Friday, December 19, 2014

Brave Amaryllis

This amaryllis blooming in the Target Store, captured my heart with its brave attempt. Even though they were on sale for half price, all the other bulbs in the whole section were resting quietly, under the cardboard lid, on their disk of compressed planter mix, waiting for the signal of water. Only this one pressed its way out from under the lid to show its Christmas color to the last-week shoppers. Now I wish I had bought it, instead of the ones that were better-behaved. Some things just touch your heart, almost before you realize what is happening.


I gaze far and long
Not at cherry blossoms
Not at autumn leaves,
But only at a thatched hut,
By an inlet,
In the autumn dusk.

Fujiwara no Teika, (1162-1241) 

translated by Kenneth Rexroth,
One Hundred More Poems from the Japanese,
New Directions, 1974, 1976, page 54.

Over many centuries, this poem can still reach out and touch us deeply. I think it is about memory and about growing older. Rexroth was very interested in these short poems from long ago and made several small books of them. Because of Rexroth's sympathy and lyric gifts, these translated versions are very beautiful and have been loved by English-language poets ever since they appeared.

The task: to write a six-line poem of almost pure description that is saturated with memory, without describing the memory. 

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