by David Young 
Tonight, on the other side of the lake,
someone is walking with a lantern.
The changing light on the water
—a blossom, a wasp, a blowfish—
calls me back from desolation
and makes me sigh with pleasure.
How can I be so foolish?
It’s true! All night
I listen to the rain
dripping in a basin . . .
in the morning I have a haiku.
All these years
and I think I know
just about nothing:
a close-grained man
standing in haze by the warm lake
hearing the slap of oars
For weeks now, months, a year,
I have been living here at Unreal Hut
trying to decide what delight means
and what to do with my loneliness.
Wearing a black robe,
weaving around like a bat . . .
Fallen persimmon, shriveled chestnut,
I see myself too clearly.
A poet named for a banana tree!
Some lines of my own come back:
Year after year
on the monkey’s face—
a monkey mask.
I suppose I know what I want:
the calm of a wooden Buddha,
the state of mind of that monk
who forgot about the snow
even as he was sweeping it!
But I can’t run away from the world.
I sit and stare for hours at
a broken pot or a bruised peach.
An owl’s call makes me dance.
I remember a renga we wrote
that had some lines by Bonchō:
somebody dusts the ashes
from a grilled sardine . . .
And that’s the poem! That sardine!
And when it is, I feel
it is the whole world too.
But what does it mean
and how can it save you?
When my hut burned down
I stood there thinking,
“Homeless, we’re all of us homeless . . .”
Or all my travels, just so much
slogging around in the mire,
and all those haiku,
squiggles of light in the water . . .
Poems change nothing, save nothing.
Should the pupil love
the blows of the teacher?
A storm is passing over.
Lightning, reflected in the lake,
scares me and leaves me speechless.
I can’t turn away from the world
but I can go lightly . . .
Along the way small things
may still distract me:
a crescent moon, a farmer
digging for wild potatoes,
red pepper pods, a snapped chrysanthemum . . .
Love the teacher, hate the blows.
Standing in mist by the shore,
nothing much on my mind . . .
Wearing a black robe,
weaving around like a bat—
or crossing a wide field
wearing a cypress hat!
From Foraging, Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1986. Also in Moon Woke Me Up Nine Times: Selected Haiku of Bashō, David Young, trans., New York: Knopf, 2013. See the poet’s 2013 poem by the same name. See also the author’s website. In Moon Woke Me Up Nine Times, David Young writes the following:
Sometime in the eighties I read Makoto Ueda’s biography of Bashō, and that triggered a poem of my own, subsequently collected in Foraging, which I cast in Bashō’s voice. I still think well enough of it (despite my presumption at putting words in the master’s mouth) that I . . . append it to this collection for readers who may be curious” (xv).