David Ray

      A Journey with Basho

Basho, please take me
along once more on that path–
Edo, here we come!

Yes, Sunflower Hill–
So it says–but I see none,
while you're still looking.

Clear your head of this–
It's a fool's notion that we
can stop too often.

There's no time for that–
night under moonstruck roof
where the red light glows.

Quit counting dim stars!
There's enough work for your eyes
right here on the path.

One chrysanthemum
is all I have, and she'll serve
no hot tea for that.

No free tea until
I said she must be joking–
"Surely not sixty!"

Stare at that new rice
all you want, but it will not
be ready in time.

Pausing by strange graves
we don't care if they're strangers.
We weep anyway.

Why does gratitude
occur to me only here–
too late and too far?

One night apart once
was unbearable. These days
one hour is too much.

Grateful that I have
nothing. I defer to your
wild spending spree.

Someday they will pay
for poems, you say as the wind–
even the wind–laughs.

So many places
where we might not mind dying,
yet we pass them by.

I left the sad one–
but you of the greater grief
left one who died.

It's fun to be old?
Even a fool like yourself
should not say such things.

Speak nonsense elsewhere.
Counting pearls will not give
count of your years left.

Still counting those miles–
proving you have learned nothing
since we two set out.

Among other sights
a castle. But of what use?
Wind blows through turrets.

The recluse announced
he was forsaking the world.
Brings crows every time!

Such wealth on this trip!
One day buy mountains, next day
blue harbor with boats.

Sixth day of new moon.
What an odd time to take leave.
Make it the seventh.

Such nonsense!–to think
the moon has only one task–
shine for your poem!

Talents are varied!
Some taste wine, but I can smell
lovers, gone for years.

What joy to drink rain,
knowing no poison can rise
as high as the clouds.

This morning, damn it,
I forgot to bless my shoes.
Basho, please forgive!

Wild geese in the sky–
let's watch them part, then follow
their example.

Sad clams torn from shells?
Tell which of us is the shell
and which the poor clam.

Basho's in hospice–
I saw him today–so frail–
with hoarfrost on brows.

Leafy tree, enough!
Green or gold, one more's too much.
Poets must rest their pens.

David Ray, Music of Time: Selected & New
Poems, The Backwaters Press, 2006.