Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Michael R Burch Oct 2020
Zen Death Haiku & Related Translations of Oriental Poems

In what may be called "Zen death haiku" and other forms of jisei (death poems), life on earth is often compared to dew, to a wind-blown petal, to a tree shedding its leaves, to an empty shell, to melting snow or ice, etc.

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

Both victor and vanquished are dewdrops:
flashes of light
briefly illuminating the void.
—Ouchi Yoshitaka, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) 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

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

Like a lotus leaf’s evaporating dew,
I vanish.
—Senryu (-1827), loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

This world?
Moonlit dew
flicked from a crane's bill.
—Eihei Dogen Kigen (1200-1253) loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Seventy-one?
How long
can a dewdrop last?
—Eihei Dogen Kigen, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Dewdrops beading grass-blades
die before dawn;
may an untimely wind not hasten their departure!
—Eihei Dogen Kigen, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dewdrops beading blades of grass
have so little time to shine before dawn;
let the autumn wind not rush too quickly through the field!
—Eihei Dogen Kigen, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Outside my window the plums, blossoming,
within their curled buds, contain the spring;
the moon is reflected in the cup-like whorls
of the lovely flowers I gather and twirl.
—Eihei Dogen Kigen, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To what shall we compare this world?
To moonlit dew
flicked from a crane’s bill.
—Eihei Dogen Kigen, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A solitary crow
clings to a leafless branch:
nightfall
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Unaware it protects
the hilltop paddies,
the scarecrow seems useless to itself.
—Eihei Dogen Kigen, loose translation/interpretation 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

Like blocks in the icehouse,
unlikely to last
the year out...
—Sentoku (1661-1726), 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

Having been summoned,
I say farewell
to my house beneath the moon.
—Takuchi (1767-1846), 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

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

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).

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

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

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

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 not 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

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 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

This is an example of a translation in which I interpreted the poem before translating it. In the original poem the clothes were thin (suggesting suggestive garments). In Japanese poetry an autumn wind can represent loneliness. So I interpreted the poem to be about an aging woman who still wears enticing clothes but is increasingly lonely. Since in the West we don't normally drape clothes on screens, I moved the clothes to a clothesline, which works well with the wind. For me it's a sad poem about something that happens all too often to people as they age.

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 ****.
―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

Stricken 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

 
Both victor and vanquished are dewdrops
in which flashes of light
briefly illuminate the void.
—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
  
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  



As the monks sip their morning tea,
chrysanthemums quietly blossom.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

The sea darkens ...
yet still faintly white
the wild duck protests.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pear tree blossoms
whitened by moonlight:
a young woman reading a letter.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Outlined in the moonlight ...
who is that standing
among the pear trees?
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your coolness:
the sound of the bell
departing the bell.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As the moon flies west
the flowers' shadows
creep eastward.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

By such pale moonlight
even the wisteria's fragrance
seems distant.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Leaves
like crows’ shadows
flirt with a lonely moon.
Kaga no Chiyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let me die
covered with flowers
and never again wake to this earthly dream!
—Ochi Etsujin, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To reveal how your heart flowers,
sway like the summer grove.
—Tagami Kikusha-Ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In the thicket's shade
a solitary woman sings the rice-planting song.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Unaware of these degenerate times,
cherry blossoms abound!
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These silent summer nights
even the stars
seem to whisper.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The enormous firefly
weaves its way, this way and that,
as it passes by.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Composed like the Thinker, he sits
contemplating the mountains:
the sagacious frog!
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A fallen blossom
returning to its bough?
No, a butterfly!
Arakida Moritake, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the harvest moon
smoke is caught creeping
across the water ...
Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fanning its tail flamboyantly
with every excuse of a breeze,
the peacock!
Masaoki Shiki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Waves row through the mists
of the endless sea.
Masaoki Shiki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I hurl a firefly into the darkness
and sense the enormity of night.
—Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As girls gather rice sprouts
reflections of the rain ripple
on the backs of their hats.
—Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

* Haiku translations added 6-3-2023 *

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/interpretation 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

Bitter winter wind,
why bellow so
when there's no leaves to blow?
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The lamp extinguished,
once-distant stars
enter my window.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation 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

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

Girls gather rice sprouts:
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, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The wet nurse
paused to consider a bucket of sea urchins
then walked away
—Ippekiro Nakatsuka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

May I be with my mother
wearing her summer kimono
by the morning window
—Ippekiro Nakatsuka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The hands of a woman exist
to remove the entrails 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

First one hidden face is revealed,
then the other; thus spinning it falls,
the autumn leaf.
—Ryokan (1758-1831) , translation by Michael R. Burch

I persuaded a child to purchase rural wine;
once I'm nicely tipsy,
I'll slap down some calligraphy.
—Ryokan (1758-1831) , translation by Michael R. Burch

The thief missed it:
the moon
bejeweling my window.
—Ryokan (1758-1831) , translation by Michael R. Burch

This world:
a distant mountain echo
dying unheard...
—Ryokan (1758-1831) , translation by Michael R. Burch

The peonies I planted around my hut
I must now surrender
to the wind's will
—Ryokan (1758-1831) , translation by Michael R. Burch

Wild peonies
blossoming in their prime,
glorious in full bloom:
Too precious to pick,
To precious to leave unplucked
—Ryokan (1758-1831) , translation by Michael R. Burch

The Orchid

Deep in the valley, a secluded beauty!
Serene, peerless, impossibly lovely.
In the bamboo thicket's shadowy tower
she seems to sigh softly for a lover.
—Ryokan (1758-1831) , translation by Michael R. Burch

