Thursday, December 22, 2011

for what
in this year's-end market
goes a crow

nani ni kono
shiwasu no ichi ni
yuku karasu

何にこの師走の市にゆく烏 (なににこのしはすのいちにゆくからす)

Basho, Haiku #488

I have been dipping in and out of Basho: The Complete Haiku as my bed time reading this year. I think the short form suits the level of commitment that I can give to anything that is not about post-conceptual or  Australian animal/human relations. The edition I have is a new translation by Jane Reichhold a respected haiku poet as well as translator (with an extensive, but ugly, website).

Each haiku has a small explanation. The following is for #488:
New Year - 1689. It seems Basho was surprised to find himself going off to shop at the end of year like everyone else. He often wore black robes and therefore called himself a crow.

This haiku sums up my feeling at this time of the year. I avoid Christmas for as long as possible then in the end find myself swept up at day or two before buying books for my Haico, an extra present each for my niece and nephew and liquor chocolates for dad.

Before I went to Tokyo, Haico told me that for him the sound of Tokyo was the mocking laugh of the crows echoing and bouncing off the built canyons of the narrow streets. It became one of my sounds of Tokyo too, along with the alternating toy-like squeak or witches squeal of the brown-eared Bulbul.

About 12 months ago a friend told me a Basho haiku that seemed apt, but somewhere between her telling and my remembering, it got scrambled. My memory of it was:

even in Tokyo
longing for Tokyo
the call of the crow

the actual haiku is #658:

even in Kyoto
longing for Kyoto
the cuckoo

Happy end of year.

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