Penelope Shuttle

Three Poems

Japanese Miles

He goes at walking pace,
travels Japanese miles,
one of which equals
two British miles

Through mists
ice and snow of the high altitude
he climbs Mount Gisson
with a sacred rope
of white paper noosed round his neck

At the summit
he sleeps
on a bed of bamboo leaves

At Support-yourself-on-a-stick Pass
he wishes he had a horse

At Yoshima
Basho is so overwhelmed
by the beauty of the cherry blossom
and the famous cherry blossom haiku
of earlier poets
he cannot write one line,
scribe to the world though he is

          How shall a poet write?
          In an instant,
          like a woodcutter felling a tree

Following no itinerary
he crosses the ruins
of an ancient dog-shooting ground

On the road to Senju
he tells the band of concubines
who asks him for alms
Trust in the Lord Buddha
gives them zilch cash

he walks for over a thousand miles
uplands and lowlands
villages and shrines
mountains north of Edo
along the shores of the Sea of Japan
in all weathers
gathering up tomorrow’s sky to keep it safe
and talking to ghosts of many poets
(the walk is a kind of séance)

          First cold Winter Rain
          even the monkey seems to want
          a tiny raincoat


Comments are closed.