Sunday, February 03, 2019

West Tree

—Anonymous Photo, Chestnut Tree

In the shade of a huge chestnut at the edge of a town, a monk made his hermitage at a refuge from the world. Saigyō’s poem about gathering chestnuts deep in the mountains refers to such a place. I wrote on a slip of paper: The Chinese character for chestnut means “west tree,” alluding to the Western Paradise of Amida Buddha; the priest Gyōki, all his life, used chestnut for his walking stick and for the posts of his home
Near the eaves

the chestnut blooms:

almost no one sees
—Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

I still search for you in the back-lives of dream, that unconscious dark as a black mare glinting sun off shoulder and haunch, generous muscles of a wordless animal willing to bear my teenage mind bareback—reasonings whose reason grabbed at the bit, a runaway hard-mouth horse headed off to college. In dream I never sold you for the figment of books. I dream I call you Molly, whistling that you’ll come.

March wind in the mane,
a single trail of hoofprints
through wild arroyo

(first pub. on
Poets Online Archive, July 2015)


A surprise today as I was looking for examples of haibun and stumbled on this gem from Taylor Graham. And, of course, the one from the mighty Bashō! (Clearly the anonymous translator held to the school that you don't need to count syllables when you're switching languages.)