A Hundred Gourds 4:4 September 2015

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blooming olive tree—
the way yesterday
will change tomorrow

dancing on the clothesline
a flag of Israel

through my open window
on the fifteenth floor
I hear music

painting a creek, I rinse
the brush in its waters

a pile of snowballs
melt beside the road
to Hermon mountain

beneath blue skies
the sombre tit wears a yarmulke

this summer night
when earth and moon fall in love
all the stars wink

and nowadays his countless faults
in the spotlight

from the boy shepherd
David's slingshot
a giant death-howl

hands sunk deep in pockets
what was it I had wished for?

autumn wind
and the sound of a silver coin
in the koi pond

to cherish every dewdrop
in this dewdrop world


Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu (Romania): Verse 1
Hana Nestieva (Israel): Verses 2 and 8
Freddy Ben-Arroyo (Israel): Verse 3
Nora Marina (Israel): verse 4
Roman Lyakhovetsky (Israel): Verse 5
Eider Green (UK): Verse 6
Pat Geyer (US): Verse 7
Alee Imperial Albano (Canada): Verse 9
Pat Nelson (US): Verse 10
Sandip Chauhan (India): Verse 11
Norman Darlington (lead poet, Ireland): Verse 12

While there can be no theme to Shofu renku, there is inevitably a poetic flavour gained from the context of the poem's composition, in this case within an online Israel-centred haikai group. So it is natural that the land of Israel, its geography, its history and its culture, although not forming a narrative, should be felt throughout as a kind of leitmotiv, sometimes to the fore, sometimes in the background, but always present.

The poem was composed during the period 24 May to 1 July 2014, which encompassed a particularly trying time for the Israeli nation: the kidnapping and murder of teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah. The requirement for the final verse of a renku to be uplifting presented a particular challenge, written as it was, one day after the announcement that the murdered boys' bodies had been found. As with all of the verses, each of the participants was invited to offer a verse for consideration, from which I, as sabaki, would select the successful candidate. A number of excellent verses were offered, but none felt quite appropriate under the prevailing circumstances. In the end, I decided to attempt a few lines myself, and finally settled on the following:

to cherish every dewdrop
in this dewdrop world

Dew and dewdrops are a trope that has been used for centuries in Japanese poetry to stand for transience, dewdrops representing the individual human soul. The verse is written in recognition that all human life is transient and may be snatched from us at any moment, but that the appropriate response, rather than to remove ourselves from all material attachments, is to cherish one another all the more deeply, treasuring the time allotted to us. I think of the 19th century master Kobayashi Issa's well-known hokku:

This world of dew
it's just a world of dew–
and yet...

David Lanoue wrote: "This haiku was written on the one-year anniversary of the death of Issa's firstborn child, the boy Sentarô. It has a one-word prescript: 'Grieving.' According to Buddhist teaching, life is as fleeting as a dewdrop and so one should not grow attached to the things of this world. Issa's response: 'and yet...' "

-​ Norman Darlington. Ireland​

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