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May 30
These are my modern English translations of haiku about plum blossoms, plums and plum trees. In Japanese poetry the plum ("ume") is associated with the beginning of spring and good fortune; plum trees were often planted facing northeast to ward off bad luck. Plum blossoms are widely loved and appreciated by the Japanese people; they symbolize refinement, purity, nobility and the remembrance of love.

Picking autumn plums
my wrinkled hands
once again grow fragrant
― Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Clinging
to the plum tree:
one blossom's worth of warmth…
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

On adjacent branches
the plum tree blossoms bloom
petal by petal―love!

― Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
White plum blossoms―
though the hour grows late,
a glimpse of dawn
― Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch; this is believed to be Buson's death poem and he is said to have died before dawn

Lately the nights
dawn
plum-blossom white.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

A shy maiden:
the loveliness of the lone plum
blossoming
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Longing for plum blossoms:
bowing before the deutzia,
weeping.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Moonlit plum tree,
tarry!
Spring will return soon.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The plum blossom’s fragrance
warms
winter’s frigid embrace.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

White plum blossoms:
have the cranes
gone undercover?
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Suddenly, the scent of plums
on a mountain path:
sunrise!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Warm sun unfolds
the plum blossom’s scent:
a mountain path.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The fragrance of plum blossoms
on a foggy path:
the sun rising.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The plum in full bloom
must not be disturbed
by the wind.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The plum's fragrance:
the past
holds such pathos.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Are you the butterfly
and I the dreaming heart
of Soshi?
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
kimi ya cho / ware ya shoshi no / yume gokoro

The poem above is a reference to a butterfly dream of Chuang Tzu, a Taoist sage and poet who was a major influence on Basho. Soshi is the Japanese rendering of the name Chuang Tzu. I believe what Basho may have meant is something closer to this:

Are you the butterfly
while I pursue dreams
of Soshi?
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Are you the butterfly
while in my dreams
I flit after Soshi?
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It's not at all anxious to bloom,
the plum tree at my gate.
―Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The red plum's fallen petals
seem to ignite horse ****.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Intruder!―
This white plum tree
was once outside our fence!
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The white poppy
accepts the butterfly's broken wing
as a keepsake
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
shirageshi ni / hane mogu cho no / katami kana

As autumn deepens
a butterfly sips
chrysanthemum dew
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aki o hete / cho mo nameru ya / kiku no tsuyu
The translation above is slated to be published by Emma Burleigh in her book "Earth Color."

A single leaf
of paulownia falling
reflects the sun.
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I caught a falling cherry petal;
but opening my fist ...
nothing
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

They call it a white peony
yet it contains
hints of red
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Evening shadows
grow thick
on the floating algae
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The snake slithered away
yet his eyes, having met mine,
remained
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The bamboo grove
is lit
by the yellow spring sunlight
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Chikurin ni/ Ki naru haruhi wo/ Aogikeri

On a hot summer night
dreams and reality
merge.
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Mizika-yo ya/ Yume mo utsutsu mo / Onazi koto

The summer butterfly
has to look sharp
to make its getaway.
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Natsu no cho/ Manako surudoku/ Kakeri kishi

The autumn sky
is severed
by the big chinquapin tree.
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Akizora wo/ Futatsu ni tateri/ ****-taiju

“Cawa-cawa!”
The winter crow
elocutes coarsely.
—Takahama Kyoshi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Kawa kawa to/ Ookiku yuruku/ Samu-garasu

You rise with the sun,
mysteriously warm,
also scattering sunbeams.
—Michael R. Burch

As springs’ budding blossoms emerge
the raptors glide mercilessly.
—Michael R. Burch

I wrote this haiku-like poem above on 3-27-2023 after the Nashville Covenant school massacre.—Michael R. Burch

Incomprehensible
by Michael R. Burch

“Slain” — an impossible word to comprehend.
The male lion murders cubs,
licks his lips, devours them.

Her sky-high promises:
midday moon
—Michael R. Burch

The north wind’s refrain,
a southbound train ...
Invitation?
—Michael R. Burch

The north wind’s refrain,
the receding strain
of a southbound train ...
Invitation?
—Michael R. Burch

The moon blushed
then fled behind a cloud:
her stolen kiss.
—Michael R. Burch

Elderly sunflowers:
bees trimming their beards.
—Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: haiku, translation, Japanese, Japan, Oriental, plum, plums, plum blossom, plum blossoms, plum trees, spring, good luck, good fortune, love, purity, refinement, nobility
Written by
Michael R Burch  62/M/Nashville, Tennessee
(62/M/Nashville, Tennessee)   
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