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Michael R Burch Oct 2020
Zen Death Haiku & Related Translations of Oriental Poems

Brittle cicada shell,
little did I know
that you were my life!
—Shuho (?-1767), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Like dew glistening
on a lotus leaf,
so too I soon must vanish.
—Shinsui (1720-1769), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Having been summoned,
I say farewell
to my house beneath the moon.
—Takuchi (1767-1846), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Let this body
be dew
in a field of wildflowers.
—Tembo (1740-1823), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Bury me beneath a wine barrel
in a bibber’s cellar:
with a little luck the keg will leak.
—Moriya Senan (?-1838), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Learn to accept the inevitable:
the fall willow
knows when to abandon its leaves.
—Tanehiko (1782-1842), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I wish only to die
swiftly, with my eyes
fixed on Mount Fuji.
—Rangai (1770-1845), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A strident cricket
accompanies me
through autumn mountains.
—Shiko (1788-1845), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The cherry orchard’s owner
becomes compost
for his trees.
—Utsu (1813-1863), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Autumn ends,
the frogs find their place
in the earth.
—Shogetsu (1829-1899), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Since time dawned
only the dead have experienced peace;
life is snow burning in the sun.
—Nandai (1786-1817), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Returning
as it came,
this naked worm.
—Shidoken (?-1765), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The night is clear;
the moon shines quietly;
the wind strums the trees like lyres...
but when I’m gone, who the hell will hear?
Farewell!
—Higan Choro aka Zoso Royo (1194-1277), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I entered the world empty-handed
and now leave it barefoot.
My coming & going?
Two uncomplicated events
that became entangled.
—Kozan Ichikyo (1283-1360), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Brittle autumn leaves
crumble to dust
in the freezing wind.
—Takao (?-1660), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This frigid season
nothing but the shadow
of my corpse survives.
—Tadatomo (1624-1676), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

My life was mere lunacy
until
the moon shone tonight.
Tokugen (1558-1647), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

“Isn’t it time,”
the young bride asks,
“to light the lantern?”
Ochi Etsujin (1656-1739), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

With the departing year
I have hidden my graying hair
from my parents.
Ochi Etsujin (1656-1739), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I wish to die
under the spring cherry blossoms
and April’s full moon.
Ochi Etsujin (1656-1739), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Like blocks in the icehouse,
unlikely to last
the year out...
—Sentoku (1661-1726), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Once again
the melon-cool moon
rises above the rice fields.
—Tanko (1665-1735), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

At long last I depart:
above me are rainless skies and a pristine moon
as pure as my heart.
—Senseki (1712-1742), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Cuckoo, lift
me up
to where clouds drift...
Uko (1686-1743), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Sixty-six,
setting sail through tranquil waters,
a breeze-blown lotus.
Usei (1698-1764), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Is it me the raven screeches for
from the spirit world
this frigid morning?
—Shukabo (1717-1775), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

To prepare for my voyage beyond,
let me don
a gown of flowers.
—Setsudo (1715-1776), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

From depths
unfathomably cold:
the oceans roar!
—Kasenjo (d. 1776), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Today Mount Hiei’s sky
with a quick change of clouds
also removes its robes.
Shogo (1731-1798), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I cup curious ears
among the hydrangeas
hoping to hear the spring cuckoo.
—Senchojo (?-1802), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Life,
is it like
a charcoal sketch, an obscure shadow?
—Toyokuni (?-1825), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Bitter winter winds...
but later, river willow,
remember to open your buds!
—Senryu (1717-1790), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A fall willow tree:
unlikely to be missed
as much as the cherry blossoms.
—Senryu II (?-1818), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

My path
to Paradise
is bright with flowers.
—Sokin (?-1818), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A willow branch
unable to reach the water
at the bottom of the vase.
—Shigenobu (?-1832), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

All evening the softest sound―
the cadence of the white camellia petals
falling
―Ranko Takakuwa (1726-1798), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Stillness:
the sound of petals
drifting down softly together ...
―Miura Chora (1729-1780), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A night storm sighs:
"The fate of the flower is to fall" ...
rebuking all who hesitate
―Yukio Mishima, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch; this is said to have been his death poem before committing ritual suicide.

But one poet, at least, cast doubt on the death poem enterprise:

Death poems?
****** delusions―
Death is death!
―Toko, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Other haiku translations …



Masaoka Shiki

The night flies!
My life,
how much more of it remains?
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The autumn wind eludes me;
for me there are no gods,
no Buddhas
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

After killing a spider,
how lonely I felt
in the frigid night.
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Such a small child
banished to become a priest:
frigid Siberia!
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I'm trying to sleep!
Please swat the flies
lightly
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A summer river:
disdaining the bridge,
my horse gallops through water.
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

After the fireworks,
the spectators departed:
how vast and dark the sky!
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I got drunk
then wept in my sleep
dreaming of wild cherry blossoms.
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We cannot see the moon
and yet the waves still rise
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The first morning of autumn:
the mirror I investigate
reflects my father’s face
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I thought I felt a dewdrop
plop
on me as I lay in bed!
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As thunder recedes
a lone tree stands illuminated in sunlight:
applauded by cicadas
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Yosa Buson

On the temple’s great bronze gong
a butterfly
snoozes.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hard to describe:
this light sensation of being pinched
by a butterfly!
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Not to worry spiders,
I clean house ... sparingly.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Among the fallen leaves,
an elderly frog.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In an ancient well
fish leap for mosquitoes,
a dark sound.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Flowers with thorns
remind me of my hometown ...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Reaching the white chrysanthemum
the scissors hesitate ...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated ...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

A silk robe, casually discarded,
exudes fragrance
into the darkening evening
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Whose delicate clothes
still decorate the clothesline?
Late autumn wind.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An evening breeze:
water lapping the heron’s legs.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

gills puffing,
a hooked fish:
the patient
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The stirred morning air
ruffles the hair
of a caterpillar.
―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

Tender grass
forgetful of its roots
the willow
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I believe the poem above can be taken as commentary on ungrateful children. It reminds me of Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays."―MRB

Since I'm left here alone,
I'll make friends with the moon.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The hood-wearer
in his self-created darkness
misses the harvest moon
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

White blossoms of the pear tree―
a young woman reading his moonlit letter
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The pear tree flowers whitely:
a young woman reading his letter
by moonlight
―Yosa Buson, 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

A misty spring moon ...
I entice a woman
to pay it our respects
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Courtesans
purchasing kimonos:
plum trees blossoming
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The spring sea
rocks all day long:
rising and falling, ebbing and flowing ...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As the whale
  dives
its tail gets taller!
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

While tilling the field
the motionless cloud
vanished.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Even lonelier than last year:
this autumn evening.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My thoughts return to my Mother and Father:
late autumn
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Late autumn:
my thoughts return to my Mother and Father
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This roaring winter wind:
the cataract grates on its rocks.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

While snow lingers
in creases and recesses:
flowers of the plum
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Plowing,
not a single bird sings
in the mountain's shadow
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In the lingering heat
of an abandoned cowbarn
only the sound of the mosquitoes is dark.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

Dawn!
The brilliant sun illuminates
sardine heads.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The abandoned willow shines
between bright rains
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dew-damp grass:
the setting sun’s tears
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The dew-damp grass
weeps silently
in the setting sun
―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

The poem above is believed to be Buson's jisei (death poem) and he is said to have died before dawn.

Lately the nights
dawn
plum-blossom white.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is a second interpretation of Buson's jisei (death poem).

In the deepening night
I saw by the light
of the white plum blossoms
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is a third interpretation of Buson's jisei (death poem).

Our life here on earth:
to what shall we compare it?
Perhaps to a rowboat
departing at daybreak,
leaving no trace of us in its wake?
—Takaha Shugyo or Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Matsuo Basho

The legs of the cranes
have been shortened
by the summer rains.
―Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A bee emerging
from deep within the peony’s hairy recesses
flies off heavily, sated
―Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A crow has settled
on a naked branch―
autumn nightfall
―Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A solitary crow
clings to a leafless branch:
autumn twilight
―Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A solitary crow
clings to a leafless branch:
phantom autumn
―Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A raven settles
on a leafless branch:
autumn nightfall
―Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A crow roosts
on a leafless branch:
autumn nightmare
―Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: There has been a debate about the meaning of aki-no kure, which may mean one of the following: autumn evening, autumn dusk, the end of autumn. Or it seems possible that Basho may have intentionally invoked the ideas of both the end of an autumn day and the end of the season as well. In my translations I have tried to create an image of solitary crow clinging to a branch that seems like a harbinger of approaching winter and death. In the first translation I went with the least light possible: autumn twilight. In the second translation, I attempted something more ghostly. Phrases I considered include: spectral autumn, skeletal autumn, autumnal skeleton, phantom autumn, autumn nocturne, autumn nightfall, autumn nightmare, dismal autumn. In the third and fourth translations I focused on the color of the bird and its resemblance to night falling. While literalists will no doubt object, my goal is to create an image and a feeling that convey in English what I take Basho to have been trying to convey in Japanese. Readers will have to decide whether they prefer my translations to the many others that exist, but mine are trying to convey the eeriness of the scene in English.

Winter solitude:
a world awash in white,
the sound of the wind
―Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sick of its autumn migration
my spirit drifts
over wilted fields ...
―Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), said to be his death poem, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sick of this autumn migration
in dreams I drift
over flowerless fields ...
―Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), said to be his death poem, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: While literalists will no doubt object to "flowerless" in the translation above ― along with other word choices in my other translations ― this is my preferred version. I think Basho's meaning still comes through. But "wilted" is probably closer to what he meant. If only we could consult him, to ask whether he preferred strictly literal prose translations of his poems, or more poetic interpretations! My guess is that most poets would prefer for their poems to remain poetry in the second language. In my opinion the differences are minor and astute readers will grok both Basho's meaning and his emotion.

Except for a woodpecker
tapping at a post,
the house is silent.
―Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That dying cricket,
how he goes on about his life!
―Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Like a glorious shrine―
on these green, budding leaves,
the sun’s intense radiance.
―Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Kobayashi Issa


Right at my feet!
When did you arrive here,
snail?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I toss in my sleep,
so watch out,
cricket!
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In a better world
I'd leave you my rice bowl,
little fly!
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

All's well with the world:
another fly's sharing our rice!
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cries of the wild geese―
spreading rumors about me?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wake up, old tomcat,
then with elaborate yawns and stretchings
prepare to pursue love
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An enormous frog!
We stare at each other,
both petrified.
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Skinny frog,
hang on ...
Issa to the rescue!
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

While a cicada
sings softly
a single leaf falls ...
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The cry of a pheasant,
as if it just noticed
the mountain.
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As I stumble home at dusk,
heavy with her eggs
a spider blocks me.
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

All the while I'm praying to Buddha
I'm continually killing mosquitoes.
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This windy nest?
Open your hungry mouth in vain,
Issa, orphaned sparrow!
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The ghostly cow comes
mooing mooing mooing
out of the morning mist
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If anyone comes, child,
don't open the gate
or the melons will flee!
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It's not at all anxious to bloom,
the plum tree at my gate.
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Our world of dew
is a world of dew indeed;
and yet, and yet ...
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Full moon―
my ramshackle hut
is an open book.
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, brilliant moon
can it be true
that even you
must rush off, late
for some date?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, brilliant moon
can it be true that even you
must rush off, tardy?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The snow melts
and the village is flooded with children!
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don't weep, we are all insects!
Lovers, even the stars themselves,
must eventually part.
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In our world
we walk suspended over hell
admiring flowers.
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Standing beneath cherry blossoms
who can be strangers?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Petals I amass
with such tenderness
***** me to the quick.
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Standing unsteadily,
I am the scarecrow’s
skinny surrogate
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Autumn wind ...
She always wanted to pluck
the reddest roses
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Issa wrote the haiku above after the death of his daughter Sato with the note: “Sato, girl, 35th day, at the grave.”



