First days of spring
the sky is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything is turning green.
I carry my monk’s bowl and walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging at my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
“Why are you acting like such a fool?”
I nod my head and don’t answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what’s in my heart?
From the beginning of time:
Just this! Only this!
Empty and fleeting My years are gone
And now, quivering and frail,
I must fade away.
What will it be?
Flowers in spring,
The cuckoo in summer,
And the crimson maples of autumn…
The thief left it behind:
at my window.
My house is buried in the deepest recess of the forest
Every year, ivy vines grow longer than the year before.
Undisturbed by the affairs of the world I live at ease,
Woodmen’s singing rarely reaching me through the trees.
While the sun stays in the sky, I mend my torn clothes
And facing the moon, I read holy texts aloud to myself.
Let me drop a word of advice for believers of my faith.
To enjoy life’s immensity, you do not need many things.
Yes, I’m truly a fool
Living among trees and plants.
Please don’t question me about illusion and enlightenment --
This old fellow just likes to smile to himself.
I wade across streams with bony legs,
And carry a bag about in fine spring weather.
That’s my life,
And the world owes me nothing.
Who says my poems are poems?
These poems are not poems.
When you can understand this,
then we can begin to speak of poetry.
No luck today on my mendicant rounds;
From village to village I dragged myself.
At sunset I find myself with miles of mountains between me and my hut.
The wind tears at my frail body,
And my little bowl looks so forlorn --
Yes this is my chosen path that guides me
Through disappointment and pain, cold and hunger.
Down in the village
the din of
flute and drum,
here deep in the mountain
everywhere the sound of the pines.
Now at their peak in
Glorious full bloom.
Too precious to pick.
Too precious not to pick.