Observe:
see how the wild violets bloom
within the forbidden fences!
—Shida Yaba (1663-1740) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A white swan
parts the cherry-petalled pond
with her motionless breast.
—Roka (1671-1703) , translation by Michael R. Burch

When no wind ruffles the Kiri tree
            leaves fall
of their own free will.
—Nozawa Boncho (1640-1714) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Loneliness:
striking the gong again and again,
the lookout.
—Hara Sekitei (1886-1951) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sleeping alone;
a mosquito interrupts my dreams
with its querulous voice...
—Chigetsu (1632-1706) , loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The rain is helpless
to reach the ground—
a winter gale
—Mukai Kyorai (c.1651-1704) , loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A cat in heat
can't catch a mouse? —
pathetic!
—Kinpu (? -1726?) , loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It's getting to the point
of ******* on fish bones—
old age.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I ****** an ant
then realize my three children
were watching.
—Shuson Kato (1905-1933) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My three children
watched me ****** an ant.
—Shuson Kato (1905-1933) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As the moon rises
the rooftop tomcat
philosophizes.
Ikuyo Yoshimura (1944-) , loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Changing my lipstick's pastels—
spring rain.
Ikuyo Yoshimura (1944-) , loose translation by Michael R. Burch


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:
this 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 here 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

Stricken 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
Momozutau / iware no ike ni / naku kamo wo / kyo nomi mite ya / Kumokakuri nan

This world—to what may we compare it?
To autumn fields darkening at dusk,
dimly lit 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 compare it?
To autumn fields
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



Ôuchi Yoshitaka, his death poem, written in 1551:

1.
Both victor and vanquished are dewdrops:
flashes of light
briefly illuminating the void.

2.
Both victor and vanquished are dewdrops,
lit by flashes of light,
as we apprehend this life.

3.
Both victor and vanquished are dewdrops
in which lightning flashes
briefly illuminate the void.

—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
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

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 too...
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
Ware shinaba / sakaya no kame ni / shita no ikeyo / moshi ya shisuku no / moriyasennen

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

Year after year,
the face a monkey faces
is a monkey face.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Haiku scholar Kon Eizo explains: "At a New Year's performance, a monkey's mask worn by a monkey changes nothing, so we repeat the same foolishness each year."

Because it will not melt
we dedicate this ice
to the New Year's dawning sun
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Students with your copybooks:
from whose satchel
shall the New Year spring?
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Basking beneath the New Year's sun:
my grubby hut.
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Letting in torrents
of New Year's rain:
my leaky hut.
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

O, God of the New Year,
this year also,
please have pity!
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

These useless dreams, alas!
Over fields of wilted grass
winds whisper as they pass.
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When a nightingale stops singing,
it's just another bird.
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A nightingale, when it ceases singing,
is just another ordinary / unexceptional bird.
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The sincerity of snow, the moon and cherry blossoms
is the truthfulness of art.
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Above the garden
the camellia tree blossoms
whitely...
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , explaining the essence of haiku, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Moonlit hailstones:
the night hawks return.
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nowhere to dump the dishwater:
cricket cacophony.
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A good father
drives away crows
from his sparrow-like children.
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A cool breeze:
the empty sky fills
with the songs of the pines.
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Return my dream, raven!
You woke me to a misted-over
unreadable moon
—Uejima Onitsura (1660-1738) , said to be his death poem, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tears are useless:
insects, lovers, the stars themselves
must part.
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sparrow-like children,
make way, make way!
The stallion's coming through!
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No one travels
this path but me,
this moonless autumn evening.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita wrote this poem on December 4,1941, while sailing for Hainan to invade Malaya.

Now, as the sun and moon shine as one,
the arrow, hurtling from the bow,
speeds my spirit toward the enemy,
bearing also a hundred million souls
—my people of the East—
as the sun and moon shine as one.
—Tomoyuki Yamashita, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bonfires for the dead?
Soon they'll light pyres
for us, instead.
—Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Children delight
in bonfires
for the dead;
soon they'll light
pyres
for us, instead.
—Issa, 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

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

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

The snow melts
the rivers rise
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

Peonies blossom;
the world is full of fibbers.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Peonies blossom;
the world is full of blooming liars.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Overdressed for my thatched hut:
a peony blossoms.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, magnificent peony,
please don't disdain
these poor surroundings!
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Insolent peony!
Demanding I measure your span
with my fan?
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

'This big! '
The child's arms
measured the peony.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Issa seemed to have a love-hate relationship with the peony, writing at least 84 haiku about the flower, sometimes praising it and sometimes accusing it of haughtiness and insolence!

The rutting cat
has grown so scrawny
he's nothing but eyes.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Clinging to each other
beneath an umbrella:
spring rain.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Twos become one:
butterflies.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No rain
and yet the flowers glisten?
Dew.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Buzzings encircle
a meditating monk:
mosquitoes.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

He's lost so much weight
in the summer heat
even the mosquitoes won't bite.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Autumn's here, crickets,
whether you chirp
or not.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A windy temple:
coins clatter
in the collection box.
—Shuson Kato, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

After death
six feet under the frost
will be sufficient cover.
—Shuson Kato, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Midwinter thunder
rattles the windowpanes.
—Shuson Kato, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



PLUM BLOSSOM HAIKU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As autumn deepens
a butterfly sips
chrysanthemum dew
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aki o hete / cho mo nameru ya / kiku no tsuyu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Keywords/Tags: Haiku, Zen, Japan, Japanese, translation, life, death, aging, time, pain, sorrow, lament