Other Poets

A pity to pluck,
A pity to pass ...
Ah, violet!
―Naojo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Silence:
a single chestnut leaf
sinks through clear water ...
―Shohaku, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

New Haiku Translations, Added 10/6/2020

Air ballet:
twin butterflies, twice white,
meet, match & mate
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Denied transformation
into a butterfly,
autumn worsens for the worm
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dusk-gliding swallow,
please spare my small friends
flitting among the flowers!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Up and at ’em! The sky goes bright!
Let’***** the road again,
Companion Butterfly!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Higher than a skylark,
resting on the breast of heaven:
mountain pass.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Farewell,
my cloud-parting friend!
Wild goose migrating.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

A crow settles
on a leafless branch:
autumn nightfall.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An exciting struggle
with such a sad ending:
cormorant fishing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Secretly,
by the light of the moon,
a worm bores into a chestnut.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

This strange flower
investigated by butterflies and birds:
the autumn sky
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Where’s the moon tonight?
Like the temple bell:
lost at sea.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Spring departs;
birds wail;
the pale eyes of fish moisten.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon still appears,
though far from home:
summer vagrant.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Cooling the pitiless sun’s
bright red flames:
autumn wind.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Saying farewell to others
while being told farewell:
departing autumn.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  
Traveling this road alone:
autumn evening.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Thin from its journey
and not yet recovered:
late harvest moon.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Occasional clouds
bless tired eyes with rest
from moon-viewing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The farmboy
rests from husking rice
to reach for the moon.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon aside,
no one here
has such a lovely face.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon having set,
all that remains
are the four corners of his desk.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon so bright
a wandering monk carries it
lightly on his shoulder.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The Festival of Souls
is obscured
by smoke from the crematory.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The Festival of Souls!
Smoke from the crematory?
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Family reunion:
those with white hair and canes
visiting graves.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

One who is no more
left embroidered clothes
for a summer airing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

What am I doing,
writing haiku on the threshold of death?
Hush, a bird’s song!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Fallen ill on a final tour,
in dreams I go roving
earth’s flowerless moor.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Striken ill on a senseless tour,
still in dreams I go roving
earth’s withered moor.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Stricken ill on a journey,
in dreams I go wandering
withered moors.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch




Today, catching sight of the mallards
crying over Lake Iware:
Must I too vanish into the clouds?
—Prince Otsu (663-686), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch  

This world—
to what may we compare it?
To autumn fields
lying darkening at dusk
illuminated by lightning flashes.
—Minamoto no Shitago (911-983), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

This world—to what may we liken it?
To autumn fields lit dimly at dusk,
illuminated by lightning flashes.
—Minamoto no Shitago (911-983), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Like a half-exposed rotten log
my life, which never flowered,
ends barren.
—Minamoto Yorimasa (1104-1180), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Overtaken by darkness,
I will lodge under a tree’s branches;
cherry blossoms will cushion me tonight.
—Taira no Tadanori (1144–1184), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Overtaken by darkness,
I will lodge under a cherry tree’s branches;
flowers alone will bower me tonight.
—Taira no Tadanori (1144–1184), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Let me die in spring
beneath the cherry blossoms
while the moon is full.
—Saigyo (1118-1190), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

There is no death, as there is no life.
Are not the skies cloudless
And the rivers clear?
—Taiheiki Toshimoto (-1332), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

All five aspects of my fleeting human form
And the four elements of existence add up to nothing:
I bare my neck to the unsheathed sword
And its blow is but a breath of wind ...
—Suketomo (1290-1332), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Had I not known
I was already dead
I might have mourned
my own passing.
—Ota Dokan (1432-1486), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Both victor and vanquished
are but dewdrops,
but lightning bolts
illuminate the world.
—Ôuchi Yoshitaka (1507-1551), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Even a life of long prosperity is like a single cup of sake;
my life of forty-nine years flashed by like a dream.
Nor do I know what life is, nor death.
All the years combined were but a fleeting dream.
Now I step beyond both Heaven and Hell
To stand alone in the moonlit dawn,
Free from the mists of attachment.
—Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

My life appeared like dew
and disappears like dew.
All Naniwa was a series of dreams.
—Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Felt deeply in my heart:
How beautiful the snow,
Clouds gathering in the west.
—Issho (-1668), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Brittle cicada shell,
little did I know
that you were my life!
—Shoshun (-1672), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch  
Inhale, exhale.
Forward, reverse.
Live, die.
Let arrows fly, meet midway and sever the void in aimless flight:
Thus I return to the Source.
—Gesshu Soko (-1696), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem)by Michael R. Burch

My body?
Pointless
as the tree’s last persimmon.
—Seisa (-1722), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Farewell! I pass
away as all things do:
dew drying on grass.
—Banzan (-1730), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Seventy-one?
How long
can a dewdrop last?
—Kigen (-1736), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

A tempestuous sea ...
Flung from the deck —
this block of ice.
—Choha (-1740), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Empty cicada shell:
we return as we came,
naked.
—Fukaku (-1753), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Since I was born,
I must die,
and so …
—Kisei (1688-1764), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Let us arise and go,
following the path of the clear dew.
—Fojo (-1764), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Depths of the cold,
unfathomable ocean’s roar.
—Kasenjo (-1776), loose translation/interpretation of her jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch  
Things never stand still,
not even for a second:
consider the trees’ colors.
—Seiju (-1776), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Lately the nights
dawn
plum-blossom white.
—Yosa Buson (-1783), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Bitter winter winds!
But later, river willow,
reopen your buds ...
—Senryu (-1790), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Who cares
where aimless clouds are drifting?
—Bufu (-1792), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch  
What does it matter how long I live,
when a tortoise lives many times as long?
—Issa (-1827), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Like a lotus leaf’s evaporating dew,
I vanish.
—Senryu (-1827), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Man’s end:
this mound of albescent bones,
this brief flowering sure to fade ...
—Hamei (-1837), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
When I kick the bucket,
bury me beneath a tavern’s cellar wine barrel;
with a little luck the cask will leak.
—Moriya Sen’an (-1838), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch  

Frost on a balmy day:
all I leave is the water
that washed my brush.
—Tanaka Shutei (1810-1858, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Though moss may overgrow
my useless corpse,
the seeds of patriotism shall never decay.
—Nomura Boto (1806-1867), loose translation/interpretation of her jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

My aging body:
a drop of dew
bulging at the leaf-cliff.
—Kiba (-1868), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Forbearing the night
with its growing brilliance:
the summer moon.
—Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Blow if you must,
autumn wind,
but the flowers have already faded.
—Gansan (-1895), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Time to go ...
They say this journey is a long trek:
this final change of robes.
—Roshu (-1899), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
The moon departs;
frost paralyzes the morning glories.
— Kato (-1908), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch
  
Stumble,
tumble,
fall,
slide down the slippery snow *****.
— Getsurei (-1919), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch  



Original Haiku

Celebrate the New Year?
The cat is not impressed,
the dogs shiver.
―Michael R. Burch


Keywords/Tags: Haiku, Zen, death, Japan, Japanese, translation, life, aging, time, pain, sorrow, lament, mrbhaiku
Michael R Burch Sep 2020
Haiku Translations of the Oriental Masters

Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
― Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I'd leap into the torrent!
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Come, investigate loneliness!
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Lightning
shatters the darkness―
the night heron's shriek
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

One apple, alone
in the abandoned orchard
reddens for winter
― Patrick Blanche, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The poem above is by a French poet; it illustrates how the poetry of Oriental masters like Basho has influenced poets around the world.

Graven images of long-departed gods,
dry spiritless leaves:
companions of the temple porch
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

See: whose surviving sons
visit the ancestral graves
white-bearded, with trembling canes?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I remove my beautiful kimono:
its varied braids
surround and entwine my body
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This day of chrysanthemums
I shake and comb my wet hair,
as their petals shed rain
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This darkening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Let us arrange
these lovely flowers in the bowl
since there's no rice
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The butterfly
perfuming its wings
fans the orchid
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pausing between clouds
the moon rests
in the eyes of its beholders
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first chill rain:
poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This snowy morning:
cries of the crow I despise
(ah, but so beautiful!)
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Like a heavy fragrance
snow-flakes settle:
lilies on the rocks
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The cheerful-chirping cricket
contends gray autumn's gay,
contemptuous of frost
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,
solemn evangelist
of loneliness
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The sea darkening,
the voices of the wild ducks:
my mysterious companions!
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Will we meet again?
Here at your flowering grave:
two white butterflies
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Fever-felled mid-path
my dreams resurrect, to trek
into a hollow land
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Too ill to travel,
now only my autumn dreams
survey these withering fields
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch; this has been called Basho's death poem

These brown summer grasses?
The only remains
of "invincible" warriors...
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An empty road
lonelier than abandonment:
this autumn evening
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring has come:
the nameless hill
lies shrouded in mist
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The Oldest Haiku

These are my translations of some of the oldest Japanese waka, which evolved into poetic forms such as tanka, renga and haiku over time. My translations are excerpts from the Kojiki (the "Record of Ancient Matters"), a book composed around 711-712 A.D. by the historian and poet Ō no Yasumaro. The Kojiki relates Japan’s mythological beginnings and the history of its imperial line. Like Virgil's Aeneid, the Kojiki seeks to legitimize rulers by recounting their roots. These are lines from one of the oldest Japanese poems, found in the oldest Japanese book:

While you decline to cry,
high on the mountainside
a single stalk of plumegrass wilts.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another excerpt, with a humorous twist, from the Kojiki:

Hush, cawing crows; what rackets you make!
Heaven's indignant messengers,
you remind me of wordsmiths!
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another, this one a poem of love and longing:

Onyx, this gem-black night.
Downcast, I await your return
like the rising sun, unrivaled in splendor.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

More Haiku by Various Poets

Right at my feet!
When did you arrive here,
snail?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Our world of dew
is a world of dew indeed;
and yet, and yet...
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, brilliant moon
can it be true that even you
must rush off, like us, tardy?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated...
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Standing unsteadily,
I am the scarecrow’s
skinny surrogate
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Autumn wind ...
She always wanted to pluck
the reddest roses
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Issa wrote the haiku above after the death of his daughter Sato with the note: “Sato, girl, 35th day, at the grave.”

The childless woman,
how tenderly she caresses
homeless dolls ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
umazume no hina kashizuku zo aware naru

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

One leaf falls, enlightenment!
Another leaf falls,
swept away by the wind ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
hitoha chiri totsu hitoha chiru kaze no ue

This has been called Ransetsu’s “death poem.” In The Classic Tradition of Haiku, Faubion Bowers says in a footnote to this haiku: “Just as ‘blossom’, when not modified, means ‘cherry flower’ in haiku, ‘one leaf’ is code for ‘kiri’. Kiri ... is the Pawlonia ... The leaves drop throughout the year. They shrivel, turn yellow, and yield to gravity. Their falling symbolizes loneliness and connotes the past. The large purple flowers ... are deeply associated with haiku because the three prongs hold 5, 7 and 5 buds ... ‘Totsu’ is an exclamation supposedly uttered when a Zen student achieves enlightenment. The sound also imitates the dry crackle the pawlonia leaf makes as it scratches the ground upon falling.”

