Kikaku, “Above the boat”

“Above the boat” (from A Book of Luminous Things, ed. Czeslaw Milosz)
Kikaku (trans. Lucien Stryk & Takashi Ikemoto)

Above the boat,
of wild geese.


Milosz: “In Japanese haiku there are often flashes, or glimpses, and things appear like lightning, or as if in the light of a flare: epiphanies of a landscape.”

I can imagine the speaker in the boat lying around lazily in the summer, trying to be comfortable. But this might also be fall and the geese are migrating. For a second, maybe the thought: “What is that?” It’s hard to confuse the bellies with clouds, very hard, but the funny thing is how the malleability of clouds points to our confusion of what’s above. It doesn’t matter that we know bellies aren’t clouds and don’t see them as clouds. What matters is that we may not recognize objects for what they are.

We’re in the boat and the geese are flying no matter what. We see their bellies. Fall or summer, our appetites are central. What I’m wondering about is how we’re stuck and not stuck with our appetites.

You can see the clouds and imagine. Even confusion is an imaginative act. Does that reduce to just seeing your own appetites? Not that we would eat geese, but we will sleep in the boat or fish. What is above either reflects our reality or is something altogether different, flying as it will. Our own movement seems rather limited.

And yet we did imagine; we did it with earthy, dirty objects. We didn’t need the blank canvas of a clear blue sky or objects that changed shape. All we needed was to glimpse something, to put the reality we are in together.

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