ORIGINAL HAIKU BY MICHAEL R. BURCH

Incomprehensible
by Michael R. Burch

for the NRA

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



New haiku translations added 8-25-2023

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

Ceaseless chaos—
ice floes clash
in the Soya straits.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Once they’ve crossed the sea,
winter winds can never return.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Banish the snow
for the human torpedo
now lies exploded.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(My interpretation is that the haiku above is about WWII kamikaze pilots. Winter is metaphorically the season of death and snow may be seen as a shroud for the dead. So here the poet may be saying, metaphorically, something like “We don’t need shrouds because our pilots are blowing themselves up.” )

The sky hangs low
over Karafuto,
as white as the spawning herring.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Green bottle flies
buzzing carrion:
did they just materialize?
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Finally
the cicadas stopped shrilling:
calm before gale.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As grief becomes unbearable
someone snaps a nearby branch.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As grief reaches its breaking point
someone snaps a nearby branch.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Trapped in the spider’s web
the firefly’s bulb
blinks out forever.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Trapped in the spider’s web
The firefly’s light
Is swiftly consumed.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Seishi Yamaguchi has been said to represent “a pinnacle of haiku in twentieth-century Japan.”

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 sheer kimono—
how the moon peers through
to my naked skin!
—Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

These festive flowery robes—
though quickly undressed,
how their colored cords still continue to cling!
—Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Chrysanthemum petals
reveal their pale curves
shyly to the moon.
—Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Loneliness —
reading the Bible
as the rain deflowers cherry blossoms.
—Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

How deep this valley,
how elevated the butterfly's flight!
—Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

How lowly this valley,
how lofty the butterfly's flight!
—Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Echoes from the hills—
the mountain cuckoo sings as it will,
trill upon trill
—Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter in the air:
my neighbor,
how does he fare?
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

Please arrange
these delicate flowers in the bowl
since we lack rice
—Matsuo Basho, translation by Kim Cherub

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

An ancient pond sleeps, quiet and still ...
untroubled ... until ...
suddenly a frog leaps!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Big old pond,
the little frog leaps:
Kerplash!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Explosion!
The frog returns
to its lily pad.
—Michael R. Burch

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

Come, investigate loneliness:
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The first chill rain, so raw!
Poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the monks sip their morning tea,
chrysanthemums quietly blossom.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

The sea darkens ...
yet still faintly white
the wild duck protests.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let me die
covered with flowers
and never again wake to this earthly dream!
—Ochi Etsujin, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To reveal how your heart flowers,
sway like the summer grove.
—Tagami Kikusha-Ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In the thicket’s shade
a solitary woman sings the rice-planting song.
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Unaware of these degenerate times,
cherry blossoms abound!
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These silent summer nights
even the stars
seem to whisper.
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The enormous firefly
weaves its way, this way and that,
as it passes by.
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Composed like the Thinker, he sits
contemplating the mountains:
the sagacious frog!
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A fallen blossom
returning to its bough?
No, a butterfly!
—Arakida Moritake, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the harvest moon
smoke is caught creeping
across the water ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fanning its tail flamboyantly
with every excuse of a breeze,
the peacock!
—Masaoki Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Waves row through the mists
of the endless sea.
—Masaoki Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I hurl a firefly into the darkness
and sense the enormity of night.
—Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

As girls gather rice sprouts
reflections of the rain ripple
on the backs of their hats.
—Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Will we remain parted forever?
Here at your grave:
two flowerlike butterflies
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These wilting August weeds?
The only remains
of warriors' ambitions ...
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

A solitary crow
clings to a leafless branch:
autumn twilight
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A solitary crow
clings to a leafless branch:
nightfall
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

Standing beneath cherry blossoms
who can be strangers?
—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

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

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, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Brief autumn breeze ...
she always wanted to pluck
the reddest roses
—Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

In our world
we walk suspended over hell
admiring flowers.
—Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The childless woman,
how tenderly she caresses
homeless dolls ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

One leaf falls, enlightenment!
Another leaf falls,
swept away by the wind ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Disdaining grass,
the firefly nibbles nettles—
this is who I am.
—Takarai Kikaku, 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

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

My dear Basho,
I too have been accused
of morning glory gazing!
—original haiku by Michael R. Burch

Taming the rage
of an unrelenting sun—
autumn breeze.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The sun sets,
relentlessly red,
yet autumn’s in the wind.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As autumn deepens,
a butterfly sips
chrysanthemum dew.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As autumn draws near,
so too our hearts
in this small tea room.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nothing happened!
Yesterday simply vanished
like the blowfish soup.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The surging sea crests around Sado ...
and above her?
An ocean of stars.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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 soon 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

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated ...
—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

Dawn!
The brilliant sun illuminates
sardine heads.
—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

Thorny roses
remind me of my hometown ...
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

White blossoms of the pear tree:
a young woman
reading her lover’s moonlit letter
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The pear tree flowers whitely:
a young woman reading her lover’s letter
by moonlight
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pear tree blossoms
whitened by moonlight:
a young woman reading a letter.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Outlined in the moonlight ...
who is that standing
among the pear trees?
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

Your coolness:
the sound of the bell
departing the bell.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As the moon flies west
the flowers' shadows
creep eastward.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

By such pale moonlight
even the wisteria's fragrance
seems distant.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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

gills puffing,
a hooked fish:
the patient
—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

In the lingering heat
of an abandoned cowbarn
mosquitoes hum darkly.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

The stirred morning air
ruffles the caterpillar’s
hair
—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

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

NOTE: I believe this poem can be taken as commentary on ungrateful children. It reminds me of Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays.—MRB

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

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

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

An evening breeze:
water lapping the heron’s legs.
—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 by Michael R. Burch

Courtesans
purchasing kimonos:
plum trees blossoming
—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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dew-damp grass
weeps silently
in the setting sun
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

The new calendar:
as if tomorrow
can be predicted
—Inahata Teiko, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

