And Yet

by Ronald Wallace

after Bashō and Issa


Bashō was weighed down by the world. Shaking

with old age, autumn was his season. The

harvest moon, the heavy cloud, snow, the grave

mound were his favorite habitations. He was my

reliable confidante, my guide. Our one voice

tattered, abandoned, ruined, sad. Two autumn

frogs, plop! The sound of water, or of wind.

When Issa came along, singing, we were in

our usual funk, wondering what he would spring

on us next. An old woman, a caged bird, a cold rain

were, in his toothless mouth, as giddy as crickets. A

cow he was, mooing, mooing! An old man is a pretty

piece of work when he sees himself as a girl

or a peony! As for you, Death? There’s Issa yawning.



From For Dear Life, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015, page 47. Note that the last words of each line of the poem, read vertically from top to bottom, form a haiku. This form is known as a “golden shovel.” See also “After Bashō,” “Bellwether,” and “Song of Myself.”        +