wind

And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select coffeehouses in San Antonio

Seven Beats a Second

Short Stories

Sonyador - The Dreamer


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Poems Niederngasse
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