|TABLE OF CONTENTS
XVIII:2, June, 2003
WHAT I KNOW OF VAN GOGH AND HAIKU by Gerard J. Conforti,
SEASONS by Allen McGill
THE BUILDER'S ROAD by Gary LeBel
GONE? by M.L. Harrison Mackie,
THE SEA IN WINTER - FUYU NO UMI
COPPER ON A MINARET by Werner Reichhold,
WIND'S BAREFEET by
This line is trite, and so's your whole ghazal,
In Farsi and Urdu, tongues of the original,
Refrain and repetition are boring after a while;
Don't bother defending it with pride or guile -
Thank god, Ruth, it's not you taking the fall;
I guess the expression is "I dodged the bullet." I came home late on monday, 10:30 PM. Parkside Drive was blocked off, so the Queensway 80 bus-driver offered to pull around Roncesvalles south to Queen and Parkside. Walking up Parkside, I counted 16 fire-trucks and police cars. An ambulance rushed by towards St Joe's. I just wanted to relax after work, and thought it was a car accident. Then I thought, "Boy, that's close to my house." Then I saw the fire-ladder, towards the flames pouring through the roof . I thought "Oh, shit! Now what?" I tried to get into my apartment , but was stopped by police and firemen. "but I live there!' - "Not now, you don't." Then they let me have five minutes to get "all" my "valuables." With a fireman-guard holding a flashlight, but my place had the only electricity in the house. I had gotten a hold of Melisa and her friend Yuri, by a cell phone commandeered from another house person. They soon showed up (a fireman told me my daughter was outside asking about me) and asking where my paintings were, as I emerged from the smoke and water spray. I went for the mail, dropped a letter addressed to me, and grabbed another person's phone bill; lost my scarf under a fire-truck's wheel (picked it up the next day). Mae Li insisted I get back in and pull out the paintings, and though we negotiated another run, it really couldn't be done. We did get about six framed drawings, and the turkey I cooked the night before for New Years. Took a cab to her place. The next day (Dec 31) I went somewhat unwillingly to work, left early and went to my "place" to discard the genuinely trampled and smoked. The third floor was gutted. One of the tenants from the second floor was moving his stuff into a van. "Moving out?" I asked. "Unplanned" he said. "Coming back?" I asked. "Would you?" he said. Then, for the tenth time, "Do you have any insurance?"... "No."
My computer, perversely, booted smoothly and trouble free. Then I spent New Years as an unexpected guest. First night back "here" last night, the house was empty of men and women, dogs and cats, rats and mice, and ghosts. Only me who represented all of the above. Read a book on Probability and Life in the Universe: Perverse fractals and differential calculus. Better than sleeping pills. Discarded the discardable. Somehow, the things that are lost stay with you forever. (The fire was on the news on TV, but I didn't see it. Too occupied. I got a clipping from the Paper, but they called this a "rooming house." Rooming house?!! The top floor that burned overlooked High Park, and had a view of the Lake Ontario Horizon and went for upwards of $2000/mo. My apartment in the basement still isn't cheap. But I guess "rooming house" caught a certain inner city charm for the journalistas. Ah well, another day, another 63. 25 cents. Thereport of my demise was somewhat premature.
Somebody interviewing Jean Cocteau asked, "In case of fire , what would you take among your treasures?" "I'd take the fire!" he replied
Through the charred
It is a hot brilliantly sunny afternoon on the Little Choptank River, which is located on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay about midway between the mouth and the head in an undeveloped area. I am anchored well up the river on a little side creek just behind a sandy spit of land that is too narrow to allow building. It has a white sand beach and a thin line of trees. There is not another human being in sight as far as the eye can see in any direction. On one side of me the river opens to a wide expanse of five or six miles of open water, but it is very shallow. On my other side the creek winds its way into the distance. It is bordered by marsh, sparse bushes, and trees. The trees look like bonsai trees swept by storms and stunted by the harsh growing conditions. All morning I had been watching the resident Bald Eagle swoop and hunt then return to the highest perch in the thin line of trees that run behind the beach.
The temperature is like an oven and the breeze is non-existent. Because there is no breeze or boat activity as far as the eye can see the surface of the river is like a mirror. Only an occasional swimming blue crab touches the surface. This touch creates a bull's eye rippling effect on the water surface. I have decided to stay in this protected spot for a day or so and spend my time reading and taking in the sights. There is no use in trying to sail until there is some wind, anyway.