Because morning glories
held my well-bucket hostage
I went begging for water!
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My well-bucket being held hostage
by morning glories,
I went begging for water.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since my well-bucket’s
being held hostage by morning glories,
I go begging for water.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To listen, fine ...
fine also not to echo,
nightingale.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch, she wrote this poem in calligraphy on a portrait of Matsuo Basho

Upon her engagement to the servant of a samurai:

Will it be bitter,
the first time I bite
an unripe persimmon?
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Written for her only son, who died:

My little dragonfly hunter:
how far away has he wandered
I wonder?
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her husband died when she was 27 years old:

Rising, I see,
and reclining I see
the web of the mosquito netting ...
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

After she had shaved her head, become a nun and retired from public life:

No more
fixing my hair,
merely warming my hands by the fire ...
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Leaves
like crows’ shadows
flirt with a lonely moon.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The moon settled
in a flower-strewn stream
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My elderly parents
become my children:
strident cicadas
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminating
my fishing line:
the midsummer moon.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Auspicious straw!
Even the compost
looks glorious!
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How alarming:
her scarlet fingernails
tending the white chrysanthemums!
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Whatever ...
Leave it to the weather:
withered pampas grass.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Heat waves shimmering
above the wettened rock ...
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The moon:
a morning blur
amid cherry blossoms
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Loneliness
abides within the listener:
the cuckoo’s call
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Skylark,
what do you make
of the trackless sky?
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Returning
from moon-viewing:
we humans, voiceless.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The harvest moon
illuminates these snowdrifts
I trample.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How contentedly they snore
in the boondocks:
full moon
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The butterfly tip-toes at ebb-tide
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Along her path
butterflies flit,
front and back
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Voiceless
as a butterfly:
the Buddhist service
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Whirling its wings
the butterfly
creates its own wind ...
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The waterweed
washes away
unaware of the butterfly’s weight
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now and then
a dandelion intrudes
on a butterfly’s dreams
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sometimes a butterfly
emerges from the mist ...
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A butterfly settles on
cherry blossoms:
nap time!
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Moonflowers blossom:
a woman’s nakedness
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My painted lips
purified:
crystalline springwater
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A woman’s desire:
the wild violets’
entangled roots
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her day off:
the ******* wakes
to a frigid morning.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

With the waning moon
silence enters the heart.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We stoop to pick up ebb-tide pebbles.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ebb-tide:
everything we stoop to collect
slips through our fingers ...
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To entangle
or unentangle the willow
is the wind’s will.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Inflating the frog’s belly: looming downpour
Inflating the frog’s belly: pregnant thunderheads
The frog inflates: monsoon soon
The frog inflates: prophet of the deluge
Thunderclouds inflating: the frog’s belly
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her death poem:

Having seen the moon
I can bid Earth
farewell ...
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Isn’t it good
to wake up alone,
unencumbered?
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She wakes up
alone,
unencumbered.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her body-debt paid
she wakes alone—
a frigid night.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Coolness—
strangers meet on a bridge
late at night.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A woman’s passion
flowers from the roots—
wild violets.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Also a poet arranging words
with its airy wings—
the butterfly.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It’s child’s play for the cranes
circling the clouds
to celebrate the year’s first sunrise

Cicadas chirp
oblivious to death.
—Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation 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/interpretation 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

Bitter winter wind,
why bellow so
when there's no leaves to blow?
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The lamp extinguished,
once-distant stars
enter my window.
—Natsume Soseki, loose translation/interpretation 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

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

Girls gather rice sprouts:
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, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The wet nurse
paused to consider a bucket of sea urchins
then walked away
—Ippekiro Nakatsuka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

May I be with my mother
wearing her summer kimono
by the morning window
—Ippekiro Nakatsuka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The hands of a woman exist
to remove the entrails 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



Keywords/Tags: haiku, Japanese, translation, Oriental, imagery, metaphor, nature, coronavirus, plague, life, death, nature

Keywords/Tags: Burch, original haiku, haiku, nature, spring, summer, fall, autumn, winter, Zen, death, Japan, Japanese, translation, life, aging, time, pain, sorrow, lament, mrbhaiku
James Jarrett Aug 2014
He thought that he had been evicted like a raucous Irishman, late once again on the rent, his belongings and furniture strewn on the lawn
His cold, deadly stare and ruffled red, said the same, with haughty indignation written all over him
As could be expected with any eviction, belongings strewn to the street, it started to rain; large splattering drops falling from the sky with an audible impact, adding insult to the injury
But he was just a child, set free and off to learn on his own, his perch and roost along with his chair, moved to his new home
He had outgrown the large screen porch, which was such a ridiculous place for an Owl anyway
Wood and glen gone, surrounded by girder and screen, locked into the realm of old peoples coffee and cigarettes
Tucked up into the eaves ignominiously, or sitting on the lamp, grooming flesh from his over large and taloned  feet
He would sit silhouetted by the dim red glow of the bulb, relaxing, until a noise would spin his head and he would become hooded and glaring death
The lamp added a glow to his eyes, which already burned with a raptors fire and he would become the personification of evil to the world of prey
Low and crouched, wings slightly spread; he would become the terrifying story that small warm animals tell their children at night to keep them in line and safe
But now he has been moved outside and all of his familiar belongings with him, or most anyways
Now he perches outside, either on the rough, twisted branches near his roost, or his favorite chair, and contemplates late into the night
But it seems that he prefers the comfort of his living room and he rests on the arm of the chair, quiet and pensive in the still and humid darkness
He stares at me while I smoke; the white plumes drifting like iridescent fog into the moonlight, while I observe him from his former home, illuminated by the dim lamp light
His saffron eyes gleam in the darkness, his dark form robed in that of the raptor, wings held down, with the tips outstretched like fingers
He stares at the lamp, standing like a pedestal against the wall and I wonder to myself
Does he want his ****** lamp moved out there too?
Artimus the owl getting moved to his new aviary
wandabitch  Apr 2014
Chernobyl
wandabitch Apr 2014
Anthropogenic climate change
Nuclear fallout Chernobyl  
Raptors flourish
And wolves
Dwell
Sleeping.