Disdaining grass,
the firefly nibbles nettles—
this is who I am.
—Takarai Kikaku (1661-1707), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A simple man,
content to breakfast with the morning glories—
this is who I am.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
This is Basho’s response to the Takarai Kikaku haiku above
asagao ni / ware wa meshi kû / otoko kana

The morning glories, alas,
also turned out
not to embrace me
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The morning glories bloom,
mending chinks
in the old fence
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Morning glories,
however poorly painted,
still engage us
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
asagao wa / heta no kaku sae / aware nari

I too
have been accused
of morning glory gazing ...
—original haiku by by Michael R. Burch

Taming the rage
of an unrelenting sun—
autumn breeze.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aka aka to / hi wa tsurenaku mo / aki no kaze

The sun sets,
relentlessly red,
yet autumn’s in the wind.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aka aka to / hi wa tsurenaku mo / aki no kaze

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

As autumn draws near,
so too our hearts
in this small tea room.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aki chikaki / kokoro no yoru ya / yo jo han

Nothing happened!
Yesterday simply vanished
like the blowfish soup.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
ara nantomo na ya / kino wa sugite / fukuto-jiru

The surging sea crests around Sado ...
and above her?
An ocean of stars.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
ara umi ya / Sado ni yokotau / Ama-no-gawa

Revered figure!
I bow low
to the rabbit-eared Iris.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, butterfly,
it’s late
and we’ve a long way to go!
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nothing in the cry
of the cicadas
suggests they know they soon must die.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I wish I could wash
this perishing earth
in its shimmering dew.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Spring!
A nameless hill
shrouded in mist.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dabbed with morning dew
and splashed with mud,
the melon looks wonderfully cool.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cold white azalea—
a lone nun
in her thatched straw hut.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Glimpsed on this high mountain trail,
delighting my heart—
wild violets
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The bee emerging
from deep within the peony’s hairy recesses
flies off heavily, sated
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A crow has settled
on a naked branch—
autumn nightfall
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Except for a woodpecker
tapping at a post,
the house is silent.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That dying cricket,
how he goes on about his life!
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Like a glorious shrine—
on these green, budding leaves,
the sun’s intense radiance.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
ara toto / aoba wakaba no / hi no hikar



Yosa Buson haiku translations

On the temple’s great bronze gong
a butterfly
snoozes.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hard to describe:
this light sensation of being pinched
by a butterfly!
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Not to worry spiders,
I clean house ... sparingly.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Among the fallen leaves,
an elderly frog.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In an ancient well
fish leap for mosquitoes,
a dark sound.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Flowers with thorns
remind me of my hometown ...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Reaching the white chrysanthemum
the scissors hesitate ...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated ...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

A silk robe, casually discarded,
exudes fragrance
into the darkening evening
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Whose delicate clothes
still decorate the clothesline?
Late autumn wind.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An evening breeze:
water lapping the heron’s legs.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

gills puffing,
a hooked fish:
the patient
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The stirred morning air
ruffles the hair
of a caterpillar.
―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

Tender grass
forgetful of its roots
the willow
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I believe the poem above can be taken as commentary on ungrateful children. It reminds me of Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays."―MRB

Since I'm left here alone,
I'll make friends with the moon.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The hood-wearer
in his self-created darkness
misses the harvest moon
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

White blossoms of the pear tree―
a young woman reading his moonlit letter
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The pear tree flowers whitely:
a young woman reading his letter
by moonlight
―Yosa Buson, 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

A misty spring moon ...
I entice a woman
to pay it our respects
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Courtesans
purchasing kimonos:
plum trees blossoming
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The spring sea
rocks all day long:
rising and falling, ebbing and flowing ...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As the whale
  dives
its tail gets taller!
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

While tilling the field
the motionless cloud
vanished.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Even lonelier than last year:
this autumn evening.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My thoughts return to my Mother and Father:
late autumn
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Late autumn:
my thoughts return to my Mother and Father
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This roaring winter wind:
the cataract grates on its rocks.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

While snow lingers
in creases and recesses:
flowers of the plum
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Plowing,
not a single bird sings
in the mountain's shadow
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In the lingering heat
of an abandoned cowbarn
only the sound of the mosquitoes is dark.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

Dawn!
The brilliant sun illuminates
sardine heads.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The abandoned willow shines
between bright rains
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dew-damp grass:
the setting sun’s tears
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The dew-damp grass
weeps silently
in the setting sun
―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

The poem above is believed to be Buson's jisei (death poem) and he is said to have died before dawn.

Lately the nights
dawn
plum-blossom white.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is a second interpretation of Buson's jisei (death poem).

In the deepening night
I saw by the light
of the white plum blossoms
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is a third interpretation of Buson's jisei (death poem).

Our life here on earth:
to what shall we compare it?
Perhaps to a rowboat
departing at daybreak,
leaving no trace of us in its wake?
—Takaha Shugyo or Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



I thought I felt a dewdrop
plop
on me as I lay in bed!
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

We cannot see the moon
and yet the waves still rise
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first morning of autumn:
the mirror I investigate
reflects my father’s face
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
revealed
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Silently observing
the bottomless mountain lake:
water lilies
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Cranes
flapping ceaselessly
test the sky's upper limits
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Falling snowflakes'
glitter
tinsels the sea
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Blizzards here on earth,
blizzards of stars
in the sky
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Completely encircled
in emerald:
the glittering swamp!
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The new calendar!:
as if tomorrow
is assured...
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because morning glories
hold my well-bucket hostage
I go begging for water
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring
stirs the clouds
in the sky's teabowl
― Kikusha-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I saw
how the peony crumples
in the fire's embers
― Katoh Shuhson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It fills me with anger,
this moon; it fills me
and makes me whole
― Takeshita Shizunojo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

War
stood at the end of the hall
in the long shadows
― Watanabe Hakusen, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because he is slow to wrath,
I tackle him, then wring his neck
in the long grass
― Shimazu Ryoh, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pale mountain sky:
cherry petals play
as they tumble earthward
― Kusama Tokihiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The frozen moon,
the frozen lake:
two oval mirrors reflecting each other.
― Hashimoto Takako, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The bitter winter wind
ends here
with the frozen sea
― Ikenishi Gonsui, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, bitter winter wind,
why bellow so
when there's no leaves to fell?
― Natsume Sôseki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter waves
roil
their own shadows
― Tominaga Fûsei, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

No sky,
no land:
just snow eternally falling...
― Kajiwara Hashin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Along with spring leaves
my child's teeth
take root, blossom
― Nakamura Kusatao, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Stillness:
a single chestnut leaf glides
on brilliant water
― Ryuin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

As thunder recedes
a lone tree stands illuminated in sunlight:
applauded by cicadas
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The snake slipped away
but his eyes, having held mine,
still stare in the grass
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Girls gather sprouts of rice:
reflections of the water flicker
on the backs of their hats
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Murmurs follow the hay cart
this blossoming summer day
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The wet nurse
paused to consider a bucket of sea urchins
then walked away
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

May I be with my mother
wearing her summer kimono
by the morning window
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The hands of a woman exist
to remove the insides of the spring cuttlefish
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The moon
hovering above the snow-capped mountains
rained down hailstones
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, dreamlike winter butterfly:
a puff of white snow
cresting mountains
― Kakio Tomizawa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring snow
cascades over fences
in white waves
― Suju Takano, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tanka and Waka translations:

If fields of autumn flowers
can shed their blossoms, shameless,
why can’t I also frolic here —
as fearless, and as blameless?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Submit to you —
is that what you advise?
The way the ripples do
whenever ill winds arise?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Watching wan moonlight
illuminate trees,
my heart also brims,
overflowing with autumn.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I had thought to pluck
the flower of forgetfulness
only to find it
already blossoming in his heart.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

That which men call "love" —
is it not merely the chain
preventing our escape
from this world of pain?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Once-colorful flowers faded,
while in my drab cell
life’s impulse also abated
as the long rains fell.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I set off at the shore
of the seaside of Tago,
where I saw the high, illuminated peak
of Fuji―white, aglow―
through flakes of drifting downy snow.
― Akahito Yamabe, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: haiku, oriental, masters, translation, Japanese, nature, seasons, Basho, Buson, Issa, waka, tanka, mrbhaiku
HaikuGuy May 2014
this world
is a dewdrop world
but yet... but

Master Issa wrote this after the death of his beloved daughter from smallpox...

Even though he understood that we are dewdrops only here on earth for a moment, he was devastated
TheRiverStyx Dec 2017
Invincible?
Yes you are.
Consequence is like a dream,
it fades away.

The lessons.
Those are what I teach.

As if I truly look after you.

I am what your friends have warned you about.

I will send you walking on glass with bare feet.
I am the animal in you.

Issa rebellion.
Issa wreck.
Issa waste of life.
Paige Error Nov 2018
My day ******.  Walk down the street and flash smiles at familiar faces.  Deep down though you feel that its nothing.  People walking past, keeping up their appearance, never letting down their guard or letting people know their true self.  No one walks past really caring how your day went, what you are going through, or what is motivating you to keep going.  They walk past flash their fake smiles and keep on with their day because just like your day, their day ****** too.  It seems like we are on a hamster wheel never-ending, continuous, and just draining.  Each day we get on and wear ourselves out, for what?  Searching for answers, seeking purpose, guarding our emotions, and hiding our true selves.  Why can't we just open up?  Why not just let loose and just say whatever, who cares, eff it, because in the end does it really matter?  Do the small talk and the fake smiles really make a difference for other people in our lives? Or are we putting on appearances that are unnecessary and relentless and simply just exhausting? We must make other people's days while our days ****, day in and day out.  We don't need a world full of Oscar the Grouches, but why can't we just try to be real and find true human connection.  The more we seek this, the less happy we all become, so why not just stop acting and start being real, so you can help other people realize that their is possibly a light at the end of their tunnel, just like their could be for you.  Who knows, your sucky day could just be the start of something great, or not...but you won't know until you push through and make it your journey, your adventure, your week, your day, or even just your little moment.  So when you think your life *****, know that issa mood. -ZZ
Chantelle Iles  Apr 2019
Issa rap
Chantelle Iles Apr 2019
Life hasn't been easy, sometimes it gets really tough,
I grew up in Plymouth, a place that's really rough,
My parents both drug addicts, didn't show me love,
And now I always wonder, if I'll ever be enough.

All the kids at school used to sit and make fun of me,
The girl that always had clothes which were *****,
Then I glowed up, starting growing *****,
Now the same kids wanna slide in my DMs like, "what's new?"

I worked hard just to get where I am,
So please forgive me if I flex on the gram,
Hustle in silence, everyday I grind,
Always made sure that my bills paid on time.

Moved out of home when I was just 17,
Started realising that I could live a dream,
Went from living on the streets,
To paying so all my friends could eat.