I sit silently on the deck and gaze at the shoreline. In my peripheral vision I notice some slight movement just next to the boat about two or three feet from me.
WHAT I KNOW OF VAN GOGH AND HAIKU
It’s been over four years since my last hospitalization in a psych ward. Through my hospital stays, I’ve learned how much suffering Van Gogh must have gone through in his life time. Throughout Van Gogh’s stays in psych units, he suffered from convulsive fits which increased and caused great stress and his heightened psychosis. When he was able to paint pictures of what he saw outside the window bars which kept him prisoner of a ward where he saw great suffering among the other inmates, he kept his mind focused on his painting which was the only way he could somewhat cope with all he was going through. Every day was a constant battle to over come some of the suffering he was experiencing. When he painted pictures of the less fortunate, it was his way of showing all the sorrow he witnessed and the love of nature which was a great part of his paintings. As the years passed he also wrote many letters to his brother, Theo, who lived in France, and whom Van Gogh visited a number of times. Van Gogh’s greatest works were painting of his self-portraits which showed much of the emotional turmoil he was going through.
Through my on-and off years in a pysch ward, I experienced the turmoil of emotions the in-patients also suffered from. In Van Gogh’s time there wasn’t too much help for the mentally ill like we have today. At one time, the doctors who treated Van Gogh and the others didn’t have the medication and other help we have in our present day. In Van Gogh’s time, the mentally ill were locked up for life and this still goes on for many pysch patients who can’t function on the outside world because the medication they are on doesn’t work well for them. It was what I had gone through in pysch units over the years that I learned how to express myself in pictures as written words. This was done through writing haiku or tanka which I had learned from the Japanese, American, and other haiku and tanka writers in other countries. It was all the misery I was going through which formed me to put my pen to the paper and write about what I’ve seen and witnessed in the hospitals. This was a release for me, the same way Van Gogh found in his paintings.
Sitting on a bench
This is what I experienced one late spring day outside the locked pysch ward. In the above haiku, I tried to express in my own words the beauty of nature and the suffering it entails. It is the sorrow I feel every day, along with the emotional pain which has caused me to write what of pysch wards or people trying to mend their own lives the best way they knew how.
The heat of the day:
I often felt very alone in those hospitals.
One of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings was "Starry Night." He, too, wanted to be out under the stars when he was locked up.
In the spring winds
When I could finally roam the meadows outdoors I was sure Van Gogh felt the same when he painted various kinds of fields and orchards.
And finally, the last haiku describes how far to go and how much Van Gogh wanted to achieve in his lifetime when he killed himself in Arles, France:
Yellow crocuses popped open during the early spring morning, to join the purples and whites already bordering the garden of our upstate New York home. They illuminated the bleakness left by winter's freezing, the first sign that our heavy coats would soon be spirited away - to wherever children's padding goes when warmth infuses the air.
My little brother Jackie and I peered closely to ooh and aah at the new arrivals, and to congratulate each other on how clever we were. We had planted the bulbs the previous autumn and the results of our superb labor were now obvious.
thin leaflets of green
The garden hose was a delight during the heat of summer, so much more fun than any pool. Dad would stand on the sidelines, to follow Jack, me, and groups of our friends with the water spray as we ran squealing across the lawn, not trying very hard to escape. The antics were always followed by a communal picnic lunch on the long redwood table: pitchers of fruit drinks, all imaginable sandwiches, including peanut butter and jelly, potato and macaroni salads, and enormous slices of watermelon.
a stone nymph
A grand maple tree stood sentry at the corner of our garden nearest the street, providing us with shade when desired and beauty always. It was especially striking when the veined green of the tri-corner leaves began to ease into autumn shades of reds and yellows, coppers, rusts and golds. On windy days Jackie and I would stand on the porch and watch the confetti-like shower of leaves fall to blanket the lawn, swirling and tumbling as the breeze played with them.
We would watch eagerly as Dad raked the leaves into piles and then retreat into the house. Diving beneath the mounds, we'd wait until he came back with the leaf bags, then jump out with a loud "SURPRISE!" Year after year he was startled.
