A Lull in Shiki’s Winter

First published in Drifting Sands Haibun #3, September 2020. Originally written in December of 2013 with a different concluding poem, replaced with a new poem in January 2020. See also “Shiki’s Winter” (my review of Donald Keene’s Shiki biography), William J. Higginson’s Shiki translations from 1971 (image below), and “Historical Haibun.”

Taking advantage of a lull in my illness, I went for a walk in the garden, leaning on my stick. The garden is no bigger than the palm of my hand, but the sun was brightly shining and birds were flying in the sky. I felt indescribably happy. Two or three little pines had put out green shoots that seemed to rise up to the sky. I could see threads like red lips on the swollen buds of a rosebush that stands about a foot high. The autumn grasses had barely sprouted, so I couldn’t tell which were bush clover and which were bellflowers, but an iris had already opened a white blossom. In places where the ground had not yet dried after the rain, tiny insects were wriggling to show that they too were alive.

                where the cuckoo had lain

                a thin layer

                of fresh snow

The prose is Shiki’s diary entry for 24 April 1896, translated by Donald Keene, in The Winter Sun Shines In: A Life of Masaoka Shiki (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013, pages 158–159).

William J. Higginson, translator, 

from Haiku Magazine 5:3, Autumn 1971, 

page 33 (see PDF).