Saturday, September 3, 2011

Japan by Billy Collins

A Tobacco Moth, having supper at my Moonflower last summer.

by Billy Collins

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It’s the one about the one-ton
temple bell
with the moth sleeping on the surface***,

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it into the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.


***Haiku by the Japanese poet and painter Buson (1715 - 1783): 

"On the one-ton temple bell
A moon-moth, folded into sleep,
sits still."

(Translated by X. J. Kennedy)

From:  "The Norton Anthology of Poetry", page 1190


It's storming here in the swamps of my Louisiana.  Glorious shiny sheets of shimmering rain (I dare you to say that 3 times, really fast) are covering my world.  The drought is officially over.  I'm headed to my favorite cozy chair to read poetry, drink coffee and then read some more.  Oh, happy day!  :-)


"An ordinary man can... surround himself with two thousand books... and thenceforward have at least one place in the world in which it is possible to be happy." ~Augustine Birrell
"Let your bookcases and your shelves be your gardens and your pleasure-grounds. Pluck the fruit that grows therein, gather the roses, the spices, and the myrrh." ~Judah Ibn Tibbon


Ben Ditty said...

Glorious, shiny sheets of shimmering rain.

Glorious, shiny sheets of shimmering rain.

Glorious, shiny sheets of shimmering rain.

Splendid alliteration. A poem of its own :) Also, in love with your moonflower.

Kelly said...

I'm not sure how much of that will make it to us, so I'm jealous. Our cows are especially jealous!

Snowbrush said...

I sure miss the big moths--especially the lunas--and the moonflowers too.

I just hope you guys don't get too much of a good thing with this rain.

Marion said...

Ben, no fair. I bet you Ctrl A'd and Ctrl V'd. LOL! My Moonflowers love you, too. If you want some seeds for next year, just email me your address. They make lots of seeds by the end of Fall. xo

Kelly, I bet you get some of the rain up there in Arkansas before the weekend is over. xo

Snow, it's only rained twice here all summer. As long as this tropical storm doesn't stall, we'll be okay. It's much worse down south. One of my sister's in Krotz Springs and they've already had 6 inches of rain. Thanks for stopping by, my friend!!

Ben Ditty said...

Nope ;) I typed it all out AND said it.

ds said...

That is my favorite Billy Collins poem. Thanks for finding the haiku.
Hope the "glorious, shiny sheets of shimmering rain" (I can only do that once!) are not swamping you! Take care.

Marion said...

Ben, I'm impressed! :-)

DS, I'd never read that particular poem until the day I posted it. It's amazingly beautiful. I own all of Mr. Collins' books, but I'm a browser in most of my poetry books, not a straight-through reader. It's still raining today, but lightly. Just right for reading and taking a nice Sunday nap. Blessings!!

Serena said...

Oooo, I could just eat that poem up. I LOVE it. I don't think I've ever seen a tobacco moth before, but he looks like a magnificent specimen. I'm so glad you finally got some shiny sheets of shimmery rain! We're supposed to be getting some of it tomorrow, and we need it desperately. I don't remember the last rainy day I spent curled up with a book, so I'm looking forward to it.

erin said...

i wish i could learn the reserve of the haiku. somehow, i am guts on the screen instead. generally i'm not a fan but i read this,
"On the one-ton temple bell
A moon-moth, folded into sleep,
sits still" and i understand the significance of moderation. this i do not know in my bones though.


Marion said...

SJ, I think tropical storm Lee is headed your way. It got bad tonight with heavy winds, limbs down and flash flooding. We only got a little bit of water in. I'm just praying the power doesn't go out!!! xoxo

Erin, I used to love to write Haiku, but then I'd run out of syllables. LOL! I still appreciate the art, though, and read the old masters, Buson, Li Po, and Issa are a few I can recall. xoxo

since morning glories
hold my well-bucket hostage
I beg for water ~Basho

brilliant moon
is it true that you too
must pass in a hurry? ~ Issa

Wine and Words said...

This felt like worship. Is this how it is to worship poetry...a poem, a line? I will read it again with sacramental wine, a lace kerchief over my face and smile through bright white.

I love to think of you in your chair with your coffee and bookshelf behind you! Lucky, we have had no rain in such a long time!

Marion said...

I'm glad you got rain, dear Marion...there is nothing better for me. But I hope your power didn't go out...

That's a super photo of the moth and moonflower! I love the markings on the moth...see the eye? xx

Ed Pilolla said...

i love rainy days, very much. don't get 'em much here in so-cal.
the way collins ended it, with the image of the lovers in bed and the moth fluttering above, with reference to the bell, is just a heart-slowing moment. moon-moth is crazy beautiful. thanks:)