Sunday, November 23, 2014

6 Short Poems about the Monk Ikkyū

Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun), Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun) poetry, Buddhist, Buddhist poetry, Zen / Chan poetry,  poetry,  poetry

Ikkyū was an eccentric, iconoclastic Japanese Zen Buddhist monk and poet (1394-1481).  A couple years ago, I wrote a sequence of poems about him.  The poems appeared in the Buddhist Poetry Review.

6 Short Poems about the Monk Ikkyū 


Ikkyū stands
at the edge
of the great sea—

there are waves
in his eyes
so he shuts them.


If Ikkyū falls asleep,
his dreams don’t. 

They live
in the river country
of trees and sunshine.


Ikkyū sits
in the marketplace
and tries to explain

Here’s what he says
to a soldier:

A tree is
the palm of my hand
and the face
of all there is
in the universe
to wonder about

It is the tree to heaven
and its roots start
in my heart and yours.


Ikkyū knows
Buddha can’t tell him 
why the rain falls
or why sin is a wide road
with many curves

or why he grows old 
when he has struggled 
so much to know 
so little of life.


Ikkyū watches
the snow fall
at night

He’s happy
it’s warm
and that others
sleep in the shadows
with him.


Ikkyū  eats
a black cherry
and remembers
a dead friend

how much he loved
their dark
early in the morning

the harvest
never lasted
long enough


Denise Carruthers said...

this is quite the best series of haiku i've ever read.

shunyadragon said...

I appreciate your translation and explanation.

go with the flow the river knows ...