Basho’s Neighbor

This darkening autumn: my neighbor,
how does he continue?
Epigram by Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch

The world is spinning
and I upon it, gripping
it tight so as not to fall off.

But what would be so
bad if I were to let go,
perchance to be released?

Would I really be missed?
You soon would all dismiss
any thought you had of me.

Your lives would go on,
with one less over yon,
a speck of creation gone.

Truly, don’t you see,
that our lives are not decreed
for any length of time.

We can depart or return,
as our hearts do yearn,
and neither is better or worse.

If I’ve lived before, I have no memory
of a husband, children, family.
So what is this game that keeps replaying?

Why am I here?
There have been too many years,
and too many tears that spilt from my heart.

Life is a mystery and so is death,
our lives are like pauses to catch our breath.
And death may be the light that carries us on.

Join us at dVerse where Mary invites us to write a response to another’s poem that we’ve read:  http://dversepoets.com/2016/01/19/poetics-writing-a-poem-in-response/

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26 Comments

  1. I love Basho, and your response.
    I am particularly enamored of this phrase, and the way you’ve set it apart on its own line:
    “But what would be so”
    It is a question of its own, a pondering of life. Wonderful.

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  2. I really enjoy reflective poems such as this one, poems that reflect on the purpose of life. I think at a certain point in one life we all must reflect on whether we would be missed if we were gone. So true that our lives are not decreed for any length of time. A life, no matter how many years lived, could end tomorrow. I like the optimistic end…that death could be the light that carries us on. As we face death, that probably is the hope for many!

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    • Thank you, Mary. We never know when we may go. :) I guess I would wonder more about whether or not I had made a positive difference in those close to me.

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  3. I esp love this ending

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  4. Wow!! Such an emotive piece :)

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    Reply
  5. I love a reflection like this.. giving perspective to ourselves… we are in many way less than a grain of sand..and afterwards we are what we believe… wonderful

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  6. As a person who serves folks for almost
    two decades in a humble job serving
    out somewhat dirty
    shoes to equal
    customer feet..
    working at a Mlitary
    Bowling Center.. after
    coming out of
    college with
    3 degrees and
    little ability still
    to either write
    or speak creatively..
    i was missed from
    there for years.. as
    customers let me
    know.. my service
    was appreciated and
    it made a difference..
    in terms of
    human
    connections..
    a value it was
    to be of service..
    but as an Administrator
    of ‘Bigger stuff’.. the end
    was not the same.. as truly
    it is the service that people
    miss the most and not
    the rules of overlords..
    by far..
    Lesson of my
    life.. to serve is truly
    to be missed at the
    end of however long
    that service lasts..
    and the other
    jobs are
    simply
    not
    worth
    it to me..:)

    Like

    Reply
  7. The epigram is intriguing.
    Your poem – so inward and reflecting. “Our lives are like pauses to catch our breath”. I especially like this line.
    Interesting – I too wrote about death. It is the equalizing mystery — not how we die – but that each of us is ultimately gone from this earth as we know it.

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    Reply
    • I think everything that Basho wrote may be intriguing. And I guess because death is such a mysterious experience for us that I do like to imagine just what that may be like and try to dispel some of the fear that surrounds it. Certainly being gone from the earth as we know it could perhaps be a bit unsettling. :~)

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  8. Love the reflections on life and death and ending lines give me pause ~ Such a mystery this is:

    And death may be the light that carries us on.

    Like

    Reply
    • Wouldn’t that be something? I do like to imagine ease around the death experience instead of fear. It is a mystery for sure.

      Like

      Reply
  9. Glenn Buttkus

     /  January 20, 2016

    So very Zen, bordering on New Age, which of course, predates Christianity. I loved this, which contains so much, anxiety, confusion, introspection, faith, hope & cosmic truth. Your last stanza is killer; a poem in itself. I believe I’m an old soul. I liked your lines /we can depart or return/as our hearts do yearn/–amen, smile.

    Like

    Reply
    • I like the idea of Zen but New Age made me cringe a little. :~) I believe I’m an old soul too otherwise I wouldn’t be thinking about all this stuff! Many thanks for your generous comments, Glenn.

      Like

      Reply
  10. You seem to have responded to Basho’s question, “how does he continue?” by pondering the mysteries of life and I love the possibility of a conclusion that you came to in the end: “And death may be the light that carries us on”—what a lovely thought :-)

    Like

    Reply
  11. This is so poignant and there is for me that feeling of being caught in an endless cycle. For some too much suffering.

    Like

    Reply
  12. Your closing in particular:

    “Life is a mystery and so is death,
    our lives are like pauses to catch our breath.
    And death may be the light that carries us on.”

    What a powerful way to complete this poem.

    Thank you, for visiting me…sorry it took so long to get back to you!

    Like

    Reply

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