I had to grow up fast, so I could see the world,
If I hadn't, sure I'd still be a little girl,
No worries, no stress, no tears in the bed,
Nothing to complain about, no anxieties in my head.

Talking about anxiety, depression and stress,
Let me tell you, I still know how to impress,
Bury the anger, the pain and aggression,
Only thing to shout about is progression.

Enemies of progress, will never see you succeed,
So is that really the type of energy you need,
Started meditating so I could just be free,
Now all these fake ******* tryin' to be me.
Michael R Burch May 2020
Epigrams by Michael R. Burch



Conformists of a feather
flock together.
—Michael R. Burch

(Winner of the National Poetry Month Couplet Competition)



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

(Published by Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Super Highway, Mindful of Poetry, Poets for Humanity, The New Formalist, Angle, Daily Kos, Katutura English, Setu, Genocide Awareness, The Hip Forms, Darfur Awareness Shabbat, Viewing Genocide in Sudan, FreeXpression, Better Than Starbucks, Art Villa, AZquotes, QuoteFancy, QuoteMaster, and WiseFamousQuotes; also translated into Czech, Indonesian, Romanian and Turkish)



Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.



Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.



Laughter's Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.

(Originally published by Angelwing)



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

(Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has been translated into Russian, Macedonian, Turkish and Romanian)



Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

(Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has been translated into Russian, Arabic, Turkish and Macedonian)



*** Hex
by Michael R. Burch

Love's full of cute paradoxes
(and highly acute poxes) .

(Published by ***** of Parnassus and Lighten Up)



Styx
by Michael R. Burch

Black waters—deep and dark and still.
All men have passed this way, or will.

(Published by The Raintown Review and Blue Unicorn; also translated into Romanian and published by Petru Dimofte. This is one of my early poems, written as a teenager. I believe it was my first epigram.)



Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

(apologies to Robert Frost and Ogden Nash)

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker) ,
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.



Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!
Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.



Multiplication, Tabled
or Procreation Inflation
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

"Be fruitful and multiply"—
great advice, for a fruitfly!
But for women and men,
simple Simons, say, "WHEN! "



The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.

(Published by Shot Glass Journal)



Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!

(Published by Brief Poems)



Saving Graces, for the Religious Right
by Michael R. Burch

Life's saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.

(Published by Shot Glass Journal and Poem Today)



Fierce ancient skalds summoned verse from their guts;
today's genteel poets prefer modern ruts.
—Michael R. Burch



Not Elves, Exactly
by Michael R. Burch

Something there is that likes a wall,
that likes it spiked and likes it tall,
that likes its pikes' sharp rows of teeth
and doesn't mind its victims' grief
(wherever they come from, far or wide)
as long as they fall on the other side.



Self-ish
by Michael R. Burch

Let's not pretend we "understand" other elves
as long as we remain mysteries to ourselves.



Piecemeal
by Michael R. Burch

And so it begins—the ending.
The narrowing veins, the soft tissues rending.
Your final solution is pending.
(A pale Piggy-Wiggy
will discount your demise as no biggie.)



Liquid Assets
by Michael R. Burch

And so I have loved you, and so I have lost,
accrued disappointment, ledgered its cost,
debited wisdom, credited pain...
My assets remaining are liquid again.



Brief
by Michael R. Burch

Epigram
means cram,
then scram!



To write an epigram, cram.
If you lack wit, scram!
—Michael R. Burch



Fleet Tweet: Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

A tweet
by any other name
would be as fleet.

@mikerburch (Michael R. Burch)



Fleet Tweet II: Further Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

Remember, doggonit,
heroic verse crowns the Shakespearean sonnet!
So if you intend to write a couplet,
please do it on the doublet!

@mikerburch (Michael R. Burch)



Love is either wholly folly,
or fully holy.
—Michael R. Burch



Civility
is the ability
to disagree
agreeably.
—Michael R. Burch



****** Most Fowl!
by Michael R. Burch

“****** most foul!”
cried the mouse to the owl.

“Friend, I’m no sinner;
you’re merely my dinner!”
the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.

(Published by Lighten Up Online and Potcake Chapbooks)



The Beat Goes On (and On and On and On ...)
by Michael R. Burch

Bored stiff by his board-stiff attempts
at “meter,” I crossly concluded
I’d use each iamb
in lieu of a lamb,
bedtimes when I’m under-quaaluded.

(Originally published by Grand Little Things)



Midnight Stairclimber
by Michael R. Burch

Procreation
is at first great sweaty recreation,
then—long, long after the *** dies—
the source of endless exercise.

(Published by Angelwing and Brief Poems)



Love has the value
of gold, if it's true;
if not, of rue.
—Michael R. Burch



Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick;
Donald Trump speaks loudly and carries a big shtick.
—Michael R. Burch



Nonsense Verse for a Nonsensical White House Resident
by Michael R. Burch

Roses are red,
Daffodils are yellow,
But not half as daffy
As that taffy-colored fellow!



There's no need to rant about Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The cruelty of "civilization" suffices:
our ordinary vices.
—Michael R. Burch



Sumer is icumen in
a modern English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(this update of an ancient classic is dedicated to everyone who suffers with hay fever and other allergies)

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing achu!
Groweth sed
And bloweth hed
And buyeth med?
Cuccu!

Originally published by Lighten Up Online (as Kim Cherub)

NOTE: I kept the medieval spellings of “sumer” (summer), “lhude” (loud), “sed” (seed) and “hed” (head). I then slipped in the modern slang term “med” for medication. The first line means something like “Summer’s a-comin’ in!” In the original poem the cuckoo bird was considered to be a harbinger of spring, but here “cuccu” simply means “crazy!”



Redefinitions

Faith: falling into the same old claptrap.—Michael R. Burch

Religion: the ties that blind.—Michael R. Burch

Baseball: lots of spittin' mixed with some hittin'.—Michael R. Burch

Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage.—Michael R. Burch

Insuresurrection: The dead are always with us, and yet they are naught! —Michael R. Burch

Trickle down economics: an especially pungent *******.—Michael R. Burch



Translations

Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!

Raise your words, not their volume.
Rain grows flowers, not thunder.
—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch

The imbecile constructs cages for everyone he knows,
while the sage (who has to duck his head whenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy, prison gang.
—Hafiz loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An unbending tree
breaks easily.
—Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks ignite great flames.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their ****** for exotic positions.
—Thomas Campion, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No wind is favorable to the man who lacks direction.
—Seneca the Younger, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hypocrisy may deceive the most perceptive adult, but the dullest child recognizes and is revolted by it, however ingeniously disguised.
—Leo Tolstoy translation by Michael R. Burch

Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel,
or a house when it's time to change residences,
even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.
—Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch

Improve yourself through others' writings, thus attaining more easily what they acquired through great difficulty.
—Socrates, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fools call wisdom foolishness.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

One true friend is worth ten thousand kin.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Not to speak one’s mind is slavery.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

I would rather die standing than kneel, a slave.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fresh tears are wasted on old griefs.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch



Native American Proverb
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Before you judge
a man for his sins
be sure to trudge
many moons in his moccasins.



Native American Proverb
by Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A man must pursue his Vision
as the eagle explores
the sky's deepest blues.



Native American Proverb
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let us walk respectfully here
among earth's creatures, great and small,
remembering, our footsteps light,
that one wise God created all.



The Least of These...

What you
do
to
the refugee
you
do
unto
Me!
—Jesus Christ, translation/paraphrase by Michael R. Burch



The Church Gets the Burch Rod

How can the Bible be "infallible" when from Genesis to Revelation slavery is commanded and condoned, but never condemned? —Michael R. Burch

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
—Michael R. Burch

I have my doubts about your God and his "love":
If one screams below, what the hell is "Above"?
—Michael R. Burch

If God has the cattle on a thousand hills,
why does he need my tithes to pay his bills?
—Michael R. Burch

The best tonic for other people's bad ideas is to think for oneself.—Michael R. Burch

Hell hath no fury like a fundamentalist whose God condemned him for having "impure thoughts."—Michael R. Burch

Religion is the difficult process of choosing the least malevolent invisible friends.—Michael R. Burch

Religion is the ****** of the people.—Karl Marx
Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.—Michael R. Burch

An ideal that cannot be realized is, in the end, just wishful thinking.—Michael R. Burch

God and his "profits" could never agree
on any gospel acceptable to an intelligent flea.
—Michael R. Burch

To fall an inch short of infinity is to fall infinitely short.—Michael R. Burch

Most Christians make God seem like the Devil. Atheists and agnostics at least give him the "benefit of the doubt."—Michael R. Burch

Hell has been hellishly overdone.
Why blame such horrors on God's only Son
when Jehovah and his prophets never mentioned it once?
—Michael R. Burch

(Bible scholars agree: the word "hell" has been removed from the Old Testaments of the more accurate modern Bible translations. And the few New Testament verses that mention "hell" are obvious mistranslations.)



Clodhoppers
by Michael R. Burch

If you trust the Christian "god"
you're—like Adumb—a clod.




If every witty thing that's said were true,
Oscar Wilde, the world would worship You!
—Michael R. Burch



Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

Poet? Critic? Dilettante?
Do you know what's good, or do you merely flaunt?

(Published by ***** of Parnassus, the first poem in the April 2017 issue)



*******
by Michael R. Burch

You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joy is an illusion to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.



Lines in Favor of Female Muses
by Michael R. Burch

I guess ***** of Parnassus are okay...
But those Lasses of Parnassus? My! Olé!

(Published by ***** of Parnassus)



Meal Deal
by Michael R. Burch

Love is a splendid ideal
(at least till it costs us a meal) .



Long Division
by Michael R. Burch as Kim Cherub

All things become one
Through death's long division
And perfect precision.



i o u
by mrb

i might have said it
but i didn't

u might have noticed
but u wouldn't

we might have been us
but we couldn't

u might respond
but probably shouldn't




Mate Check
by Michael R. Burch

Love is an ache hearts willingly secure
then break the bank to cure.



Incompatibles
by Michael R. Burch

Reason's treason!
cries the Heart.

Love's insane,
replies the Brain.

(Originally published by Light)



Death is the ultimate finality
of reality.
—Michael R. Burch



Stage Fright
by Michael R. Burch

To be or not to be?
In the end Hamlet
opted for naught.



Grave Oversight
by Michael R. Burch

The dead are always with us,
and yet they are naught!



Feathered Fiends
by Michael R. Burch

Fascists of a feather
flock together.



Why the Kid Gloves Came Off
by Michael R. Burch

for Lemuel Ibbotson

It's hard to be a man of taste
in such a waste:
hence the lambaste.



Housman was right...
by Michael R. Burch

It's true that life's not much to lose,
so why not hang out on a cloud?
It's just the bon voyage is hard
and the objections loud.



Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

O little yellow flower
like a star ...
how beautiful,
how wonderful
we are!



Descent
by Michael R. Burch

I have listened to the rain all this morning
and it has a certain gravity,
as if it knows its destination,
perhaps even its particular destiny.
I do not believe mine is to be uplifted,
although I, too, may be flung precipitously
and from a great height.



Reading between the lines
by Michael R. Burch

Who could have read so much, as we?
Having the time, but not the inclination,
TV has become our philosophy,
sheer boredom, our recreation.



Ironic Vacation
by Michael R. Burch

Salzburg.
Seeing Mozart's baby grand piano.
Standing in the presence of sheer incalculable genius.
Grabbing my childish pen to write a poem & challenge the Immortals.
Next stop, the catacombs!



Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You're too perfect for words—
a problem for a poet.



Expert Advice
by Michael R. Burch

Your ******* are perfect for your lithe, slender body.
Please stop making false comparisons your hobby!



Thirty
by Michael R. Burch

Thirty crept upon me slowly
with feline caution and a slowly-twitching tail;
patiently she waited for the winds to shift;
now, claws unsheathed, she lies seething to assail
her helpless prey.



Biblical Knowledge or "Knowing Coming and Going"
by Michael R. Burch

The wisest man the world has ever seen
had fourscore concubines and threescore queens?
This gives us pause, and so we venture hence—
he "knew" them, wisely, in the wider sense.



Snap Shots
by Michael R. Burch

Our daughters must be celibate,
die virgins. We triangulate
their early paths to heaven (for
the martyrs they'll soon conjugate) .

We like to hook a little tail.
We hope there's decent *** in jail.
Don't fool with us; our bombs are smart!
(We'll send the plans, ASAP, e-mail.)

The soul is all that matters; why
hoard gold if it offends the eye?
A pension plan? Don't make us laugh!
We have your plan for sainthood. (Die.)



I sampled honeysuckle
and it made my taste buds buckle.
—Michael R. Burch



The Editor

A poet may work from sun to sun,
but his editor's work is never done.

The Critic

The editor's work is never done.
The critic adjusts his cummerbund.

The Audience

While the critic adjusts his cummerbund,
the audience exits to mingle and slum.

The Anthologist

As the audience exits to mingle and slum,
the anthologist rules, a pale jury of one.



Athenian Epitaphs

How valiant he lies tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
But go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Passerby,
Tell the Spartans we lie
Lifeless at Thermopylae:
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

They observed our fearful fetters, braved the overwhelming darkness.

Now we extol their excellence: bravely, they died for us.
Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends’ tardiness,
Mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas: these were men of valorous breath.
Assume, like pale chattels, an ashen silence at death.
Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
Nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

I am loyal to you master, even in the grave:
Just as you now are death’s slave.
Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Having never earned a penny,
nor seen a bridal gown slip to the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father that I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Constantina, inconstant one!
Once I thought your name beautiful
but I was a fool
and now you are more bitter to me than death!
You flee someone who loves you
with baited breath
to pursue someone who’s untrue.
But if you manage to make him love you,
tomorrow you'll flee him too!
Michael R. Burch, after Macedonius



Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt

Between the prophesies of morning
and twilight’s revelations of wonder,
the sky is ripped asunder.

The moon lurks in the clouds,
waiting, as if to plunder
the dusk of its lilac iridescence,

and in the bright-tentacled sunset
we imagine a presence
full of the fury of lost innocence.

What we find within strange whorls of drifting flame,
brief patterns mauling winds deform and maim,
we recognize at once, but cannot name.



The Greatest of These ...
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The hands that held me tremble.
The arms that lifted
  fall.

Angelic flesh, now parchment,
is held together with gauze.

But her undimmed eyes still embrace me;
there infinity can be found.

I can almost believe such love
will reach me, underground.



Love Is Not Love
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Love is not love that never looked
within itself and questioned all,
curled up like a zygote in a ball,
throbbed, sobbed and shook.

(Or went on a binge at a nearby mall,
then would not cook.)

Love is not love that never winced,
then smiled, convinced
that soar’s the prerequisite of fall.

When all
its wounds and scars have been saline-rinsed,
where does Love find the wherewithal
to try again,
endeavor, when

all that it knows
is: O, because!



Stay With Me Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

Stay with me tonight;
be gentle with me as the leaves are gentle
falling to the earth.

And whisper, O my love,
how that every bright thing, though scattered afar,
retains yet its worth.

Stay with me tonight;
be as a petal long-awaited blooming in my hand.
Lift your face to mine

and touch me with your lips
till I feel the warm benevolence of your breath’s
heady fragrance like wine.

That which we had
when pale and waning as the dying moon at dawn,
outshone the sun.

And so lead me back tonight
through bright waterfalls of light
to where we shine as one.

Originally published by The Lyric



Ali’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

They say that gold don’t tarnish. It ain’t so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, “called a ***** a *****.”
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.

Ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me ******, did me wrong.
A man can’t be lukewarm, ’cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, “Now here’s your bullet and your gun,
and there’s your cell: we’re waiting, you choose one.”
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.

My face reflected up, dark bronze like gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image―BOLD.
My blood boiled like that river―strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child,
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

Originally published by Black Medina

Note: Cassius Clay, who converted to Islam and changed his “slave name” to Muhammad Ali, said that he threw his Olympic boxing gold medal into the Ohio River. Confirming his account, the medal was recovered by Robert Bradbury and his wife Pattie in 2014 during the Annual Ohio River Sweep, and the Ali family paid them $200,000 to regain possession of the medal. When drafted during the Vietnamese War, Ali refused to serve, reputedly saying: “I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a ******.” The notice mentioned in my poem is Ali's draft notice, which metaphorically gets tossed into the river along with his slave name. I was told through the grapevine that this poem appeared in Farsi in an Iranian publication called Bashgah. ―Michael R. Burch



The Folly of Wisdom
by Michael R. Burch

She is wise in the way that children are wise,
looking at me with such knowing, grave eyes
I must bend down to her to understand.
But she only smiles, and takes my hand.

We are walking somewhere that her feet know to go,
so I smile, and I follow ...

And the years are dark creatures concealed in bright leaves
that flutter above us, and what she believes―
I can almost remember―goes something like this:
the prince is a horned toad, awaiting her kiss.

She wiggles and giggles, and all will be well
if only we find him! The woodpecker’s knell
as he hammers the coffin of some dying tree
that once was a fortress to someone like me

rings wildly above us. Some things that we know
we are meant to forget. Life is a bloodletting, maple-syrup-slow.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Departed
by Michael R. Burch

Already, I miss you,
though your parting kiss is still warm on my lips.

Now the floor is not strewn with your stockings and slips
and the dishes are all stacked away.

You left me today ...
and each word left unspoken now whispers regrets.



Roses for a Lover, Idealized
by Michael R. Burch

When you have become to me
as roses bloom, in memory,
exquisite, each sharp thorn forgot,
will I recall―yours made me bleed?

When winter makes me think of you,
whorls petrified in frozen dew,
bright promises blithe spring forgot,
will I recall your words―barbed, cruel?



Ibykos Fragment 286, Circa 564 B.C.
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come spring, the grand
apple trees stand
watered by a gushing river
where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver
and the blossoming grape vine swells
in the gathering shadows.

Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;
the results are frightening—
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.



Deor's Lament (circa the 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Weland endured the agony of exile:
an indomitable smith wracked by grief.
He suffered countless sorrows;
indeed, such sorrows were his ***** companions
in that frozen island dungeon
where Nithad fettered him:
so many strong-but-supple sinew-bands
binding the better man.
That passed away; this also may.

Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths,
bemoaning also her own sad state
once she discovered herself with child.
She knew nothing good could ever come of it.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard the Geat's moans for Matilda,
his lovely lady, waxed limitless,
that his sorrowful love for her
robbed him of regretless sleep.
That passed away; this also may.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand;
many acknowledged his mastery and moaned.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard too of Ermanaric's wolfish ways,
of how he cruelly ruled the Goths' realms.
That was a grim king! Many a warrior sat,
full of cares and maladies of the mind,
wishing constantly that his crown might be overthrown.
That passed away; this also may.

If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious,
bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening,
soon it seems to him that his troubles are limitless.
Then he must consider that the wise Lord
often moves through the earth
granting some men honor, glory and fame,
but others only shame and hardship.
This I can say for myself:
that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop,
dear to my lord. My name was Deor.
For many winters I held a fine office,
faithfully serving a just king. But now Heorrenda
a man skilful in songs, has received the estate
the protector of warriors had promised me.
That passed away; this also may.



Infatuate, or Sweet Centerless Sixteen
by Michael R. Burch

Inconsolable as “love” had left your heart,
you woke this morning eager to pursue
warm lips again, or something “really cool”
on which to press your lips and leave their mark.

As breath upon a windowpane at dawn
soon glows, a spreading halo full of sun,
your thought of love blinks wildly ... on and on ...
then fizzles at the center, and is gone.



The Toast
by Michael R. Burch

For longings warmed by tepid suns
(brief lusts that animated clay),
for passions wilted at the bud
and skies grown desolate and gray,
for stars that fell from tinseled heights
and mountains bleak and scarred and lone,
for seas reflecting distant suns
and weeds that thrive where seeds were sown,
for waltzes ending in a hush
and rhymes that fade as pages close,
for flames’ exhausted, graying ash,
and petals falling from the rose,
I raise my cup before I drink
in reverence to a love long dead,
and silently propose a toast—
to passages, to time that fled.

Originally published by Contemporary Rhyme



Veiled
by Michael R. Burch

She has belief
without comprehension
and in her crutchwork shack
she is
much like us . . .

tamping the bread
into edible forms,
regarding her children
at play
with something akin to relief . . .

ignoring the towers ablaze
in the distance
because they are not revelations
but things of glass,
easily shattered . . .

and if you were to ask her,
she might say:
sometimes God visits his wrath
upon an impious nation
for its leaders’ sins,

and we might agree:
seeing her mutilations.

Published by Poetry Super Highway and Modern War Poems.



Twice
by Michael R. Burch

Now twice she has left me
and twice I have listened
and taken her back, remembering days

when love lay upon us
and sparkled and glistened
with the brightness of dew through a gathering haze.

But twice she has left me
to start my life over,
and twice I have gathered up embers, to learn:

rekindle a fire
from ash, soot and cinder
and softly it sputters, refusing to burn.

Originally published by The Lyric



Prose Epigrams

We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it.—Michael R. Burch

When I was being bullied, I had to learn not to judge myself by the opinions of intolerant morons. Then I felt much better.—Michael R. Burch

How can we predict the future, when tomorrow is as uncertain as Trump's next tweet? —Michael R. Burch

Poetry moves the heart as well as the reason.—Michael R. Burch

Poetry is the art of finding the right word at the right time.—Michael R. Burch



The State of the Art (?)
by Michael R. Burch

Has rhyme lost all its reason
and rhythm, renascence?
Are sonnets out of season
and poems but poor pretense?

Are poets lacking fire,
their words too trite and forced?
What happened to desire?
Has passion been coerced?

Shall poetry fade slowly,
like Latin, to past tense?
Are the bards too high and holy,
or their readers merely dense?



Your e-Verse
by Michael R. Burch

—for the posters and posers on www.fillintheblank.com

I cannot understand a word you’ve said
(and this despite an adequate I.Q.);
it must be some exotic new haiku
combined with Latin suddenly undead.

It must be hieroglyphics mixed with Greek.
Have Pound and T. S. Eliot been cloned?
Perhaps you wrote it on the ***, so ******
you spelled it backwards, just to be oblique.

I think you’re very funny—so, “Yuk! Yuk!”
I know you must be kidding; didn’t we
write crap like this and call it “poetry,”
a form of verbal exercise, P.E.,
in kindergarten, when we ran “amuck?”

Oh, sorry, I forgot to “make it new.”
Perhaps I still can learn a thing or two
from someone tres original, like you.



