The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Don’t cry

When I was in primary four (fourth grade), I took part in a haiku competition on Children’s Day. It was also World Haiku Day or something, and everyone in school had a chance to participate. I submitted three, complete with drawings to go with them. One was about a spider, one was about a pig, and I can’t remember what the last one was.

I actually won something. I won a set of colouring pencils from Japan, with a Mickey Mouse motif. I was also given a book on haiku from children around the world. As a kid, I looked at the pictures more than I looked at the poems from children who were my age.

As I grew up, I would revisit the book every now and then. I also did something that I would never have done as a kid, and that was read the foreword and introduction. It was in Japanese, but there were translations. The foreword said to the effect of  “Haiku by children are always the most precious things. They say things as they see them, and that is surely the true essence of haiku.” (I don’t have the book with me right now, I’m just writing from memory.

And that is quite true. If you look at haiku these days, people think as long as you keep the 5/7/5 syllable (or mora, in Japanese) structure, you basically have a haiku.

threadlesshaikuThe above is a t-shirt design from this online store Threadless. Haikus sometimes don’t make sense on sight, but like any poem, sometimes readers have to work at them to get them. This ‘haiku’ has nothing more to it than a buffoonery of what a haiku is. People sometimes think that because the structure of haiku is so simple, the only way to be smart and outstanding is to be clever with words.

But traditionally haiku is visual poetry for the mind. The words are unassuming, but in the images they conjure, they reflect, capture and convey some truth in the natural world. Let’s look at a famous example, Bashou’s “Old Pond”.

古池や蛙飛び込む水の音

From Wikipedia, it translates as: An old pond, a frog leaps in, water’s sound. All of them simple images but powerful.

The haiku book I had said children see these images best. Have we as adults lost this ability forever, to see the natural with simplicity of mind and words? Maybe if we try hard enough, we might realise that perhaps what seem lost to time is merely buried and forgotten, but a good shovel and with some arm work, we might possible recover it.

mushiatsuiIt’s humid

I dropped my ice cream!

Don’t cry

Cotton bread

Instead of the one-dollar cheapo sliced bread I usually get from ShopRite, for some reason I decided to buy this loaf labelled “Italian Bread” that cost 50 cents more, and it looks pretty good. It was sliced, had sesame seeds studded all over it, and had a good heft to it.

When I prised a slice loose from the loaf, it was the softest, fluffiest bread I’ve ever felt. It couldn’t be real: its white porous body yielded to my gentlest touch, I could roll it up and it would stay unbroken.

I hated it.

Seriously, why are sliced bread in America so soft? They flop around like limp, floppy fish and are useless against hardy condiments such as crunchy peanut butter. Have you tried applying chunky peanut butter against soft bread before? The moment a knife with a load of crunchy peanut butter meets soft bread, there is no way it can be spread because any attempt to do so results in a messy mutilation of the bread, where it ends up dented, misshapen or torn.

Are these bread made from cotton plants? Most bread I’ve had in Europe are much sturdier, as far as I could recall, so much so that stale bread become acceptable substitutes for frisbee throwing. Or for making knedliky’s (bread dumplings).

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