Real Toads: I wrote you a book

Today at Real Toads we are to write a poem to a book – a book of poetry or a collection of poems. I have chosen one of the five most influential books to me – Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North.  It was a birthday gift to me from my beloved and revered friend and tutor.  This is the book which introduces us all to the haibun – prose ending with a haiku.  Basho’s haibun were originally travel sketches.  I have traveled Basho’s route several times at different times of the year.  I wrote my first haibun when I was 14.  I have a written a haibun to it, in the spirit of the book. I am also linking this to Poets United Poetry Pantry: http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/2017/09/poetry-pantry-370.html

The Beginning
It was November, two days before my 12th birthday. Jamie Pollard, our lifelong next door neighbor who had started my love of Japanese poetic forms and especially haiku, gave me an old ragged copy of Road to the North by Basho. He had carried the copy with him several times to Japan. He said, I want you to read this. It will introduce you to the haibun. I think you will enjoy writing them. I opened the book in awe touching the pages tenderly and then hugged Jamie. My road was opened to me. I have traveled it all my life.

snow was falling – you
were given to me – a
gift still loved today

public domain image from Road to the North

OLN: Rice Planting

Today is Open Link Night at dVerse, meaning, we can submit ONE poem of our choice of subject and form. I am also linking this to  Real Toads Thursday Meme   “The one where you grab a nearby book and flip to a specific page to find a quote that represents your love life. You have the choice of going to either page 13 and picking the 7th sentence or page 7 and picking out the 13th sentence to use as your inspiration for your poem. For bonus points, make it a love poem. As always, this should be a new poem created just for this prompt. ”   So I went to the 13th page, seventh line of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North”.  It is in this book the haibun is created.  I am writing a haibun. and of course, the haibun must be factual and actually have happened to you, followed by a classic haiku. this is my feeble attempt to write the end of the love story in Japanese poetic form.

Rice Planting
“…a song for planting rice”

The day after you left, it rained. There would be no beach trips this September Labor Day holiday. My mind and my heart were with you in Japan. I knew by now you would be at your home in Hakone. I began to cry, at last. the house still smelled of you – of sea air and sandalwood and oddly, soy sauce. Your skin had that liquid salty taste. I know for you I tasted you enough times! But here I sit – alone. I ate some steamed rice and drank some lemonade for lunch. It took me back years ago to my first trip to Japan, a few years before I met you here in America. I remembered the cold day I joined village women in helping to plant rice. The tour guide had asked them if I could. Some conversation finally to – “sure. Let the white woman try to keep up. She’ll be gone in an hour”.  Somewhat roughly translated. But I kept up with them standing in the cold water, delicately planting the rice plants as I had been shown by the lead woman. I stayed all day – using the stick to make a hole and then putting the plant down into the hole and pulling mud around it to anchor it. It was cold, backbreaking, and mind numbing; I was determined to follow the road of Basho and this was one of the stops along the way – Sharakawa. Where Basho was led to write:

“hands planting seedlings
were hands once rubbing patterns
with ferns long ago”

The end of the day I went back to my hotel room and showered. Looking at the rain outside today made me cold – knowing you were gone froze my heart.

cold rain falling hard
cherry trees will soon lose their
leaves – rice is planted

Shiro Kasamatsu – 1789

Haibun: Rice Planting

Part of my life journey, part of a travel journal. As a devoted follower of Basho and Japanese poetic forms, at one time, I undertook a journey to not only travel in France and Tuscany to renew my love of food and cooking, I also travelled to Japan to follow the journey of Basho in his “Narrow Road” – the precursor to haibun. He wrote paragraphs of a day’s travel followed by a haiku. Thus, haibun came into being. A haibun in its best form is an extended haiku which include seasons (kigo), a cutting section (kireji), aware (uh-wah-ray) – delicate sense of melancholy at the passing of things, and the amazing Oh! or as we non-Japanese say, an Aha moment. I hope you enjoy. I am linking to Poets United Poetry Pantry.  http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/2016/02/poetry-pantry-291.html  This is also being linked to dVerse Poets Pub, Haibun Monday.  Our guest Prompter today is Rajani (thotpurge) who wants us to write a travel haibun in the manner of Basho.  http://dversepoets.com/2016/02/29/haibun-monday-8/

Rice Planting
All journeys may begin with a single footstep but, sometimes that first step is taken because of madness, bitterness, the hope of regaining that which was lost, or renewing a love now gone sour. I stepped away from being a successful executive chef to find again my lost love – food. An exacting lover but one that changes for the better in all the seasons of the year, in all the places of the world. Oddly enough, also the lover who taught me more about writing haiku – classic, real, genuine haiku. The lover who instilled in me a deeper sense of poetry and beautiful discipline – not a tightly constrained discipline, but one that flowed with the world around me. In my burned out madness, I truly believed I could win back this lover. My journey began with stepping on the plane to Tokyo.

It was spring – spring in Japan when the cherry blossoms were merely reddish-brown buds ripe with the promise of a blooming spring. I had arranged a trip that would allow me to follow in the footsteps of my beloved and revered Basho. I arrived at Sukagawa during rice planting season – this time of early spring. Workers were standing in the water planting rice – sometimes in total silence, at other times bits of song reached my ears accompanied by the song of birds. The rich smell of water and mud surrounded me. The air was cool and the distant mountains seemed to make the air even cooler. My guide asked if I wanted to speak to some of the workers. I said that in addition, could I be shown how to plant rice and to be allowed to share in the labor? He hesitated but after money pressed into his hand, he spoke to the supervisor who put me with a group of older, more experienced rice planters – small women with wrinkled faces and tough, surprisingly delicate hands. The guide stood on the side of the field as I rolled up my pants and took off my shoes. The women looked at me with bland faces – hiding thoughts – rich white woman wants to play in the mud – but courteously allowed me to stand by them and then, at my smiles and insistent gestures, showed me how to plant rice.

I followed them on that journey of bending, digging, lightly pressing plants into the mud and when they judged I would not ruin the crop, left me alone to my work beside them. Sometimes I would look around me at the field, the other workers, an early blooming pear tree on the hillside and then bend again. At noon, they stepped onto the side of the field and began to eat a brief meal, while standing. I was gladdened when they began to share out their simple meals with me – balls of steamed rice wrapped in black seaweed, bits of fish, sliced cucumbers and apples and with fingers pressed to lips for silence, sips of sake. Motions from the women told me the rice I was eating came from this field. I looked at the rice ball and felt tears sliding down my face. In my hand, I held once again that lover I had thought I would never find again. Before I left the field that day, I gifted my Nikes, a bracelet, some American coins, a head scarf. Paltry items in return for what they had given me. I was on the way to being sane and whole again, taking the first step to rediscover my soul and reunite with my true love.

pear blooms on hillside –
cold spring day with meal of rice
and fish – rice field waits.

public domain image

public domain image

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