Haiku Translations of the Oriental Masters

Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
― Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I'd leap into the torrent!
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Come, investigate loneliness!
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Lightning
shatters the darkness―
the night heron's shriek
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

One apple, alone
in the abandoned orchard
reddens for winter
― Patrick Blanche, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The poem above is by a French poet; it illustrates how the poetry of Oriental masters like Basho has influenced poets around the world.

Graven images of long-departed gods,
dry spiritless leaves:
companions of the temple porch
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

See: whose surviving sons
visit the ancestral graves
white-bearded, with trembling canes?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I remove my beautiful kimono:
its varied braids
surround and entwine my body
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This day of chrysanthemums
I shake and comb my wet hair,
as their petals shed rain
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This darkening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Let us arrange
these lovely flowers in the bowl
since there's no rice
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The butterfly
perfuming its wings
fans the orchid
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pausing between clouds
the moon rests
in the eyes of its beholders
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first chill rain:
poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This snowy morning:
cries of the crow I despise
(ah, but so beautiful!)
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Like a heavy fragrance
snow-flakes settle:
lilies on the rocks
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The cheerful-chirping cricket
contends gray autumn's gay,
contemptuous of frost
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,
solemn evangelist
of loneliness
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The sea darkening,
the voices of the wild ducks:
my mysterious companions!
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Will we meet again?
Here at your flowering grave:
two white butterflies
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Fever-felled mid-path
my dreams resurrect, to trek
into a hollow land
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Too ill to travel,
now only my autumn dreams
survey these withering fields
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch; this has been called Basho's death poem

These brown summer grasses?
The only remains
of "invincible" warriors...
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An empty road
lonelier than abandonment:
this autumn evening
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring has come:
the nameless hill
lies shrouded in mist
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The Oldest Haiku

These are my translations of some of the oldest Japanese waka, which evolved into poetic forms such as tanka, renga and haiku over time. My translations are excerpts from the Kojiki (the "Record of Ancient Matters"), a book composed around 711-712 A.D. by the historian and poet Ō no Yasumaro. The Kojiki relates Japan’s mythological beginnings and the history of its imperial line. Like Virgil's Aeneid, the Kojiki seeks to legitimize rulers by recounting their roots. These are lines from one of the oldest Japanese poems, found in the oldest Japanese book:

While you decline to cry,
high on the mountainside
a single stalk of plumegrass wilts.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another excerpt, with a humorous twist, from the Kojiki:

Hush, cawing crows; what rackets you make!
Heaven's indignant messengers,
you remind me of wordsmiths!
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another, this one a poem of love and longing:

Onyx, this gem-black night.
Downcast, I await your return
like the rising sun, unrivaled in splendor.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

More Haiku by Various Poets

Right at my feet!
When did you arrive here,
snail?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Our world of dew
is a world of dew indeed;
and yet, and yet...
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, brilliant moon
can it be true that even you
must rush off, like us, tardy?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated...
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The pigeon's behavior
is beyond reproach,
but the mountain cuckoo's?
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Plowing,
not a single bird sings
in the mountain's shadow
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The pear tree flowers whitely―
a young woman reads his letter
by moonlight
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

On adjacent branches
the plum tree blossoms bloom
petal by petal―love!
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

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

Dawn!
The brilliant sun illuminates
sardine heads.
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The abandoned willow
shines
between rains
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

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

I thought I felt a dewdrop
plop
on me as I lay in bed!
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

We cannot see the moon
and yet the waves still rise
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first morning of autumn:
the mirror I investigate
reflects my father’s face
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
revealed
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Silently observing
the bottomless mountain lake:
water lilies
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Cranes
flapping ceaselessly
test the sky's upper limits
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Falling snowflakes'
glitter
tinsels the sea
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Blizzards here on earth,
blizzards of stars
in the sky
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Completely encircled
in emerald:
the glittering swamp!
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The new calendar!:
as if tomorrow
is assured...
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because morning glories
hold my well-bucket hostage
I go begging for water
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring
stirs the clouds
in the sky's teabowl
― Kikusha-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I saw
how the peony crumples
in the fire's embers
― Katoh Shuhson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It fills me with anger,
this moon; it fills me
and makes me whole
― Takeshita Shizunojo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

War
stood at the end of the hall
in the long shadows
― Watanabe Hakusen, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because he is slow to wrath,
I tackle him, then wring his neck
in the long grass
― Shimazu Ryoh, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pale mountain sky:
cherry petals play
as they tumble earthward
― Kusama Tokihiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The frozen moon,
the frozen lake:
two oval mirrors reflecting each other.
― Hashimoto Takako, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The bitter winter wind
ends here
with the frozen sea
― Ikenishi Gonsui, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, bitter winter wind,
why bellow so
when there's no leaves to fell?
― Natsume Sôseki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter waves
roil
their own shadows
― Tominaga Fûsei, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

No sky,
no land:
just snow eternally falling...
― Kajiwara Hashin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Along with spring leaves
my child's teeth
take root, blossom
― Nakamura Kusatao, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Stillness:
a single chestnut leaf glides
on brilliant water
― Ryuin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

As thunder recedes
a lone tree stands illuminated in sunlight:
applauded by cicadas
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The snake slipped away
but his eyes, having held mine,
still stare in the grass
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Girls gather sprouts of rice:
reflections of the water flicker
on the backs of their hats
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Murmurs follow the hay cart
this blossoming summer day
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The wet nurse
paused to consider a bucket of sea urchins
then walked away
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

May I be with my mother
wearing her summer kimono
by the morning window
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The hands of a woman exist
to remove the insides of the spring cuttlefish
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The moon
hovering above the snow-capped mountains
rained down hailstones
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, dreamlike winter butterfly:
a puff of white snow
cresting mountains
― Kakio Tomizawa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring snow
cascades over fences
in white waves
― Suju Takano, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tanka and Waka translations:

If fields of autumn flowers
can shed their blossoms, shameless,
why can’t I also frolic here —
as fearless, and as blameless?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Submit to you —
is that what you advise?
The way the ripples do
whenever ill winds arise?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Watching wan moonlight
illuminate trees,
my heart also brims,
overflowing with autumn.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I had thought to pluck
the flower of forgetfulness
only to find it
already blossoming in his heart.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

That which men call "love" —
is it not merely the chain
preventing our escape
from this world of pain?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Once-colorful flowers faded,
while in my drab cell
life’s impulse also abated
as the long rains fell.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I set off at the shore
of the seaside of Tago,
where I saw the high, illuminated peak
of Fuji―white, aglow―
through flakes of drifting downy snow.
― Akahito Yamabe, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



ON LOOKING AT SCHILLER’S SKULL
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here in this charnel-house full of bleaching bones,
like yesteryear’s
fading souvenirs,
I see the skulls arranged in strange ordered rows.

Who knows whose owners might have beheaded peers,
packed tightly here
despite once repellent hate?
Here weaponless, they stand, in this gentled state.

These arms and hands, they once were so delicate!
How articulately
they moved! Ah me!
What athletes once paced about on these padded feet?

Still there’s no hope of rest for you, lost souls!
Deprived of graves,
forced here like slaves
to occupy this overworld, unlamented ghouls!

Now who’s to know who loved one orb here detained?
Except for me;
reader, hear my plea:
I know the grandeur of the mind it contained!

Yes, and I know the impulse true love would stir
here, where I stand
in this alien land
surrounded by these husks, like a treasurer!

Even in this cold,
in this dust and mould
I am startled by an a strange, ancient reverie, …
as if this shrine to death could quicken me!

One shape out of the past keeps calling me
with its mystery!
Still retaining its former angelic grace!
And at that ecstatic sight, I am back at sea ...

Swept by that current to where immortals race.
O secret vessel, you
gave Life its truth.
It falls on me now to recall your expressive face.

I turn away, abashed here by what I see:
this mould was worth
more than all the earth.
Let me breathe fresh air and let my wild thoughts run free!

What is there better in this dark Life than he
who gives us a sense of man’s divinity,
of his place in the universe?
A man who’s both flesh and spirit—living verse!



To the boy Elis
by Georg Trakl
translation by Michael R. Burch

Elis, when the blackbird cries from the black forest,
it announces your downfall.
Your lips sip the rock-spring's blue coolness.

Your brow sweats blood
recalling ancient myths
and dark interpretations of birds' flight.

Yet you enter the night with soft footfalls;
the ripe purple grapes hang suspended
as you wave your arms more beautifully in the blueness.

A thornbush crackles;
where now are your moonlike eyes?
How long, oh Elis, have you been dead?

A monk dips waxed fingers
into your body's hyacinth;
Our silence is a black abyss

from which sometimes a docile animal emerges
slowly lowering its heavy lids.
A black dew drips from your temples:

the lost gold of vanished stars.

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: I believe that in the second stanza the blood on Elis's forehead may be a reference to the apprehensive ****** sweat of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. If my interpretation is correct, Elis hears the blackbird's cries, anticipates the danger represented by a harbinger of death, but elects to continue rather than turn back. From what I have been able to gather, the color blue had a special significance for Georg Trakl: it symbolized longing and perhaps a longing for death. The colors blue, purple and black may represent a progression toward death in the poem.



Keywords/Tags: epigram, epigrams, short, brief, concise, aphorism, adage, proverb, quote, mrbepi, mrbepig, mrbepigram, mrbhaiku

Published as the collection "Epigrams"
“One of the effects of living with electronic information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload.”                                                      
                                                                                      Marshall McLuhan
So, let’s review:
Man is a thinking animal.
Stanley Kubrick took us to space to get us to think.
Marshall McLuhan:  “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
Hemetucky: what was I thinking?
The Rapture for the 1%:   The Language of the World and The Language of Enthusiasm explains why Sir Richard  Branson’s ****** Galactic will only be taking the richest among us to space.
Ian (Limey Futurologist) Pearson:  “Binary is already the dominant language on Planet Earth with today’s machines having more conversations in 24 hours than the whole of humankind since the birth of Eve.”
Larry Flynt:  “**** is the answer to everything.”
Goofy:  “Yeah, I ****** Minnie. I shagged her rotten, baby!”  
Winston Smith:  “Do it to Julia!”
McNugget Buddies:   “Parts is parts.”                                          
Stunod: “Donuts-a -spella backwards issa stunod.” Think about it.
Tony Soprano.  “You ****** stunod, it's a joke.” (Stunod:  in southern dialect Italian means stupid, or a stupid person) http://(www.urbandictionary.com) define.php?term = stunod  / buy stunod mugs & shirts
Marshall McLuhan:    “Jokes are grievances.”
Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino:  “Antonio Gramsci thought that Stalin and Bolshevism could save him and Italy from Fascism:  stunod.”
The Cloud:  My acceptance of the Cloud into my life and my changeling cyborg self is by no means a capitulation to the surfing life.
Paulo Coehlo:  “The God you seek; that someone who awaits you is you.”
Howard Beale:  “That’s the God *******.”
God:   “Because you’re on television, stunod!”
The Elders of Zion:  Nu?
Meir Kahane:  “Let us not suffer from a national amnesia that causes us to forget who and what we are. No trait is more justified than revenge in the right time and place. I know that American and Israeli elections must be limited only to those who understand that the Arabs are the deadly enemy of the Jewish state, who would bring on us a slow Auschwitz - not with gas, but with knives and hatchets. Vote for Newt!”

