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Saturday, 12 March 2011

Issa: When I see the ocean


Hirono nuclear power station is seen as a wave approaches after an earthquake in Hirono Town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan: photo by Reuters/Yomiuri, 11 March 2011

When I see the ocean,
Whenever I see it,

Oh, my mother!

The oncoming tsunami strikes the coast in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan: photo by Reuters/Kyodo, 11 March 2011

A whirlpool is seen near Oarai City, Ibaraki Prefecture, northeastern Japan: photo by Reuters/Kyodo, 11 March 2011

A massive tsunami hits the coast of Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan
: photo by Reuters/Kyodo, 11 March 2011

Houses swept away by a tsunami in Natori City in northeastern Japan
: photo by Reuters/Kyodo, 11 March 2011

When I see the ocean: Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), translated by Reginald Horace Blyth, 1951


TC said...

More Issa:

Meditations in Winter: Wren at Dusk.

Anonymous said...

Funny (not funny): When I first saw yesterday's post, The Great Wave, the first words that came into my mind were "Oh Tom".

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks for this. I do a brief haiku appreciation program for lifelong learners (did one last week, will do one this week) and I open with 10 poems by Issa, finishing with this one as my favorite of his work. It is now forever changed and it will be difficult to "perform" this one this coming Friday.

Here is the Robert Hass rendition I use:

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


The first and 3rd lines should be indented about 4 spaces, after the manner of R. H. Blyth



Amazing pictures, especially next to Issa's "when I see the ocean" -- thanks. . . .


grey whiteness of clouds above shadowed
green ridge, motion of leaves on branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

past simple factual presence,
passed unnoticed that

method that remains the same,
other areas, see this

clouds on horizon to the left of point,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

Ed Baker said...

everything is re duced to
in the 'face-of' Mother


TC said...


After a somnambulistic night of watching the horrifying Japanese live video feeds, I crawled over to Issa, who offered the consolation of "When I see the ocean..."

For me, too, "It is now forever changed".

Those video images, ghostly,"past simple factual presence," to borrow Steve's phrase -- and yes, Ed, all through this I, too, have been haunted by the puny human pride of any Idea of Order...

TC said...

And Curtis,

Yes, as you've said today on A Cravan, we are left speechless by the events in Japan; imagination and empathy are overwhelmed.

My repetitive "thought", if it qualifies as thought: the revocation of civilized order in the most orderly of civilized societies, in a matter of hours and days, by a simple act of Nature, reminds us of what we should have instinctively known but have been taught to suppress or forget about the tenuousness and fragility of everything we have made... when put to the test by everything we did not make.

That out of the way, the unbelievable composure of the Japanese people in the face of this crisis, and their apparent astonishing ability to accept, and abide by, the information used by the same "authorities" who had been previously advising them that all these eventualities had long since been considered and accounted for... that's remarkable.

And too, the frightening reverberations of World War-II images superimposed in our imaginations upon the pictures of these smoking ruins... almost too much to take in.

Beyond speech, yes. But not beyond the reach of the mind, in its waking nightmares of this unfortunately all-too-present reality.

aditya said...

the tenuousness and fragility of everything we have made... when put to the test by everything we did not make.

is an excellent way to put it. Reminded me of my mother.

Anonymous said...

All of this reaches and moves us a lot, including every one of your paragraphs, Tom. We've been going in and out of focus, picking up news developments that actually seem to be developments, learning friends' news about their friends in Japan, marveling at the apparent fortitude of the Japanese, and doubting everything with apparent good reason for doing so. I would love to think we'll be waking up to some "better" news and developments.

TC said...


Well, to sleep at all would be at least the first step in the direction of waking up to some better developments.

(I seem to remember regarding rest as a positive development, but that was so long ago...)


That garret is where the poets have always lived, and that spider has always been there.

Ed Baker said...

seems to be some facts and some sanity beyond what the media is doing re: those power plants....

there is enough real trouble there ... no need for the media to
endlessly blabber about "near facts" and opinions as if they were .... truth.


I googled for my friend in Sendai and got
"SW has been reported by someone as missing."

Ed Baker said...

here, this should work:

TC said...


I couldn't get that link to come up.

Someone here says, "That's probably because it tells the truth, and so many people are trying to find out the truth..."

