Bashō in Ireland

   by Billy Collins



I am like the Japanese poet

who longed to be in Kyoto

even though he was already in Kyoto.


I am not exactly like him

because I am not Japanese

and I have no idea what Kyoto is like.


But once, while walking around

the Irish town of Ballyvaughan

I caught myself longing to be in Ballyvaughan.


The sensation of being homesick

for a place that is not my home

while being right in the middle of it


was particularly strong

when I passed the hotel bar

then the fluorescent depth of a launderette,


also when I stood at the crossroads

with the road signs pointing in 3 directions

and the enormous buses making the turn.


It might have had something to do

with the nearby limestone hills

and the rain collecting on my collar,


but then again I have longed

to be with a number of people

while the two of us were sitting in a room


on an ordinary evening

without a limestone hill in sight,

thousands of miles from Kyoto


and the simple wonders of Ballyvaughan,

which reminds me

of another Japanese poet


who wrote how much he enjoyed

not being able to see

his favorite mountain because of all the fog.



From The Rain in Portugal, New York: Random House, 2017, pages 12–13.       +