April 8th 2016

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old
····tree bent double—winds over the withered
········field
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A tree is rooted in one place for the whole of its life and whatever obstacles, whether a slope, exposure to wind and weather, poor soil, a ledge or the shadow of other trees, shape it and give the tree character. The tree expresses the nature of the earth and sky in one place—and may be crooked, straight, bare or long-lived. It will be true to that acre of earth and sun. I think we’re no different though we move from one plot of earth to another. We have our own slopes, exposures, poor soil and ledge—and carry in our limbs the dignity of our own knots and burls.
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Withered is a word that appears in many translations of Japanese haiku. I don’t know what the original Japanese word (or words) might be and whether they suggest other connotations. I’ve long had it mind to use withered as a nod to the old masters, but could never find a use that didn’t seem too derivative. The most famous use is probably found in Basho’s “death poem”:
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on a journey, ill:
····my dream goes wandering
········over withered fields
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To which another Japanese poet, in a fit of self-pity, wrote:
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locked in my room:
····my dream goes wandering
········over brothels
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154 April 8th 2016 | bottlecap

2 responses

  1. I took “winds” not only as moving air, but also as a tree description. So the branches are winding, or the bark pattern is winding. Like an ancient, arthritic tree, warped and winding over the balding grass, something like that.

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