小鳥の歌 69

A passionate heart
Cannot help but share its joy
Gladness overflows
Refreshing the spirit like
A fountain in summertime

Link: progression of the idea of superlatives: echoing to overflowing.

Kansas City, near which I live, is called “The City of Fountains”. They are to be found everywhere here, even out in the suburbs. Medieval Japanese poetry did not utilize fountains much–brooks and streams are more commonly found. However, I wanted to reflect what I see around me, so I chose to use fountains instead.

小鳥の歌 67


A storm bursts the clouds
Asunder the darkness stirs
Awake the maelstrom
My heart is breaking my screams
Unheard within the tumult

Link: A storm is about to break progresses to A storm bursts.

I left out the commas to see if I could approximate more kakekotoba ( 掛詞 ) pivot words. Japanese can accomplish this better. The structure of English is too precise to allow more than one pivot without sounding odd. But I hope this comes close to the feel. The style I tried for here is what Fujiwara no Teika called “Demon-quelling” (onihishigitei or kiratsu no tei 鬼拉体).

Photo: Fujin (God of Wind) and Raijin (God of Thunder), 13th century, wood, Sanjūsangen-dō 三十三間堂 in the Higashiyama District, Kyoto. Scanned from temple brochure, altered in photoshop by me.

小鳥の歌 66

Brown Thrasher 3

Clicking and chirping
The Brown Thrashers go about
Their birdie business
You little fools, don’t you know
A storm is about to break?

Link: thematic. Birds “warbling in the wind” to “go about their birdie business”

I have a pair of Brown Thrashers hopping about the maple tree outside my window, maybe courting? But the skies are growing dark and we are under a tornado watch. They’re still at it as I type! And yes, I might be referring to what is going on in America politics right now.

小鳥の歌 65

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Little black-winged bird
Clinging to the maple twig
Warbling in the wind
Tarry a while away
My wasteful wearisome woes

link: woe to woe, topic continues theme on surcease of sorrow. Found a rare English kakekotoba ( 掛詞 ) pivot word in “while”. I actually had to look up whether it was while away or wile away and it turns out both are correct in a different fashion. It turns out that “while away” is a vestigial remnant of an archaic use of “while” as a verb meaning “to spend time pleasantly”. “Wile” denotes some kind of trickery, which could have also worked:

Tarry a while, wile
Away my wearisome woes

I suppose I could have doubled the “while”

Tarry a while, while
Away my wearisome woes

Which actually does sound better to my ears, BUT pivoting on the “while”, which changes meaning depending on whether it connects with the words before or after, is EXACTLY how a pivot word (kakekotoba) works in Japanese.

Oh, the bird was a Yellow-rumped Warbler, quite common here in Kansas. But there is just no way to make “Yellow-rumped Warbler” sound elegant.

小鳥の歌 61

Awake and aware
Each moment is a treasure
Just outside my grasp
My heart is chained to the past
My thoughts snared in the future

Link: aware to aware. Also a thematic link regarding Buddhism.

There is some complex wordplay going on here. I am writing about bodhi, which we would translate into “enlightenment”, although the word root is “budh” (to awaken). Aware is an interesting false friend. In English, aware means to be mindful, conscious, alert. In Japanese, aware (pronounced AH-WAH-RE) which roughly translates to pity, sorrow, or pathos. In Japanese poetry, aware is often used as a exclamation, the same way alas is used in English poetry.