Sorry, Jen, missed yesterday. So, a two-parter today. First, a haiku, then a poem about that haiku. What about these two poems is All About Me? Well, the first suggests the union of opposites (my core aesthetic principle) and how an awareness of that union extends consciousness beyond immediate experience, out into the world, into the life of other things, forward and backward in time.
But talking about haiku is like smelling a flower with Vix inhalers jammed in your nose. Let's just have it (and remember, it's a translation, so it doesn't follow the syllabic rules for haiku in English):
on the one-ton temple bell
a moon moth, folded into sleep
That's by our 18th-century pal, Buson. It's probably one of the most well-known haiku among American readers because of Billy Collins, our most widely-read contemporary poet. Collins is funny and makes accessible poems out of everyday subjects, imbuing them with a calm philosophical depth under slangy, sometimes showily metaphorical surfaces. He's a Buddhist. I love this next poem for the connections it makes between literature and life, and for the way it shows how immediate experience can transform your ideas or beliefs. It also shows how things get stuck in your head. Right now, I've got "Hideaway" by The Weepies stuck in mine. Maybe I can dislodge it by typing up this poem. And uploading a photo...
Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.
It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.
I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.
I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.
I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.
And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.
It's the one about the one-ton
with the moth sleeping on its surface,
and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.
When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.
When I say it into the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.
And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,
and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.
The first time I read that, I thought, ah, Billy Collins isn't just an entertainer. I'd long suspected that, but now I knew it in my resonating bones.