The Essential Haiku – Issa

 

issa_the_haiku_poet-by-Hashimoto-Heihachi
Issa by Japanese artist Hashimoto Heihachi

The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children.
. . . . . .

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.
. . . . . .

In this world
we walk on the roof of hell,
gazing at flowers.
. . . . . .

O owl!
make some other face.
This is spring rain.
– – – – – – –

The toad!It looks like
it could belch
a cloud.
. . . . . .

Cricket
chirping
in a scarecrow’s belly.
– – – – – –

Washing the saucepans-
the moon glows on her hand
in the shallow river.
. . . . . .

The dragonfly,
dressed in red,
off to the festival.
. . . . . . .

Autumn evening-
it’s no light thing
being born a man.
– – – – – –

The holes in the wall
play the flute
this autumn evening.
. . . . . . .

The flies in the temple
imitate the hands
of the people with prayer beads.
– – – – – – –

Mother I never knew,
every time I see the ocean,
every time-
. . . . . . .

Summer night-
even the stars
are whispering to each other.
. . . . . . .

Insects on a bough
floating downriver,
still singing.
. . . . . .

Autumn moon-
a small boat
drifting down the tide.
– – – – – –

His death poem:

A bath when you’re born,
a bath when you die,
how stupid.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)
Edited and with Verse translations by Robert Hass

issa