INTO THE INTERIOR by Michael Massey
(Poetry Ireland News September/October 2013)
every day is a journey,
and the journey itself is home
I am reading the travel diaries of Matsuo Basho, Japan's most famous haiku master. I picture him sewing patches onto his already well-patched old cotton trousers, settling the battered straw hat on his head, pinning a poem to the door of his hut, then resuming his wandering.
it's late, we've miles
to go together
On his journey to the interior, Basho trudges through deep snow, crosses mountains, wades into swollen streams: frail, ill, spirit-driven. All is hardship. And all is transformed into haiku.
By perfecting his craft he perfects his life; lives haiku through senses and the heart.
father and mother
long gone, suddenly return
in the pheasant's cry
Basho reduces life to its essentials. He enters the life of ordinary things, strives to produce poetry in simple, artless language, tires to capture the moment; each haiku a breath of freedom, each haiku simply elegant, elegantly simple.
I grow close to that man, Matsuo Basho, his love of things old, worn and simple.
these winter showers –
even the monkey reaches
for a raincoat
an aging peach tree –
don't strip and scatter its leaves
cold autumn wind
On his deathbed he could joke: those flies like having a sick man around.
I weep for Matsuo Basho as he breathes his last breath on an autumn evening more than three centuries ago.
now a cuckoo's song
carries the haiku master
right out of this world
Michael Massey’s publication credits include Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly and THE SHOp. His most recent collection is Sifting Through Ashes (Lapwing Press). The haiku in this essay, written by Matsuo Basho, are translated by Sam Hamill.