Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Poem - Japan

I was so delighted by this poem that Barry posted over on Ox Herding - End of Year Poems 3, that I am re-posting it here. If you're not already familiar with Ox Herding I suggest you check it out and enjoy browsing back through the many wonderful posts there.


    Today I pass the time reading
    a favorite haiku,
    saying the few words over and over.

    It feels like eating
    the same small, perfect grape
    again and again.

    I walk through the house reciting it
    and leave its letters falling
    through the air of every room.

    I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
    I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
    I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

    I listen to myself saying it,
    then I say it without listening,
    then I hear it without saying it.

    And when the dog looks up at me,
    I kneel down on the floor
    and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

    It's the one about the one-ton temple bell
    with the moth sleeping on its surface,

    and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
    pressure of the moth
    on the surface of the iron bell.

    When I say it at the window,
    the bell is the world
    and I am the moth resting there.

    When I say it at the mirror,
    I am the heavy bell
    and the moth is life with its papery wings.

    And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
    you are the bell,
    and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

    and the moth has flown
    from its line
    and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

- From Sailing Alone Around the Room, by Billy Collins

The haiku it refers to is helpfully provided in the comments by "Matt W" -

    On the one-ton temple bell
    a moon-moth, folded into sleep,
    sits still.

    ~ Taniguchi Buson (1716-1783)