Archives for posts with tag: Japanese art

by David Mura

After wandering years
Basho returned
to gaze at his umbilical cord
pickled in a jar. Plopped
in brine years ago
like the frog in the pond
in his famous haiku.
Of course
fame meant nothing
to him. He stood
in the blazing rain
in his family graveyard
and as a crow squawked overhead
the stones proclaimed him
the last of his line. He
kept feeling inside his
straw raincoat for a missing
limb or the hole where
the wind and rain
flew in. I’ll get drunk
tonight, he thought,
and his eyelashes glistened
as he trudged back
to his hermit’s hut
to gaze again at the jar.

SOURCE: “Frightening Things” appears in David Mura‘s collection The Last Incantations: Poems  (TriQuarterly Books, 2014), available at

ART: “Portrait of Matsuo Basho” by Katsushika Hokusai


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  David Mura is a writer, memoirist, poet, and performance artist whose work has won critical praise and numerous awards. He gives presentations at educational institutions, businesses and other organizations throughout the country. His books include The Last Incantations: Poems (Triquarterly Books, 2014), Turning Japanese (1991), Where the Body Meets Memory (1996), After We Lost Our Way (1989), The Colors of Desire (1995), Angels for the Burning (2004), and Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto & Mr. Moto (2002). Visit the author at


Matsuo Basho‘s frog poem is illustrated in this canvas print, available in various sizes at This translation of the poem reads:

A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps . . .
Apart, unstirred by sound or motion . . . till
suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.

Frog Haiku
by Matsuo Basho
Translated by Alan Watts

The old pond,
A frog jumps in:

IMAGE: Fan painting of a frog (detail), Kano school (15th-19th century)

by Adelle Foley

Winter may be gone
Maybe time to move on toward
May memorials.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adelle Foley is a retirement administrator, an arts activist, and a writer of haiku. Her column, “High Street Neighborhood News,” appears monthly in The MacArthur Metro. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, in textbooks, and in Columbia University Press’s internet database, the Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry. Along the Bloodline is her first book-length collection. Beat poet Michael McClure writes, “Adelle Foley’s haikus show us humanity. Their vitality and imagination shine from her compassion; from seeing things as they truly are.” Visit her online at

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Most of my haiku start life in the margins of The Oakland Tribune as I walk to work.

Poem for my Persimmon Tree and the Crows Who Visit It
by Gerald Nicosia

There’s a persimmon tree I see every day
Outside my bathroom window
I’ve seen it at least ten thousand times
But I’ve never actually
Looked at it
Today I wondered why I’d never paid attention
Before when it will
Probably outlive me just
As Kesey’s apple tree outlived
Him in the photo of them together just before
He died with his sad face knowing
He’ll be saying goodbye soon to the apple tree
So I thought it was time
I pay attention to this persimmon
And try to learn its lessons
Its fruit are barely orange now,
They’re born in May and
Take months to ripen and
As they do the crows
Start to come and test them and
Finally start eating them
And eventually the tree is leafless and
All stark Halloween colors
Dark rain-wet bark, bright orange-red globes and
The moving black patches of crows’ wings
But today there are still many of
The faint green, yellow, brown-mottled and sere leaves guarding
The still swelling fruit and I note
How the branches never move in straight lines and I wonder
How the tree knows just when to make a new
Branch from a bough and I realize there are lessons
Here waiting to be learned
That people including myself
Pass by every day and
I wonder how we can
Presume to live and die without
Ever having even tried
To learn them
As the crows do.

IMAGE: “Crow eating a persimmon,” original woodblock print (1910) by Koson (1877-1945).  For more information, visit


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gerald Nicosia, born and raised in Chicago and transplanted to the San Francisco Bay Area in his late twenties, is a poet, fiction writer, biographer, historian, and playwright. He is best known for his biography of Jack Kerouac, Memory Babe. Long associated with the Beat and post-Beat writers, he has organized and taken part in hundreds of poetry readings, including a reading at Bob Weir’s Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California, that drew over three hundred people and celebrated the release of the movie version of On the Road, on which Nicosia worked as a consultant. He has also spent a good part of his life studying, helping, and chronicling the story of Vietnam veterans; his book Home to War on their struggle to heal and readjust was picked as one of the “Best Books of 2001” by the Los Angeles Times. He is currently at work on a biography of Ntozake Shange, and published his fourth book of poetry, Night Train to Shanghai, with Grizzly Peak Press in the summer of 2013. He has also taught and lectured extensively on the Beats, the Sixties, and modern literature.

by Mary Ruefle

A bride and a groom sitting in an open buggy
in the rain, holding hands but not looking
at each other, waiting for the rain to stop,
waiting for the marriage to begin, embarrassed
by the rain, the effect of the rain on the bridal
veil, the wet horse with his mane in his eyes,
the rain cold as the sea, the sea deep as love,
big drops of rain falling on the leather seat,
the rain beaded on a rose pinned to the groom’s
lapel, the rain on the bride’s bouquet,
on the baby’s breath there, the sound of the rain
hitting the driver’s top hat, the rain
shining like satin on the black street,
on the tips of patent leather shoes, Hokusai’s
father who polished mirrors for a living, Hokusai’s
father watching the sky for clouds, Hokusai’s father’s son
drawing rain over a bridge and over the people crossing
the bridge, Hokusai’s father’s son drawing the rain
for hours, Hokusai’s father rubbing a mirror, the rain
cold as the sea, the sea cold as love, the sea swelling
to a tidal wave, at the tip of the wave white.
“Rain Effect” appears in Mary Ruefle’s collection Cold Pluto (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1996)

ART: “Mt. Fuji Through Raindrops” by by Katsushika Hokusai (1831)

hiroshi tateishi
by Margaret Gibson

In fields of bush clover and hay-scent grass
the autumn moon takes refuge
The cricket’s song is gold

Zeshin’s loneliness taught him this

Who is coming?
What will come to pass, and pass?

Neither bruise nor sweetness nor cool air
knows the way

And the moon?
Who among us does not wander, and flare
and bow to the ground?

Who does not savor, and stand open
if only in secret

taking heart in the ripening of the moon?

Photo by Hiroshi Tateishi. 

by Taigu Ryōkan (1758-1831)

My beloved friend
You and I had a sweet talk,
Long ago, one autumn night.
Renewing itself
The year has rumbled along,
That night still in memory.

Illustration: “Early Autumn” by Qian Xuan (1235-1305)



Zen Poem by Taigu Ryōkan (1758-1831)

My beloved friend

You and I had a sweet talk,

Long ago, one autumn night.

Renewing itself

The year has rumbled along,

That night still in memory.

Illustration: “Early Autumn” by Qian Xuan (1235-1305)