When History turns soldiers into battles, you turn them into grass.
Bashō, Sweet, is it honorable? But for these men who died with grunts
and clangs in their ears, for their horses with snapped legs, I haven’t got
the art to make them into anything. I fold the grass in the shape
of a man, very literal, very primitive and leave it on
the field and say, “Forgive me valorous men for my ineptitude.”
Just then, the little man falls down in the wind and—huh!—there is art.
Each “Appleblossom” is a verse translation from the Japanese of a short selection from the notebooks of Chiri, Bashō’s traveling companion during the years between Withered Chestnuts and Travelogue of Weatherbeaten Bones.
Source: Poetry (October 2008).
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This poem originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of Poetry magazine