From what one makes of the Japanese government PR handling of the affair, it appears that in practical terms, the evacuation of all those exposed to radiation would be virtually impossible; so that, relying on the cultural disposition to conform to the dictates of an orderly authority structure, the strategy seems to be to attempt to pacify the entire population by pretending that things will be all right, although things quite obviously will not be.

Thus to get back to "business as usual" ASAP.

But when the Japanese government says, about the radiation, not to worry, and at the same time the US Navy says, we are getting our fleet out of here NOW! well...

TC said...

OK, if at first you don't succeed... a little further trying and up came world nuclear news.

As Ed suggests, it's a just-the-facts-ma'am site, useful as such right now.

Ed Baker said...

sent the second link and it seems to work


if one reads this article one will know more about nuclear power plants than ALL of the Journalists
in the Entire World ... put together

of course "their" government isn't like ours, eh?

ours ALWAYS goes with The Truth AND The Facts

'point-blank' just as things are...

just like that guy just said something about that soldier that The Pentagon has shackled & hidden "for his own safety " (a quote from our "leader" )

and suddenly the guy "resigned" He is I think his name is Crawley and was H. Clinton's and the State Dept's lead spokesperson.


am off to buy a nuclear contaminated pint of beer
then watch CNN's edited take on wuz up in Afghanistan as their reporters along with 12,000 other reporters are "imbedded" in the front lines and really see/show/and know... what is going on!

not sure whay our fleet is leaving Japan Waters...

they aren't in 'harms' way..

and most of the Pacific Fleet isn't even in Japan!

I wonder if the Fleet got out in time from San Diego ?

before those 3 foot waves got there?

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed, if your friend in Sendai is Scott Watson, I've heard from him and he is ok.


TC said...


Today's straight poop from The Old Salt Blog has it that the carrier USS Ronald Reagan has high-tailed it away from the coast off Fukushima after seventeen naval personnel tested positive for contamination due to exposure to the radioactive plume from the smouldering reactors.

And anybody who's "not worried about Japan's nuclear reactors" ought to be taking a stroll through one of them right now, hand in hand with the tooth fairy.

TC said...

And from this satellite photo, taken earlier today, it's plain that everything's (not quite?) completely under control.

Ed Baker said...

AHHH "the old salt"!

sounds like a Navy guy... and, got the "straight" ...poop from the Navy/military
who keeps things top secret except for
frequent navy/military issued up-dates


you know how the military always tells the truth..

BOTTOM LINE this is terrible no matter how you slice it...

let s hope that things don't go down-hill from here...

meanwhile D.C. is more concerned about whether or not the Cherry Blossom Festival will go on I think
it s next week or will it be canceled...

you know

that Nuclear Power Plant near me Calvert Cliffs is poisoning the Chesapeake with their waste-water

between that and the chicken-shit pouring into the bay I no longer eat any of the sea-food

maybe some where in between your attitude and my attitude there is "solid ground"?

TC said...

Here's my hunch, old timer: we're both doddering on exactly the same the same precarious ground; you seem, happily, a bit less wobbly than I, but in any case, when it comes to the "issues", so far I haven't noticed any "disagreements" betwen us.

And if there ever were any, happily we'd both be too demented to even notice.

As to the matters of the moment, about all one can really say at this point is... Oy!

I spent much of 1978-1980 investigating, for the purposes of wingnut journalism, the nuclear weapons industry, Colorado sector; and since 1984 I've lived in the shadow of the government funded death labs here; but whatever our various personal histories, any of us who qualifies as an "American" anyway has the historical stamp of death upon us, for it was our "civilization" that induced this hideous nuclear genie out of its bottle in the first place, for typically myopic two-bit Yankee-pragmatic Popular-Mechanics trade-shop "we'll do it because we can"-type "reasons'; and in that respect, historically speaking, about the most sensible thing we could possibly do now, as "Americans", would be to bow our heads in shame, and then be gratefully evaporated in one large merciful orange flash.

And at that moment, if either of us has at least a drop or two of geezer sanguinity left in us, Ed, we can become blood brothers and "have done with it", natch.

Ed Baker said...

I just wrote a very long and detailed reply
but de:leted it for fear that it might ruin any future chances of my becoming a
Famous American Minor Poet ..... again
&/or "getting girls"
or, at this stage "getting"

so, call me when you're ready to cut thumbs

(hey, I did that once.... became a blood-brother
to a 1/4 Lakota friend out near Sioux City in about 1973 we were camping out