Catfish swimming
In a cooling eye
Grown old and untouchable
By mans wills.

Rusty ships
Wetlands
Roam free.

Storks in their nests
1875
The cheval de prjevalski
Dye without mercy

The fallout from time
A call to restore
A broken land.

The wolves cry
The wolves cry
J M Bougourd Jun 2010
To me she is a name and an image,
the moral to my good intentions,
A face to a feeling of my own invention.
She's a lingering lie in the back of my mind.

Fingers and lips stand highlighted
as ghost-like etchings in my abbreviated memory.
Romanticised moments of your hip-bones tremoring
on Winter nights, alone and together in the dark.

Our long lasting days in-doors
played out like "the way things ought to be",
with the most perfect view of the movie
through faded strands of hair

These days, your girls make you up unfamiliar,
Indian ink applied over the original sketch,
the shivering girl brought down to match,
a floating feather dipped in black and
made part of a Hot Topic handbag.

And even now I wonder if the dripping wet girl
with the stiff shutter smile
ever even existed, at least,
the drunken emo kid staggering on the cobbles whispers rumours
she was mown down by telltale scripted kisses and silent exchanges.

So she remains a name and an image,
a memorial for better or worse,
an epitaph that eases the hurt,
the difficult first album of my heart
The call center Bunny cannot sit Still.
He's a t-t-t-twitchy *******
with an Easter Grill.
His foot just thumps, and thumps, and thumps, and thumps until.
Beep!
Receiving a call, now it's ***** to the wall.
He's Makin' a Deal.

Welcome to the Magic Bean order center My name is thump~

"STOP RIGHT THERE RABBIT!
Tricks are for kids.
I'm 100 years old tomorrow,
I'm not placing a bid.
I'm calling about that free sample,
can you do that or not?"
"Brace for impact boys" Says Thumper.
"She's coming in hot."

Up to the plate with Rapport.
A ******* and a Miss.
"That's a great question, deary."
As he lights up a spliff.
Now the Dinosaur responded,
Well it was more like roaring.
Through the headset this woman
Led on quite a story
Most men would be huffing and puffing as she blew their house down.
But thumper sat there patiently
Turned her frown right around.

He pulled a lot more than grass
Out of his basket of Candy
"Listen here, kiddo.
You have a chance to be happy."
Get a Bunny enough paint.
He turns ******' Picasso.
"What's that beautiful?
You gonna let that rock go?"

"If you mail your wedding ring today.
We'll throw in an extra back bone."

This ******' rabbit Is tamin' raptors
on the phone like Chris Pratt.
He reads The wrap-up verbatim
Then does a victory lap.

The call center Bunny cannot sit Still.
He's a t-t-t-twitchy *******
with an Easter Grill.
His foot just thumps, and thumps, and thumps, and thumps until.
"Hey Thumper."
His little bunny smirk seems to
Spot himself a thrill.

"Seems like everybunny here is taking' Adderall."
So he pops and he smokes
He snorts and he cokes.
lines back up
with a wink, a pill, a couple less bucks.

Waves goodbye to the boss.
Swivels down in his spinny spot.
Snaps one headphone to his ear hole
Then stares attentive at the clock.

Tick tock tick
The bunny vibrates as he wait.
Usually he not so wide eyed
more drifting or asleep.
big white dress feet over
keyboard and mouse.
His tie pulled loose,
his ego is out.
The Pink bunny looks
seems to whistle and shout.
The bathroom stall is empty
where they usually hang out.
So they set AQE.
Though their meeting be brief.
It was Tactical.
Vertical
***** relief.
With her cotton tail up,
Her skirt to her knees.
Their paws on their flaws
A nibble for His carrot
Her Cadbury thong.
Got this pink bunny dialing
up against the wall.
you heard the thump, and thump, and thump, and thump and call.

For The call center Bunny
who can NOT sit Still.
He's a t-t-t-twitchy *******
with an Easter Grill.
Her foot just thumps, and thumps, and thumps, and thumps until.
Beep!
Receiving a call, now it's ***** to the wall. She's Makin' a Deal

soundcloud.com/geekelement
This Poem Is not about Thumper.
Delroy Usherwood Dec 2013
I got handles that can handle any problem
If they the problem
I can solve em
I bench boys like I do at the gym
Sorry boys
All I do is win

Call it 1988
Cause I'm bringing the heat
Like #33
You wont forget me

But unlike triple threat
Call me self reliant
I'm a one man team
Call me Kobe Bryant
Like 2 Three-peat
Just like the Lakers
I'm taking over your town
33 winning streak
16 championships

The press always giving me
Full court press
I wouldn't call this chemistry
Its magic like Johnson

I feel like Jrue Holiday,
Underrated
But I feel like this our year,
Toronto Raptors

I got handles that can handle any problem
If they the problem
I'm they the problem
Michael R Burch Feb 2020
Komm, Du (“Come, You”)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This was Rilke’s last poem, written ten days before his death. He died open-eyed in the arms of his doctor on December 29, 1926, in the Valmont Sanatorium, of leukemia and its complications. I had a friend who died of leukemia and he was burning up with fever in the end. I believe that is what Rilke was describing here: he was literally burning alive.

