Yosa Buson, “New Year’s Day”

New Year’s Day I resolved to do more, to change bad habits, to live better. That went pffft pretty fast. A few weeks ago I resolved to write more, and hahahahaha you can see how I fed that promise toxic waste. A bit of a chuckle, then, accompanied my spotting Buson’s haiku:

New Year's Day
Yosa Buson (tr. Yuki Sawa & Edith Shiffet)

New Year's Day
and on the day after,
fog from place to place in Kyoto.

New Year’s Day and on the day after — yup, nothing’s changed. Spring should blossom; green should crack through the frost; sunlight should sparkle on the water. Nope, all we’ve got is fog from place to place in Kyoto. In 18th century Japan, everyone walks everywhere. I imagine cold, humid, damp fog, a perpetually gray city. Nothing has changed, everything looks the same. Going from place to place feels futile.

Yet you can detect the optimism in the wordplay. The fog will lift, and the very thing producing misery now is a shroud. You don’t know when good things will happen. What makes the New Year awesome is that it reintroduces us to the fact they can happen.

Does any of this mean I’ll make good on my resolutions? I don’t know. I’ve been documenting how I feel when I don’t do things. I guess that’s a start. I confess it does not feel ideal. If I called myself lazy and that worked, if I provoked a sense of shame, that would feel a lot less mysterious.


Sawa, Yuki and Edith Shiffert. Haiku Master Buson. Union City, California: Heian, 1978.

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