Day's End

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Day's End

 

A Monk's Journey

 

courtesan and monk,
we sleep under one roof together,
moon in a field of clover
~ Bashō

Outside, apple blossoms glow in the dusk. She lies on her side, head propped up on a pillow, her eyes telling me that something important is coming, my eyes taking in the candlelight on her breasts.

"I need to know more about you," she says.

"Do you mean about being a monk?"

"Yes, because right now you don't seem very much like a monk." She glances at my hand wandering slowly along the curve of her hip.

"You're thinking about Christian monks, the ones who lived in dank cells, ate lentils and hard bread – the ones who whipped themselves. Think instead of Bashō, the Japanese monk who traveled extensively, shared his poetry with peasants and samurai nobles, loved flowers, enjoyed the company of women. Think more of a European troubadour with haiku as his song – in this case, an older guy, with gray hair."

I'm a wanderer
so let that be my name –
the first winter rain

~ Bashō

"Does this mean that I'm just someone who happens to sleep with you?"

"No, but I've been a partner all of my life and for now I need not to be."

"So what am I?" she asks. "I don't know how to tell my friends whatever it is we're doing. It feels like more than dating or having sex and it's not friendship because I don't sleep with my friends."

how reluctantly
the bee emerges from deep
within the peony

~ Bashō

"Can't we simply enjoy what we have," I reply.

"I'm reluctant to give up the feel of your skin against mine, but I'll have to think about this." She pecks a kiss, dresses and leaves.

A week later her note arrives: "I have such good memories of our moments together. It's a gift to desire and be desired, but we need such different things."

winter seclusion –
sitting propped against
the same worn post

~ Bashō

 


R. Rasmussen, Simply Haiku, 6:4, Winter 2008.

notes: All haiku are by Bashō whose translators are numerous. The translations above were found at the website titled "Bashō" which cited R.H. Blyth, W.J. Higginson, J. Reichhold and S. Hamill.