With Bashō on the Front Porch

by Mark Young

furuike ya

kawazu tobikomu

mizu no oto


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.