**** Jagger:    “Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out” (40th Anniversary Edition, Rolling Stones)
Keith Richards +Fijian palm tree = Stunod.  
Marshall McLuhan:   “The more the data banks record about each of us, the less we exist.”    
Howard Beale: “If there's anybody out there that can look around this demented slaughterhouse of a world we live in and tell me that man is a noble creature, believe me: That man is not only full of *******, that man is  stunod.”
The Nam, Part I:   a demented slaughterhouse within a microcosm and grains of beach sand inside micro-Cosmo Kramer’s shorts. When I was in the Kingdom of The Nam I was always under the influence of some drug, mostly my own pure adrenaline when scared shitless--a frequent condition for me—not only my own piquant adrenal juice but other stuff like ****, hash, Thai stick, *****, amphetamines, H-Horse ******, quaaludes, horse tranquilizers and Russian *****. The drugs were always a welcome and needed friend, a respite from the horrors of war in Southeast Asia. To meditate & levitate, to transmigrate & navigate, to negotiate & regurgitate myself, I needed a head start if I was going to SLIDE through what would be called a wormhole today, making a three-dimensional movement between different parallel universes, a conquest of time and space. Cue our favorite narrator:
Rod Serling:  “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension--a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”
WWII, Part I:  A slider now, I SLIDE to my father’s war—the War in Europe in the years before V.E. Day, May 8, 1945. Suddenly I’m flipped right out of the jungle to Germania, to Deutschland in the winter of 1945. I am a P.O.W. of the Germans, sent out into the economy as slave labor. It’s February in Dresden, Germany, the Baroque capital of the German state of Saxony, the city called lovingly by her (****!) many lovers: “The Florence of the Elbe.” It was a long time ago, during the war and I Survived to Tell the Tale. I am a wet floppy Kilgore Trout; I’ve flopped right out of the Twilight Zone into what appears to be an underground meat locker in Dresden. There are animal carcasses hanging from the ceiling and the building is known as Slaughterhouse Number 5. I am a lucky ******* because even though I don’t know it yet, I’m in the safest place in the entire city. Cue the Bombing of Dresden, a strategic military bombing by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF).  In four raids, 1,300 heavy bombers dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on Dresden. The resulting firestorm destroyed 15 square miles (39 square kilometers) of the city centre and killed many thousands, according to **** figures-- largely discredited by the victors who not only get the spoils but get to spin the history any which way but loose. Casualty figures were 200,000 and death toll estimates went as high as 500,000. Or maybe just 25,000 total, if you believe the ******* Anglo-American valkyries who unleashed the wrath of Khan’s Smoking Joe’s Barbecue Ribs and Hotlinks. Win a war, get a medal and a seat in Congress, maybe the White House; lose a war, get indicted. You’re going to Nuremberg, pilgrim, or the ******* Hague.
Kurt Vonnegut: “World War II was over and I was standing in the middle of Times Square with a Purple Heart on and a purple hard-on.”
Colonel Kurtz:  “We fight for the land that's under our feet, the gold that's in our hands, women that worship the power in our *****.  I summon fire from the sky. Do you know what it is to be a white man who can summon fire from the sky? ...What it means? You can live and die for these things, not silly ideals that are always betrayed  . . . I swallowed a bug. Who are you, captain?”
Willard:   “Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste. I've been around for a long long year, stolen many man's soul and faith. Stuck around St. Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change. Killed the Tsar and his ministers, Anastasia screamed in vain. I rode a tank, held a gen'rals rank when the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank. Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.”  
WWII, Part II:  The bombing of Dresden had to have been some kind of a violation of some International Code or Geneva Convention. But, of course, the bombers, the Victors, ran the Nuremberg show trials. The bombees didn’t get a chance to say much, didn’t want to make a fuss, seeing how generous the Army of Occupation was with their coal, gasoline, clothing and food handouts. But I was there when it was safe to climb out of the meat locker, and immediately got put to work on the après les bombes clean-up. I was there doing the ***** work, a corpse miner, tasked with collecting the fried grasshopper remains of so many unlucky Krauts who were simply burned alive, like heretics at the Inquisition. So it goes.
William Tecumseh Sherman: “War is Hell, Babaloo!”
Colonel Kilgore: “You can either surf, or you can fight!”
Sam Bottoms: “I dropped a tab of acid at the Do-Long Bridge, so I think I’ll surf for awhile: ‘I see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.’ Reading Blake: for years it was the only way I could block out the war, that and losing myself in a bunch of undercover assignments. Yeah, it was William Blake, I-Spy and lots more acid; that how I dealt with PTSD.”
The Nam, Part II, LT DAN:  “Good job, trooper; those ******* drugs got you coming and going, sliding so fast you’ve missed latrine duty 3 times this month. Now go get 5 gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline, mix it together and torch that ******* feces, soldier.”
** Chi Minh:  “This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around.”
***** Friedman:   “The Democrats and Republicans are the same guy admiring himself in the mirror.”

Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak:   “Vote for Pedro.”
Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard:    “Fight Fiercely!”
Marshall McLuhan:    “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.”
The Author:   I am a disaffected angry old man, formerly a disaffected angry young man; a Hopi-Italian Jew with Chinese offspring, namely my left-brained son, a mathematical genius but having a tough time dealing with idiots, the many truly stunod people in the world.  Then there’s my Rose, my sweet King Lear-jet daughter, like her half-brother, not yet finished paying for my sins. My offspring are haunted, visited upon daily by their father’s  ghosts, ghosts created, ghosts hovering over me, from wars hot and cold and peace lukewarm and cloudy, like the uranium ground contamination on the mesa, visited upon mothers and infants  and children who seek only a glass of cool water from the spring not to be glow worms in the dark, leukocytes made insane by something in the water. My sins, a father’s sins; things I did to curry favor, to ingratiate and advance myself with the 1%, things I did to get ahead in life, to get what I thought my father and others in the ancestral slipstream had failed to get, twice to the Rabbi for a get (Hebrew: גט‎, plural gittin גיטין), to get the edge my kids need now, the edge I never had, and life reduced to an exercise in ultimate combat, little more than a cage fight, man against man and God against all. The things I did for money and position shame me now. And shame is a large  source of my anger.  I will remain angry. I will hang on to my anger at God and myself and all who have been disappointed in me, by me, especially the cavalcade of short-term caretakers, women used, abused, left behind and forgotten. Why am I me? Sometimes I think that’s the way I’m programmed. But it’s okay, like Gaga: “I'm beautiful in my way 'Cause God makes no mistakes I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way' Cause God makes no mistakes, I'm on the right track, baby, I was born this way and will I continue to surf the Cloud: even though God is dead and I don’t believe you, or me, or them.
Basic: remember Basic?

10   A IS FOR ANGER NEXT 20
20   START STEP TWO ANGER KUBLER-ROSS INFINITE LOOP
30   GOTO 10
10   A IS FOR ANGER NEXT 20
20   START STEP TWO ANGER KUBLER-ROSS INFINITE LOOP
30  GOTO 10
10   A IS FOR ANGER NEXT 20
20   START STEP TWO ANGER KUBLER-ROSS INFINITE LOOP
30 A IS FOR ANGER NEXT 30
30  GOTO 10 Ad infinitum
Michael R Burch Jun 2020
Epigrams by Michael R. Burch



Negligibles
by Michael R. Burch

Show me your most intimate items of apparel;
begin with the hem of your quicksilver slip ...



Negotiables
by Michael R. Burch

Love should be more than the sum of its parts―
of its potions and pills and subterranean arts.



Her Answer (Sappho, fragment 155)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A short revealing frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!



Sappho, fragment 22
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That enticing girl's clinging dresses
leave me trembling, overcome by happiness,
as once, when I saw the Goddess in my prayers
eclipsing Cyprus.



Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You’re too perfect for words―
a problem for a poet.



Expert Advice
by Michael R. Burch

Your ******* are perfect for your lithe, slender body.
Please stop making false comparisons your hobby!



Sudden Shower
by Michael R. Burch

The day’s eyes were blue
until you appeared
and they wept at your beauty.



Incompatibles
by Michael R. Burch

Reason’s treason!
cries the Heart.

Love’s insane,
replies the Brain.

Originally published by Light



Epigrams by Michael R. Burch

Conformists of a feather
flock together.
—Michael R. Burch

(Winner of the National Poetry Month Couplet Competition)



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

(Published by Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Super Highway, Mindful of Poetry, Poets for Humanity, The New Formalist, Angle, Daily Kos, Katutura English, Setu, Genocide Awareness, The Hip Forms, Darfur Awareness Shabbat, Viewing Genocide in Sudan, FreeXpression, Better Than Starbucks, Art Villa, AZquotes, QuoteFancy, QuoteMaster, and WiseFamousQuotes; also translated into Czech, Indonesian, Romanian and Turkish)



Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.



Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.



Laughter's Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.

(Originally published by Angelwing)



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

(Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has been translated into Russian, Macedonian, Turkish and Romanian)



Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

(Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has been translated into Russian, Arabic, Turkish and Macedonian)



*** Hex
by Michael R. Burch

Love's full of cute paradoxes
(and highly acute poxes) .

(Published by ***** of Parnassus and Lighten Up)



Styx
by Michael R. Burch

Black waters—deep and dark and still.
All men have passed this way, or will.

(Published by The Raintown Review and Blue Unicorn; also translated into Romanian and published by Petru Dimofte. This is one of my early poems, written as a teenager. I believe it was my first epigram.)



Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

(apologies to Robert Frost and Ogden Nash)

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker) ,
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.



Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!
Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.



Multiplication, Tabled
or Procreation Inflation
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

"Be fruitful and multiply"—
great advice, for a fruitfly!
But for women and men,
simple Simons, say, "WHEN! "



The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.

(Published by Shot Glass Journal)



Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!

(Published by Brief Poems)



Saving Graces, for the Religious Right
by Michael R. Burch

Life's saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.

(Published by Shot Glass Journal and Poem Today)



Fierce ancient skalds summoned verse from their guts;
today's genteel poets prefer modern ruts.
—Michael R. Burch



Not Elves, Exactly
by Michael R. Burch

Something there is that likes a wall,
that likes it spiked and likes it tall,
that likes its pikes' sharp rows of teeth
and doesn't mind its victims' grief
(wherever they come from, far or wide)
as long as they fall on the other side.



Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth and Laura

Bring your particular strength
to the strange nightmarish fray:
wrap up your cherished ones
in the golden light of day.



Self-ish
by Michael R. Burch

Let's not pretend we "understand" other elves
as long as we remain mysteries to ourselves.



Grave Oversight
by Michael R. Burch

The dead are always with us,
and yet they are naught!



Translations

Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!

Raise your words, not their volume.
Rain grows flowers, not thunder.
—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch

The imbecile constructs cages for everyone he knows,
while the sage (who has to duck his head whenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy, prison gang.
—Hafiz loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An unbending tree
breaks easily.
—Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks ignite great flames.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their ****** for exotic positions.
—Thomas Campion, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No wind is favorable to the man who lacks direction.
—Seneca the Younger, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hypocrisy may deceive the most perceptive adult, but the dullest child recognizes and is revolted by it, however ingeniously disguised.
—Leo Tolstoy translation by Michael R. Burch

Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel,
or a house when it's time to change residences,
even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.
—Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch

Improve yourself through others' writings, thus attaining more easily what they acquired through great difficulty.
—Socrates, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fools call wisdom foolishness.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

One true friend is worth ten thousand kin.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Not to speak one’s mind is slavery.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

I would rather die standing than kneel, a slave.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fresh tears are wasted on old griefs.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch



Native American Proverb
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Before you judge
a man for his sins
be sure to trudge
many moons in his moccasins.



