basho

“Bashō,” by Yokoi Kinkoku (c. 1820)

BACKGROUND:
Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694) is Japan’s most celebrated haiku poet. A Zen devotee, he dressed as a priest and spent much of his life traveling on foot from place to place, composing haiku along the way and refereeing contests and renga (linked verse) gatherings. Bashō’s death poem (“Ill on a journey–/ dreams go wandering still/ over the withered moor”) is well known. But, although they are well-documented, few people are familiar with his final words.
Lime sticks are covered with a sweet, sticky glue and function similar to fly paper.

COMMENTARY:
The flies are delighted with Bashō. And Bashō is delighted with the flies. So why are the disciples so upset? It’s a good thing the flies can go on preaching to them after Bashō has died.

Happy flies.
Happy Bashō.
But too bad about the disciples. They’re left holding the stick.

VERSE:
Fly keeps coming back
No matter how many times
The tail swishes it.
It’s just this dance they go through,
Being a tail and a fly.

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