Come, you—the last one I acknowledge; return—
incurable pain searing this physical mesh.
As I burned in the spirit once, so now I burn
with you; meanwhile, you consume my flesh.

This wood that long resisted your embrace
now nourishes you; I surrender to your fury
as my gentleness mutates to hellish rage—
uncaged, wild, primal, mindless, outré.

Completely free, no longer future’s pawn,
I clambered up this crazy pyre of pain,
certain I’d never return—my heart’s reserves gone—
to become death’s nameless victim, purged by flame.

Now all I ever was must be denied.
I left my memories of my past elsewhere.
That life—my former life—remains outside.
Inside, I’m lost. Nobody knows me here.

English translation originally published by Better Than Starbucks

Original text:

Komm du

Komm du, du letzter, den ich anerkenne,
heilloser Schmerz im leiblichen Geweb:
wie ich im Geiste brannte, sieh, ich brenne
in dir; das Holz hat lange widerstrebt,
der Flamme, die du loderst, zuzustimmen,
nun aber nähr’ ich dich und brenn in dir.
Mein hiesig Mildsein wird in deinem Grimmen
ein Grimm der Hölle nicht von hier.
Ganz rein, ganz planlos frei von Zukunft stieg
ich auf des Leidens wirren Scheiterhaufen,
so sicher nirgend Künftiges zu kaufen
um dieses Herz, darin der Vorrat schwieg.
Bin ich es noch, der da unkenntlich brennt?
Erinnerungen reiß ich nicht herein.
O Leben, Leben: Draußensein.
Und ich in Lohe. Niemand der mich kennt.

Keywords/Tags: German, translation, Rilke, last poem, death, fever, burning, pyre, leukemia, pain, consumed, consummation, flesh, spirit, rage, pawn, free, purge, purged, inside, outside, lost, unknown, alienated, alienation



This is my translation of the first of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Rilke began the first Duino Elegy in 1912, as a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis, at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea.

First Elegy
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Who, if I objected, would hear me among the angelic orders?
For if the least One pressed me intimately against its breast,
I would be lost in its infinite Immensity!
Because beauty, which we mortals can barely endure, is the beginning of terror;
we stand awed when it benignly declines to annihilate us.
Every Angel is terrifying!

And so I restrain myself, swallowing the sound of my pitiful sobbing.
For whom may we turn to, in our desire?
Not to Angels, nor to men, and already the sentient animals are aware
that we are all aliens in this metaphorical existence.
Perhaps some tree still stands on a hillside, which we can study with our ordinary vision.
Perhaps the commonplace street still remains amid man’s fealty to materiality—
the concrete items that never destabilize.
Oh, and of course there is the night: her dark currents caress our faces ...

But whom, then, do we live for?
That longed-for but mildly disappointing presence the lonely heart so desperately desires?
Is life any less difficult for lovers?
They only use each other to avoid their appointed fates!
How can you fail to comprehend?
Fling your arms’ emptiness into this space we occupy and inhale:
may birds fill the expanded air with more intimate flying!

Yes, the springtime still requires you.
Perpetually a star waits for you to recognize it.
A wave recedes toward you from the distant past,
or as you walk beneath an open window, a violin yields virginally to your ears.
All this was preordained. But how can you incorporate it? ...
Weren't you always distracted by expectations, as if every event presaged some new beloved?
(Where can you harbor, when all these enormous strange thoughts surging within you keep
you up all night, restlessly rising and falling?)

When you are full of yearning, sing of loving women, because their passions are finite;
sing of forsaken women (and how you almost envy them)
because they could love you more purely than the ones you left gratified.

Resume the unattainable exaltation; remember: the hero survives;
even his demise was merely a stepping stone toward his latest rebirth.

But spent and exhausted Nature withdraws lovers back into herself,
as if lacking the energy to recreate them.
Have you remembered Gaspara Stampa with sufficient focus—
how any abandoned girl might be inspired by her fierce example
and might ask herself, "How can I be like her?"

Shouldn't these ancient sufferings become fruitful for us?

Shouldn’t we free ourselves from the beloved,
quivering, as the arrow endures the bowstring's tension,
so that in the snap of release it soars beyond itself?
For there is nowhere else where we can remain.

Voices! Voices!

Listen, heart, as levitating saints once listened,
until the elevating call soared them heavenward;
and yet they continued kneeling, unaware, so complete was their concentration.

Not that you could endure God's voice—far from it!

But heed the wind’s voice and the ceaseless formless message of silence:
It murmurs now of the martyred young.

Whenever you attended a church in Naples or Rome,
didn't they come quietly to address you?
And didn’t an exalted inscription impress its mission upon you
recently, on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa?
What they require of me is that I gently remove any appearance of injustice—
which at times slightly hinders their souls from advancing.

Of course, it is endlessly strange to no longer inhabit the earth;
to relinquish customs one barely had the time to acquire;
not to see in roses and other tokens a hopeful human future;
no longer to be oneself, cradled in infinitely caring hands;
to set aside even one's own name,
forgotten as easily as a child’s broken plaything.

How strange to no longer desire one's desires!
How strange to see meanings no longer cohere, drifting off into space.
Dying is difficult and requires retrieval before one can gradually decipher eternity.

The living all err in believing the too-sharp distinctions they create themselves.

Angels (men say) don't know whether they move among the living or the dead.
The eternal current merges all ages in its maelstrom
until the voices of both realms are drowned out in its thunderous roar.

In the end, the early-departed no longer need us:
they are weaned gently from earth's agonies and ecstasies,
as children outgrow their mothers’ *******.

But we, who need such immense mysteries,
and for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit's progress—
how can we exist without them?

