At the Grave of Bashō

      by James Kirkup

No incense burns, old poet,
before your plain stone obelisk,
and there are no country flowers
in the bamboo jars.

A small green tree
with dark pointed foliage
and whose name I do not know
leans it shadow over you.

On the other side,
a bush with heart-shaped leaves
now in July has one leaf stained
with November red.

I plucked the leaf,
because it may have bene a sign from you.
It was the only signal I could give—
a passing greeting from one wander to another


Written at Bashō’s grave in the grounds of Gichuji Temple east of Kyoto. From A Certain State of Mind: An Anthology of Classic, Modern and Contemporary Japanese Haiku in Translation with Essays and Reviews. Salzburg, Austria: University of Salzburg, 1995, page 133.