Sunday, June 17, 2018


Yesterday evening, I sat listening to the birds chattering and singing outside the window, in the back garden.  There are so many worlds within the World!  Abiding before we arrive, abiding after we depart. A thought that brings with it a certain reassurance, and serenity.

                      Aboard a Boat, Listening to Insects

As though delighting, as though grieving, each with its own song --
an idler, listening, finds his ears washed completely clean.
As the boat draws away from grassy banks, they grow more distant,
till the many varied voices become one single voice.

Ōkubo Shibutsu (1767-1837) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Kanshi: The Poetry of Ishikawa Jōzan and Other Edo-Period Poets (North Point Press 1990), page 92.

Anthony Eyton (b. 1923), "Oak Wood"

As I have noted here in the past, I am always pleased to see the ant hills appear in the seams of the sidewalks in late spring.  Mere grains of sand, yes; but, still.  I feel the same way when I hear the sound of grasshoppers off in the tall grass of a meadow on a sunny afternoon in early summer.  Eternity resides in these renewals and recurrences.

Be the keeper of the graveyard
     When I die.

Issa (1763-1828) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido Press 1952), p. xxvi.

Michael Garton (1935-2004), "Woodland Clearing"


Forti Radici said...

"...I am always pleased to see the ant hills appear in the seams of the sidewalks in late spring. Mere grains of sand, yes; but, still. I feel the same way when I hear the sound of grasshoppers off in the tall grass of a meadow on a sunny afternoon in early summer. Eternity resides in these renewals and recurrences"

Just what I needed to hear. The present so fragile, the future threatening, SO important to remember that we're just another form of life on a spinning planet that's fueled by a star etc etc. Looking at the crescent moon last night as it dove behind a mountain, then golden clouds at sunset today..... reminders.

Anonymous said...

I think the below one of Dickinson’s finest poems (It’s below the Stevens poem). It’s not apt here the middle of June (or is it always appostite?). She is talking about the middle or end of August, when one doesn’t hear the birds so much as one hears “a minor nation” (grasshoppers, etc.) celebrating “Its unobtrusive mass. Somehow the “pensive” sounds increases “loneliness.” The sound is felt (synesthesia?) most at noon. The difference is hard to see, but nonetheless one senses “a Druidic difference” now, something that enhances nature and by intimation the soul. Faulkner speaks of an almost spectral appearance in August (He has a novel called “Light in August”), and we know what Stevens thought of August. I can think of the month (my birthday month) without seeing my doppelganger, the rabbit in the grass. Oh, what a grand poem this is that Stevens wrote, one we love, and I love Dickinson too. I yearn to conjoin Fat Wally and Miss Emily, see as they saw, interpret the world, sift it through their acute sensibilities. Ach, it’s only the middle of June, green rioting in green outside my study window, leaves eddying in the twilight, little green fingers quivering, and I find myself dreaming of indolent August, the saucy and plump earth grown tired and sleepy. Even the high built clouds are too lazy to move. They lie around the sky like lackadaisical and enervated sultans in perfumed seraglios.

The difficulty to think at the end of day,
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun
And nothing is left except light on your fur—

There was the cat slopping its milk all day,
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk
And August the most peaceful month.

To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat,
The cat forgotten in the moon;

And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light,
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained;

Then there is nothing to think of. It comes of itself;
And east rushes west and west rushes down,
No matter. The grass is full

And full of yourself. The trees around are for you,
The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges,

You become a self that fills the four corners of night.
The red cat hides away in the fur-light
And there you are humped high, humped up,

You are humped higher and higher, black as stone—
You sit with your head like a carving in space
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.
Wallace Stevens
Emily Dickinson
Further in Summer than the Birds
Pathetic from the Grass
A minor Nation celebrates
Its unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen
So gradual the Grace
A pensive Custom it becomes
Enlarging Loneliness.

Antiquest felt at Noon
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify

Remit as yet no Grace
No Furrow on the Glow
Yet a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now
Emily Dickinson

littlemancat said...

Oh my, once again, the poems chosen, the sentiments you have expressed, have resonated deeply with me. These wonders that surround us- if we will simply turn our own internal chatter off ( and that of the world!)- can give us such solace. The best part of the day for me is when I am out walking, alone, yet quite happily so. Alone, but tuned in. Fully aware of something other than myself.
I have recently suffered a loss, and when I visit the grave, I find a peace "beyond understanding." Issa's haiku comes to me there and I was happy to see it here,in your post,again. The birds sing from the trees near-by, the small insects call, and it is all such a comfort. We are all part of it.
Thank you for this beautiful blog.

Stephen Pentz said...

Forti Radici: Thank you very much for those thoughts, with which I wholly agree. The moments you speak of are exactly what we need to be aware of, on a daily basis. As you say: "reminders." It is so easy to be distracted.

Thank you for visiting.

Stephen Pentz said...

Anonymous: Thank you very much for your meditation on June, August, summer and all else. And thank you as well for the poems by Stevens and Dickinson. The phrases that Dickinson comes up with are wondrous. In this instance (as you suggest), "a minor Nation celebrates/Its unobtrusive Mass" is marvelous. For some reason, I immediately thought, not of grasshoppers, but of the uncountable cicadas ("semi" in Japanese) that I experienced in summer when I lived in Japan. (Although one cannot call their sound "unobtrusive"!)

As for "A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts," it is one of my favorite Stevens poems, and has appeared here on more than one occasion as my "August poem." I appreciate your sharing it now: it fits in well with Ōkubo Shibutsu's poem, I think: "till the many varied voices become one single voice."

Thank you again for sharing both your thoughts and the poems.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mary: Thank you for the kind words, which I greatly appreciate. And thank you also for your lovely thoughts. I completely agree with you about needing to turn off both the internal and external "chatter" in order to appreciate "these wonders that surround us." You and I feel the same way about our daily walks: you articulate wonderfully the contentment they bring; "fully aware of something other than myself" in particular strikes a chord with me.

I can understand how Issa's grasshopper haiku would return to you and, along with all else that surrounds you, provide a bit of comfort as you visit your loved one. I know that you, like me, are fond of haiku. It's interesting how, over the years, certain haiku become touchstones for us, isn't it? And our fondness for them may change and deepen as our life progresses. It's nice to know we share the same affection for Issa's grasshopper.

As always, it is a pleasure to hear from you. I wish you well during this difficult time. Take care.