by Ronald Wallace

after Bashō

A neighbor we barely knew has died. The

daffodils and crocuses ring their temple

bells. A day too warm for March—a bell-

wether day. The redwings pull out all the stops,

the grackles gang up, a cacophony in the plum tree, but

the neighbor we barely knew has died. The

minister talks about “blessing and mercy,” the sound

of his voice, describing a “better place,” keeps

the birdsong out. In what universe the Lamb of God? On

what planet the Sins of the World? Lord, I’m coming

to believe in the bluebird beatitudes, to tease out

that eternal life has nothing to do with a heaven of

harping angels, has nothing to do with us. The

neighbor we hardly knew has died. Life flowers.

From You Can’t Be Serious, Madison, Wisconsin: Parallel Press, 2015. Note that the last words of each line of this poem, read vertically from top to bottom, form a haiku by Bashō. This form is known as a “golden shovel.” See also “After Bashō,” “And Yet,” and “Song of Myself.”       +