With Bashō on the Front Porch

      by Mark Young

        furuike ya

        kawazu tobikomu
        mizu no oto

                —Bashō

Light rain, & the sounds that come

with it. Drops leaking from leaf to leaf
or sizzling on the high-voltage lines that run
behind the house. Chordal structure of two
tones of cicada noise above the deeper
sound that is rainwater trickling into a
drain across the road. A single frog.

“Pumpkins,” he said. “I’d have to include
something like that since it’s autumn, &
seasonal ciphers are expected of a haijin,
a haiku poet like myself. & even these
simple events that now surround us have
a continuity I am not allowed—unless, of
course, I’m writing with someone else,
trading verses back & forth like in that poem
by Gregory Corso about poets hitchhiking
on the highway. Hokku, haikai, haiku—
they’re all the same with their restrictions &
constrictions. I’ve turned into an incidental
poet, have become a travel writer who
uses poems instead of photographs.”

A pause as he lit the cigarette I’d given him.
“Each time I put brush to paper I am
confronted by that old head/heart
conundrum. The head knows how to use
one or two lines to sketch the surroundings,
then puncture them with an observation
that occurs at right angles to everything
else around. It’s the Zen thing, the A-ha
effect; & I am good at it & comfortable
with both form & style. But the heart
still dreams of poems that have no
formal structure, that are full of music, that
burst forth with the energy of the downpour
that came through here an hour ago.”

Then he laughed. “Enough of this fanciful
talk. I’d better go & judge that haiku
competition that brought me over here
in the first place.” & set off down the path,
moving quietly, without disturbing anything.

        The frog croaks again
        Staff in the traveler’s hand
        mizu no oto

        The sound of water


First published in Blackmail Press 5, 2002.