Appearing forlorn, with plastic-wrapped fruit trees, pruned bushes and bare limbs, the winter garden would soon take on the guise of a magic place for Jackie and me. Daily, we'd watch the skies for snowflakes to fall, eager for the fun that millions of them would bring. But somehow the first snowfall never came during the day, always at night, like Santa Claus, to leave the most wondrous of gifts. Where the garden had seemed barren and dull, it now afforded abundant material for building forts and packing battle snowballs.
maple and nymph
green buds appear
THE BUILDER'S ROAD
Arriving at twilight and anxious to smell the spring air four states from home, I find here are little ponds behind the motel to explore. Swimming side by side, silent white ducks forage without fear as I approach, accustomed as they must be to many strangers. In the places where we do our fieldwork, motels often form that last line of development beyond which lie the nameless tracts of woodlands between towns.
The builder's temporary road ends abruptly at a place where the night has already fallen. Town lights shine in the rain-filled tracks of dozers. In the soothing dark of several acres of brush and pine beyond, no neon glows.
REQUIEM TO AN ACTIVIST
she left a life of comfort
but instead joined pacifists
in a picket line abroad
45TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY
the gnarled trunk betrays its age
but the tree remains stronger
like our forty-fifth years' marriage
forty years - the full moon and venus outshine the memories
the thousand colours
under a lean-to
FIND IT IN YOURSELF
unable to concentrate
a young man
a Chinese boy
once it took so long
last day of classes
the river must make
nothing in the clouds
the spring just begun
planes lift off,
the trick of a decade,
I walk in front
so many signs to find
Mother's Day card
after the funeral
fascinating book -
all night listening
march melts into green
breeze bearing perfume -
tiptoeing on stones
dawn perspiring dew
in a soft white fog
i listened closely
tasting a segment
Momi Kam Holifield
where we floated the creek
ice-coated sticks -
a blush sweeping the sky
unable to visit
dressed in mist
I stop to ask if
A young black woman
her letting go
her take off
SNATCHES OF BIRDSONG
at the river
something pulls me
so much sadness of late
snatches of birdsong
THE SEA IN WINTER - FUYU NO UMI
By January of 1954, Fumiko’s cancer had spread to the lymph nodes so it was decided she should have radiation treatments. These had to be given in Sapporo, so she moved in with her married sister, Michiko who lived in Otaru, a seaside town about ten miles northeast of Sapporo, on the Sea of Japan. From there she could take a train to the hospital for her treatments.
Seeing such a terrible sea in the evening twilight, she imagines she can feel the sea's pain. Yet, in the cold evening twilight she felt so alone and drained that nothing could bother her anymore.
Facing death and yet not know how her life will end, she can only ask the wisdom of the sea for an answer.
While looking at the sea, she has a hallucinatory image that she might be becoming a fish. She imagines that the terrible pain she feels is due to a fin emerging from her smooth and breast-less chest.
a fin comes up
The phrase "hire, a fin, ouru, comes out," also suggests her fear of the cancer's reappearance in another part of her body as well as this part of a shark protrudes from the water.
The phrase yorokobi no ushinawaretaru umi, the sea which has lost its pleasure, is a beautiful way of describing the sea in winter also equates with Nakajoo's mind. The octopus is a metaphor of herself who cannot move freely due to her fatal disease. She is a poet who explains herself by using an apt metaphor and does not express herself realistically or directly. The image "curled toes" is a sexually stimulating description of pleasure. This, again, is one of her well-known tanka.
Between Otaru and Sapporo, the railroad runs right along the edge of the sea. On her trips to Sapporo for the many radiation treatments that winter, she sat in the train watching the cold sea, with high waves whipped up by the wind. At this time she was thirty-two years old.
fuyu no shiwa
wrinkles of winter
This is another of her famous tanka and the big stone monument inscribed with this poem was installed in her home town on the 3rd of August in 1960, as her seventh anniversary after her death. Beside the monument a grove of cherry trees were planted, so that people can enjoy walking around in it, especially in spring.
the black purr
from the dark
the tide turns
watching my hands
joy & release
did you know
the water color
a black pot
a dog barks
COPPER ON A MINARET
her dusty dress
probably) in its own entourage
I shall offer you
you could even hear
Snow knits green sage brush
Frosted tumbleweeds hang
Winter snow fell short
the moon lights
even in dreams
If you want to enter
a sure sewn levity
the shingles gather opulence
as the light procures a gesture in return
I like the day's having a little give in it
some wings are poised to life their way
Long flowers river their way
Hypotheses craft populations
Unless time fastened to encryption
rain light softens
of the window stains
and matching chimes
the rain birds trilling
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|Poems Copyright © by Designated Authors
Page Copyright ©Jane Reichhold 2003.
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LYNX XVIII:1 February, 2003