Native American Proverb
by Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A man must pursue his Vision
as the eagle explores
the sky's deepest blues.



Native American Proverb
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let us walk respectfully here
among earth's creatures, great and small,
remembering, our footsteps light,
that one wise God created all.



Excerpt from Love Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I do not love you like coral or topaz,
or the blazing hearth’s incandescent white flame;
I love you as obscure things are embraced in the dark ...
secretly, in shadows, unrevealed & unnamed.



Every Day You Play
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Every day you play with Infinity’s rays.
Exquisite visitor, you arrive with the flowers and the water.
You are vastly more than this immaculate head I clasp tightly
like a cornucopia, every day, between my hands ...



I love you only because I love you
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I love you only because I love you;
I am torn between loving and not loving you,
Between apathy and desire.
My heart vacillates between ice and fire.



Love Sonnet XI
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
I stalk the streets, silent and starving.
Bread does not satisfy me; dawn does not divert me
from my relentless pursuit of your fluid spoor.



You can crop all the flowers but you cannot detain spring.
―Pablo Neruda, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



While nothing can save us from death,
still love can redeem each breath.
―Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Please understand that when I awaken weeping
it's because I dreamed I was a lost child
searching the leaf-heaps for your hands in the darkness.
―Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Tonight I will write the saddest lines
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I will write the saddest lines.
I will write, for example, "The night is less bright
and a few stars shiver in the distance
as I remember her unwarranted light..."



Duet, Minor Key
by Michael R. Burch

Without the drama of cymbals
or the fanfare and snares of drums,
I present my case
stripped of its fine veneer:
Behold, thy instrument.

Play, for the night is long.



Inconstant Temptress
by Michael R. Burch

Love, beautiful but fatal
to many bewildered hearts,
commands us to be faithful,
then tempts us with sweets and tarts.



Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
by Michael R. Burch

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
the bees rise
in a dizzy circle of two.
Oh, when I’m with you,
I feel like kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ too!



Warming Her Pearls
by Michael R. Burch

Warming her pearls,
her ******* gleam like constellations.
Her belly is a bit rotund ...
she might have stepped out of a Rubens.



Dark Cloud, Silver Lining
from “Love in the Time of the Coronavirus”
by Michael R. Burch

Despite my stormy demeanor,
my hands have never been cleaner!



Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

Poet? Critic? Dilettante?
Do you know what's good, or do you merely flaunt?

Published by ***** of Parnassus



Delicacy
by Michael R. Burch

for all good mothers

Your love is as delicate
as a butterfly cleaning its wings,
as soft as the predicate
the hummingbird sings
to itself, gently murmuring―
“Fly! Fly! Fly!”
Your love is the string
soaring kites untie.



The Greatest of These ...
by Michael R. Burch

The hands that held me tremble.
The arms that lifted
fall.

Angelic flesh, now parchment,
is held together with gauze.

But her undimmed eyes still embrace me;
there infinity can be found.

I can almost believe such love
will reach me, underground.



Haiku Translations of the Oriental Masters

Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
― Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I'd leap into the torrent!
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Come, investigate loneliness!
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Lightning
shatters the darkness―
the night heron's shriek
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

One apple, alone
in the abandoned orchard
reddens for winter
― Patrick Blanche, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The poem above is by a French poet; it illustrates how the poetry of Oriental masters like Basho has influenced poets around the world.

Graven images of long-departed gods,
dry spiritless leaves:
companions of the temple porch
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

See: whose surviving sons
visit the ancestral graves
white-bearded, with trembling canes?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I remove my beautiful kimono:
its varied braids
surround and entwine my body
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This day of chrysanthemums
I shake and comb my wet hair,
as their petals shed rain
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This darkening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Let us arrange
these lovely flowers in the bowl
since there's no rice
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The butterfly
perfuming its wings
fans the orchid
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pausing between clouds
the moon rests
in the eyes of its beholders
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first chill rain:
poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This snowy morning:
cries of the crow I despise
(ah, but so beautiful!)
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Like a heavy fragrance
snow-flakes settle:
lilies on the rocks
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The cheerful-chirping cricket
contends gray autumn's gay,
contemptuous of frost
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,
solemn evangelist
of loneliness
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The sea darkening,
the voices of the wild ducks:
my mysterious companions!
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Will we meet again?
Here at your flowering grave:
two white butterflies
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Fever-felled mid-path
my dreams resurrect, to trek
into a hollow land
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Too ill to travel,
now only my autumn dreams
survey these withering fields
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch; this has been called Basho's death poem

These brown summer grasses?
The only remains
of "invincible" warriors...
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An empty road
lonelier than abandonment:
this autumn evening
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring has come:
the nameless hill
lies shrouded in mist
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The Oldest Haiku

These are my translations of some of the oldest Japanese waka, which evolved into poetic forms such as tanka, renga and haiku over time. My translations are excerpts from the Kojiki (the "Record of Ancient Matters"), a book composed around 711-712 A.D. by the historian and poet Ō no Yasumaro. The Kojiki relates Japan’s mythological beginnings and the history of its imperial line. Like Virgil's Aeneid, the Kojiki seeks to legitimize rulers by recounting their roots. These are lines from one of the oldest Japanese poems, found in the oldest Japanese book:

While you decline to cry,
high on the mountainside
a single stalk of plumegrass wilts.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another excerpt, with a humorous twist, from the Kojiki:

Hush, cawing crows; what rackets you make!
Heaven's indignant messengers,
you remind me of wordsmiths!
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another, this one a poem of love and longing:

Onyx, this gem-black night.
Downcast, I await your return
like the rising sun, unrivaled in splendor.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

More Haiku by Various Poets

Right at my feet!
When did you arrive here,
snail?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Our world of dew
is a world of dew indeed;
and yet, and yet...
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, brilliant moon
can it be true that even you
must rush off, like us, tardy?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated...
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The pigeon's behavior
is beyond reproach,
but the mountain cuckoo's?
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Plowing,
not a single bird sings
in the mountain's shadow
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The pear tree flowers whitely―
a young woman reads his letter
by moonlight
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

On adjacent branches
the plum tree blossoms bloom
petal by petal―love!
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

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

Dawn!
The brilliant sun illuminates
sardine heads.
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The abandoned willow
shines
between rains
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

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

I thought I felt a dewdrop
plop
on me as I lay in bed!
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

We cannot see the moon
and yet the waves still rise
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first morning of autumn:
the mirror I investigate
reflects my father’s face
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
revealed
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Silently observing
the bottomless mountain lake:
water lilies
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Cranes
flapping ceaselessly
test the sky's upper limits
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Falling snowflakes'
glitter
tinsels the sea
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Blizzards here on earth,
blizzards of stars
in the sky
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Completely encircled
in emerald:
the glittering swamp!
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The new calendar!:
as if tomorrow
is assured...
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because morning glories
hold my well-bucket hostage
I go begging for water
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring
stirs the clouds
in the sky's teabowl
― Kikusha-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I saw
how the peony crumples
in the fire's embers
― Katoh Shuhson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It fills me with anger,
this moon; it fills me
and makes me whole
― Takeshita Shizunojo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

War
stood at the end of the hall
in the long shadows
― Watanabe Hakusen, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because he is slow to wrath,
I tackle him, then wring his neck
in the long grass
― Shimazu Ryoh, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pale mountain sky:
cherry petals play
as they tumble earthward
― Kusama Tokihiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The frozen moon,
the frozen lake:
two oval mirrors reflecting each other.
― Hashimoto Takako, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The bitter winter wind
ends here
with the frozen sea
― Ikenishi Gonsui, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, bitter winter wind,
why bellow so
when there's no leaves to fell?
― Natsume Sôseki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter waves
roil
their own shadows
― Tominaga Fûsei, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

No sky,
no land:
just snow eternally falling...
― Kajiwara Hashin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Along with spring leaves
my child's teeth
take root, blossom
― Nakamura Kusatao, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Stillness:
a single chestnut leaf glides
on brilliant water
― Ryuin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

As thunder recedes
a lone tree stands illuminated in sunlight:
applauded by cicadas
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The snake slipped away
but his eyes, having held mine,
still stare in the grass
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Girls gather sprouts of rice:
reflections of the water flicker
on the backs of their hats
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Murmurs follow the hay cart
this blossoming summer day
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The wet nurse
paused to consider a bucket of sea urchins
then walked away
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

May I be with my mother
wearing her summer kimono
by the morning window
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The hands of a woman exist
to remove the insides of the spring cuttlefish
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The moon
hovering above the snow-capped mountains
rained down hailstones
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, dreamlike winter butterfly:
a puff of white snow
cresting mountains
― Kakio Tomizawa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring snow
cascades over fences
in white waves
― Suju Takano, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tanka and Waka translations:

If fields of autumn flowers
can shed their blossoms, shameless,
why can’t I also frolic here —
as fearless, and as blameless?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Submit to you —
is that what you advise?
The way the ripples do
whenever ill winds arise?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Watching wan moonlight
illuminate trees,
my heart also brims,
overflowing with autumn.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I had thought to pluck
the flower of forgetfulness
only to find it
already blossoming in his heart.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

That which men call "love" —
is it not merely the chain
preventing our escape
from this world of pain?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Once-colorful flowers faded,
while in my drab cell
life’s impulse also abated
as the long rains fell.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I set off at the shore
of the seaside of Tago,
where I saw the high, illuminated peak
of Fuji―white, aglow―
through flakes of drifting downy snow.
― Akahito Yamabe, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



The Secret of Her Clothes
by Michael R. Burch

The secret of her clothes
is that they whisper a little mysteriously
of things unseen

in the language of nylon and cotton,
so that when she walks
to her amorous drawers

to rummage among the embroidered hearts
and rumors of pastel slips
for a white wisp of Victorian lace,

the delicate rustle of fabric on fabric,
the slightest whisper of telltale static,
electrifies me.

Published by Erosha, Velvet Avalanche (Anthology) and Poetry Life & Times



Dee Light Full
by Michael R. Burch

A cross-dressing dancer, “Dee Lite,”
wore gowns luciferously bright
till he washed them one day
the old-fashioned way ...
in bleach. Now he’s “Sister Off-White.”



Severance
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a bubbly bartender,
a transvestite who went on a ******.
“So I cut myself off,”
she cried with a sob,
“There’s the evidence, there in the blender!”



Keywords/Tags: epigram, epigrams, love, ***, intimacy, intimate, apparel, clothes, dress, mrbepi, mrbhaiku, clothing, dresses, body, *******, heart, hearts, desire, passion, longing, short, brief, poems, poetry, epitaph, eulogy, death, obituary, introspection
CH Gorrie  Oct 2013
Birthday Poem
CH Gorrie Oct 2013
The world of dew
Is a world of dew, and yet,
And yet...*
     - Kobayashi Issa

Two dozen dew drops dazzling:
twenty four worlds; one more year?
An expectation, and yet
Issa's words are clear.
Martin Mikelberg Jan 2020
hermit crab
never at home
for long
Isssa- Snail, always at home
I sit alone, cold,
in a room I call my own
where no one visits.

— The End —