Is the legend of the lament for Linos meaningless—
the daring first notes of the song pierce our apathy;
then, in the interlude, when the youth, lovely as a god, has suddenly departed forever,
we experience the emptiness of the Void for the first time—
that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and aids us?



Second Elegy
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Every angel is terrifying. And yet, alas, I invoke you,
one of the soul’s lethal raptors, well aware of your nature.
As in the days of Tobias, when one of you, obscuring his radiance,
stood at the simple threshold, appearing ordinary rather than appalling
while the curious youth peered through the window.
But if the Archangel emerged today, perilous, from beyond the stars
and took even one step toward us, our hammering hearts
would pound us to death. What are you?

Who are you? Joyous from the beginning;
God’s early successes; Creation’s favorites;
creatures of the heights; pollen of the flowering godhead; cusps of pure light;
stately corridors; rising stairways; exalted thrones;
filling space with your pure essence; crests of rapture;
shields of ecstasy; storms of tumultuous emotions whipped into whirlwinds ...
until one, acting alone, recreates itself by mirroring the beauty of its own countenance.

While we, when deeply moved, evaporate;
we exhale ourselves and fade away, growing faint like smoldering embers;
we drift away like the scent of smoke.
And while someone might say: “You’re in my blood! You occupy this room!
You fill this entire springtime!” ... Still, what becomes of us?
We cannot be contained; we vanish whether inside or out.
And even the loveliest, who can retain them?

Resemblance ceaselessly rises, then is gone, like dew from dawn’s grasses.
And what is ours drifts away, like warmth from a steaming dish.
O smile, where are you bound?
O heavenward glance: are you a receding heat wave, a ripple of the heart?
Alas, but is this not what we are?
Does the cosmos we dissolve into savor us?
Do the angels reabsorb only the radiance they emitted themselves,
or sometimes, perhaps by oversight, traces of our being as well?
Are we included in their features, as obscure as the vague looks on the faces of pregnant women?
Do they notice us at all (how could they) as they reform themselves?

Lovers, if they only knew how, might mutter marvelous curses into the night air.
For it seems everything eludes us.
See: the trees really do exist; our houses stand solid and firm.
And yet we drift away, like weightless sighs.
And all creation conspires to remain silent about us: perhaps from shame, perhaps from inexpressible hope?

Lovers, gratified by each other, I ask to you consider:
You cling to each other, but where is your proof of a connection?
Sometimes my hands become aware of each other
and my time-worn, exhausted face takes shelter in them,
creating a slight sensation.
But because of that, can I still claim to be?

You, the ones who writhe with each other’s passions
until, overwhelmed, someone begs: “No more!...”;
You who swell beneath each other’s hands like autumn grapes;
You, the one who dwindles as the other increases:
I ask you to consider ...
I know you touch each other so ardently because each caress preserves pure continuance,
like the promise of eternity, because the flesh touched does not disappear.
And yet, when you have survived the terror of initial intimacy,
the first lonely vigil at the window, the first walk together through the blossoming garden:
lovers, do you not still remain who you were before?
If you lift your lips to each other’s and unite, potion to potion,
still how strangely each drinker eludes the magic.

Weren’t you confounded by the cautious human gestures on Attic gravestones?
Weren’t love and farewell laid so lightly on shoulders they seemed composed of some ethereal substance unknown to us today?
Consider those hands, how weightlessly they rested, despite the powerful torsos.
The ancient masters knew: “We can only go so far, in touching each other. The gods can exert more force. But that is their affair.”
If only we, too, could discover such a pure, contained Eden for humanity,
our own fruitful strip of soil between river and rock.
For our hearts have always exceeded us, as our ancestors’ did.
And we can no longer trust our own eyes, when gazing at godlike bodies, our hearts find a greater repose.



Keywords/Tags: Rilke, elegy, elegies, angels, beauty, terror, terrifying, desire, vision, reality, heart, love, lovers, beloved, rose, saints, spirits, souls, ghosts, voices, torso, Apollo, Rodin, panther, autumn, beggar
doug mocoy  Feb 2010
FLASH BACK
doug mocoy Feb 2010
with predatory instinct found
under siege, underground
Birch II, my ward, my home
before I leave pages turn to tome

with rehashed food and smuggled items of variety
cigarettes, chew, and paper clips, decaffeinated life

suicide attempt
breeding contempt
smash at walls
scream at captors
claws of raptors

manic I was, manic I remain, new rage, I am insane

line by line by line
empty words of horror’s sound
with LSD’s aftershocks ringing my ears
and feeding my eyes that hate your normalcy
with all the confused dread I can muster

one word, madness
shaking fool, lost cool
tremolo-plastic-breakfast-spoon
lifting bits of sanity to my mouth parts

Freshly-washed ****-head desires the woman
I left in the real anti-world called home

close my eyes and see my last trip
bathroom tiles explode and cover sink, tub, garbage can, mirror, telephone, and leg-arms
bad trip, but it was better than your unreal world

take your meds now

two-******, bipolar, mixed-manic, one-eyed, living, breathing, copulating monster under eternity’s bed

anger pounding at my ******* coming out as a giant, stinking ****

the them that sit behind the desk
regulate lives of poor inmate crazies
eat their meals and take my soul
others play cards, I write, **** time, **** tension, **** myself, with treatment plans, unreasonable demands in ******-babble B. S. words like suicidal ideation, that doesn’t apply to me, does it?

