With thanks to Madeline Frohlich
Napped half the day (from Modern American Poetry)
Kobayashi Issa (tr. Robert Hass)
Napped half the day;
Our speaker was actually punished – by “no one.” What does it mean to sleep half the day? It is a denial of existence, no?
“No one” puts together halves that don’t form a whole. “No one” is an observer that is the speaker himself, not just everyone else. The speaker observed himself, now relates the story. Perhaps “no one” is ultimately appealing to “every one” for punishment.
The key question, though: how do our waking and sleeping selves unite? They really don’t. Sleeping is almost punishment for waking, and waking is definitely punishment at times after sleep. Our lives aren’t torture, they just don’t make a lot of sense. We work to try and keep things going that do make sense. We are punished for betraying those conventions, those which help keep others sane. But napping half the day isn’t insanity, when you really think about it. It isn’t just laziness here. It’s actually an attempted reconciliation between our sleeping and waking hours. A lack of existence is a lack of such a reconciliation.