Well before the dawn

Well before the dawn
A confused snow starts to swirl
Slanting left—then right
Floats—rises—falls half as rain
The night’s thoughts melting away

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Has clutched its beloved dead

All winter the oak
Has clutched its beloved dead
Leaves—now warm spring winds
Peel them away—one-by-one—
Forsaken—then forgotten

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Mid-April snowfall

Mid-April snowfall
A little slap and tickle
From Old Man Winter
The well-heeled bitch and bitch and
The ragged homeless shiver

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Tender winds above the snow

Tender winds above the snow
Strip layer upon layer
Bare—a winter’s worth
Of shit and suffering shown
Ground readied for this year’s crop

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Depth Charge: The first line of this poem is lifted from Kyutaro’s death poem: Tender winds above the snow/melt many kinds/of suffering (Japanese Death Poems, Hoffman, pp 97-98) in which the poet compares his dying to the gradual process of melting snow and the release that represents. For us who continue living, the melting snows represent the start of another cycle of shit and suffering.

 

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

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Five Cicada Response Poems

Cicada_4_20130826_cropped

Mid-March winter storm
No moon—no cicada song
Just soft white silence

Beneath frozen ground
Larvae are waiting to grow
Shells to escape from

I too have spent years
Living deep underground—but
Never learned to sing

Cicada singing
How long do you think your song
Goes on—forever?

We are meant to sing
In choruses—hearing you
Singing your solo
It is truly beautiful
But pointless and so so sad

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Depth Charge: Each of the above poems is a response to a poem in Japanese Death Poems that contains a reference to cicadas, their songs or their abandoned shells clinging to tree trunks and branches.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

I’ll be just another ghost

I'll be just another ghost

Very very soon
I’ll be just another ghost
A figment of your
Imagination only
No longer of mine as well

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Depth charge: A warrior name Fuse Yajiro wrote the following 辞世, jisei,death poem:

Before long
I shall be a ghost
but just now
how they bite my flesh!
the winds of autumn

(from Japanese Death Poems by Yoel Hoffman)

This got me thinking about what it really means to be a ghost.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

Two tankas inspired by Japanese Death Poems

Two tankas

Ones I know and love
Each day fewer and fewer
World filled with strangers
Soon I will know nobody
Likely not even myself

Each day the sea eats
More and more of our red flesh
Our small island home
Solid no longer—dissolves
Into sea currents—shifting

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Depth charge: I am finding reading Japanese Death Poems by Yoel Hoffman extremely productive.

The first tanka above came to me after reading this death poem by the wife of a warrior who died in battle:

They who are no more
increase from day to day—
in such a world
how could I think
that when it came to me…

by the Wife of General Hyogo, Japanese Death Poems by Y. Hoffman, p. 63.

A corollary of the sentiment expressed in this death poem is that as time passes our world, which is already populated overwhelmingly by strangers, becomes even more so with the death of each loved one.

The second tanka comes from reading this death poem by a woman married to the man who killed her brother:

My heart
is a bottomless river,
a raging torrent—
how can I throw my name
into the tempting waters?

by Nara Yayoi, Japanese Death Poems by Y. Hoffman, p. 64.

The original death poem about a woman choosing suicide over marriage to the man who murdered her brother is transformed into a poem about loss of home and climate change, among other things.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

Should evergreens be

Graveyard lichens 2012-07-24 13.55.57

Should evergreens be
The only trees in graveyards
Fragrant spruce—fir—pine
Year-round perfuming the dead
Dreams fragile in the cold ground?

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Depth Charge: This tanka was sparked by a line from Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s short story, O-Gin, as translated by Jay Rubin: “…dreaming their fragile dreams of a Buddhist paradise there beneath the graveyard pines…”

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

To some the bright stars

To some the bright stars
Of a cold winter night sky
Are an immense weight
Of darkness
x                      —void
x                                  —but others
In their dreams
x                                   —float
x                       —forever

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Depth Charge: The impetus for this Exploded Tanka* is a line from Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s Hell Screen, as translated by Jay Rubin: “He wore what seemed to be his usual reddish-brown robe and tall soft black hat, and he looked especially small and shabby, as though the star-filled sky were a weight pressing down upon him.”

*The standard 5-7-5-7-7, 31-syllable scan is maintained, but the lines have been pulled apart for ease of alternate readings, such as reading it in columns according to indentation: To some the bright stars/Of a cold winter night sky/Are an immense weight/Of darkness/In their dreams/—void/—forever/—but others/—float. The original lines are easily enough re-constructed: To some the bright stars/Of a cold winter night sky/Are an immense weight/Of darkness—void—but others/In their dreams—float—forever.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”