I want my trip back, I want to live in another place with another face
I want my trip back darling
I want to watch the words explode, I want to watch the tiles grow up my legs again
to watch as paper becomes pen, to bathe the tiles off of my inhuman skin
I want my trip back baby
I want to breathe in prism air where nothing and eternity collide
in spectacular displays of sonic-boom, emotional madness
incredibly---------------edible-------------sadness

I see the me looking
from inside LSD’s mirror and want to rejoin
the missing-hated-wasted-rain-forest
blackened by man’s desire
with silk-rose-petal-eye-bomb-shell

LEAVE!
leave me, for what I did or did not do or have or think or say or what

style means nothing more nothing less, you know?

it takes confusion to produce effective illusion
to produce base desires feed the fires
smoky the bear at the demon’s lair
with broken feet suckle the ****
of unused, aggressive, possessive MADNESS!!!!!

natural-organic-popcorn-hulls in rotted-bleeding-tooth-socket-decay-pain
elusive means justify idiot ends, so dig the pick into the hole in my jaw
as I scream the insanity away from my ears and into your eye-ball-socket-hole-skull-spot

clipped fingernail
package in the mail
next time I won’t fail

sleep, sleep won’t be my lover tonight, her arms won’t touch my shoulder
I won’t feel her finger-touch-tip or rub my ***** on her ******
I want my trip back
love me, love me, love me
for love or money, for emotions mistaken, for idiot sensation, for all the things you do for me, for my insanity’s sake

my world slowly fills with unbearable ills, chemical need so deep it erases my soul

feet sore from pacing
door to door to door to door

on and on seconds bleed out minutes, bleed the hours, tears bleed out the poison self-inflicted, pen bleeds ink onto paper

thoughts coagulate and scabrous emotions take
Kelly O'Connor Dec 2013
Burning nails, the beginning of the end and black sails for the death of an invisible friend,
Tragic loss resulting from the magic catapulting from my fingertips.
Read my fiery lips:
Give me shelter from your Neptunian storm,
Split the world with a wedge and keep our bodies warm
Kick the trunk of the oak until it bleeds with the fire you stoke
And coke you need and **** you smoke, and ****** Prometheus,
You are only human. But the fire in your blood leaves their smokestacks fuming
And nothing can save you, enslave yourself
With your strong-willed bravery on a rocky shelf.
Roll your eyes, disregard, spit in faces, **** me off
Because I'm the good sister, just tend the hearth and when I speak I scoff.
My name is Hestia, and I don't often stray from the Pantheon
So just trust me on this:
I'll introduce you to the smoldering truths, induce catharsis
And let your body loose, pick up your liver, tend your wounds
As if they were ash and oil, because we alone know justice.
You alone know how you've toiled.
And I can only start to understand your firebrand,
A passionate command. I tolerate you and adore you for your mortal score.
Prometheus, don't let those raptors gouge you anymore.
Lvice  Nov 2017
Childhood
Lvice Nov 2017
The house that I grew up in is growing old.
I can barely distinguish between the house and my grandfather, and both have given up. Tired..of people walking inside of them.
I used to fall in the house running around the hallway and through the kitchen and now I'm falling through the floor.
There is no one to say "Get out of my kitchen!"
I've never been in the attic and I've only seen my grandfather open the latch once; I'll never get to see what was stored.  I thought Katherine's ornaments could be up there, but neither knew what had been done with them.
It broke my heart to see what I had seen. I wanted to have those memories again but not all the money in the world could buy them back.
The magic I had grown up with is dying. There is no more children to fall on the cinder under the fur shed and burn her forehead, or see snow for the first time. And after making snow *****, running hands through water and letting Katherine rub them through her bony hands. It doesn't snow in Louisiana but for this house it did.
I loved being old at such a young age. Picking blackberries with him and learning to preserve them. Staining my mouth, cheeks, hair, hands, my shirt with Mulberry. Then rolling dough on the counter and staining it with little girl hands and thin fingers and bear paws.
And still the only jelly I'll eat is blackberry jelly.
Cards at the table with Katherine was the best. She had this laugh. More of a cough and she wouldnt stop coughing until she caught her breath and then I would laugh so hard and try to walk it off and trip over her oxygen tubes.  That machine  used to haunt me. It looks with green eyes at night and stood in the open doorway of the door that I never understood why it was there, it never closed anyway. The doorway I used to hide in that one nightmare  about the dinosaur that would chase me around the same hallways that my grandfather would. I've always loved dinosaurs after that.
And eating at the kitchen table where there was always honey because grandfather was also a beekeeper and loved honeycombs and fresh honey.  The one flaw in that table was the window where I always thought raptors or a bobcat would jump out of while I was eating and eat ME. Tough little five year old me would put up a fight and scream until Paw would save me.
  The dining room table where Granny Velgin always had pancakes. The BEST pancakes. Where I learned to make them years later along with paine perdu, or French toast.  Little Cajun french me with my French name and father who was Czech but I have a  Cajun French grandfather.

The magic that was the now 60 year old house is going. It was always "50 years old" every time I asked my grandfather how old it was. It was his childhood house too. He says he still remembers Granny chasing Ayo with a pan for staying out too late..and I still chase the Christmas lights we used to walk to see. I still chase my cousins around the backyard geese and chicken and duck pen. I'm still chasing the magic that sat in the attic of the house I never looked in.
Matt Jul 2015
My visit to Jurassic Park
What a shock

And my how those fences spark

And be careful
Of those prehistoric sharks

If you go wading in the sea
Don't expect to live past 3

And raptors roam
Across the forest floor

I wonder what else the park
Has in store?

Brachiosaurus eating leafs
From a tree

What a beautiful creature
It seems to be!

But stay away
From those long legs

They can stomp you into
The ground
Like little pegs

Well I enjoyed my trip
To Jurassic Park

I did not dare go out
In the dark

I stayed in
The park's Atomic shelter

Better than running around
That park helter-skelter

Better safe than sorry I always say
I left that park
And lived to see another day
Jurassic Park, dinosaurs

— The End —