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Gábor Terebess (1944-)

Haiku in the Luggage
Translated from the Hungarian by Jon Tarnoc
Editor Aaron Hunter
Published by artORIENT Press, Budapest, 2006, 208 pp.
PDF


 


"There's haiku in all luggage. What it needs is unpacking."
G. T.

"The true traveller has no luggage."
Huang-po

 

Contents

Jon Tarnoc. Being Human
Foreword to Haiku in the Luggage by Gabor Terebess

France (1965-1969)

I Set Off from the City of Paris
Haibun-diary (21 November — 3 December 1969)

Japan (1967)

Australia (1969-1970)

Bali (2004)

 

 


Jon Tarnoc. Being Human
Foreword to Haiku in the Luggage by Gabor Terebess
http://www.hlo.hu/object.0c4aae16-0402-4310-9472-7cbdda31dc64.ivy


Miller Williams gives in Patterns of Poetry, An Encyclopedia of Forms(1) a precise description of the haiku: An unrhymed syllabic poem, derived from Japanese verse. Lines 1 and 3 have five syllables; line 2 has seven.

sssss x
sssssss x
sssss x

Traditionally, there is the mention of a season of the year somewhere in the haiku, as a means of establishing the poem's tone, though this may be only the slightest suggestion.
The author then cites a haiku of his choosing, by Clement Long. It goes

Uncovered, you sleep.
Cars pass the house and I watch
Lights on the ceiling.

So much about the form, of which we couldn't say more, except that alterations in modern haiku, based on the traditional concept, are less strict about the set number of syllables involved, because it doesn't really matter whether we write a haiku in 17 or 15 syllables (especially in Western languages). There are pieces that consist of 4 lines, for example by Leonard Cohen(2), and we find a free choice of syllables in the poems.
Still, certain poems are called haiku. There's a particular mode and state of mind in which a haiku is born. When does a short poem of more or less 3 lines become a haiku? Many poets and theorists have asked this question. We do not possess a straight answer, but I would like to venture into the unknown by way of Gabor Terebess's haiku poems, recently published in the original Hungarian(3), also available in English translation on the Internet(4).
Haiku in the Luggage is made up of four parts. The first is France, 1965-1969, (this one ends the Haibun Diary), then comes Japan, 1967, after that Australia, 1969-1970 , and the book closes with Bali, 2004.
The reader can immidiately recognize the cosmopolitan character of the book, even more so when the reading begins. But what is traveling and what does it represent if we look at it on a higher level?
There's an essay, Kierkegaard in Sicily(5), written by a unique personality in Hungarian literature, Béla Hamvas. He writes: While at home, you get to know the world, but on the road, yourself; because at home the focus of attention is your own person, but while traveling, the world, and where you look, always remains unknown to you. One should travel as fire spreads, moving in all directions from the center, and like fire, consuming everything behind, — so when the journey's over, there should remain nothing else but ashes and ruins. Instead of all this the human is consumed, and the world flourishes.
Actually, what happens in Gabor Terebess's haiku is a similar experience, a kind of Magical Mystery Tour, leading from a zen monastery through revolutionary Paris on to the land of Australia, where there's hardly any escape from the individualism of Western Society. After a long silence we arrive in Bali, this time more like tourists, but suddenly everything gets saturated with wisdom from the endless rain.
One after the other we find poems that transcend the mundane, or rather the mundane is tranformed in the process of the metamorphosis of self. The author's journey begins in the hidden, and it never becomes all so important to find out about particulars. Only the single moment counts, in which we see many things simultaneously, but with an open door to unity of vision.
Terebess's mode of writing is conversational, likes to use slogans, then we see different meanings unfolding, loosening our grip on fixed allusions to names, as in this haiku:

3M's — oh come on!
Marx, Mao and Marcuse,
teach one another.


Names of places and people are almost as important in the earliest poems as the mentioning of seasons in the traditional haiku. It seems that the world doesn't yield itself easily to the traveller anymore, we are not in touch with the center either in the universe or in ourselves. So we have to start outside, explore what the world has to offer, then move on to another plane, to the individual arriving in the focal point of his questions.
The outward direction reverses in the Japanese pieces. The soul has found its master and mate. We're not in the world of illusion any longer, this is hardcore reality:

Your spiritual
master was the master of
masters. Didn't speak.

Writing a haiku is the rectification of the moment. The desire of mending the seams of creation comes from deep understanding of oneself. The poet, perhaps in one of his satori experiences, becomes aware of his not being fully alive in the world, as if there had been invisible barriers between him and reality.
According to the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff(6) Man is a machine, a toy of external influences from the universe. He is not, because he doesn't know himself, he's not what he can and should be. He can decide nothing about the future, because he's one person today, another tomorrow. Only in total awakening does he become human. This level is attained by remembering oneself. In a state of higher consciousness Man is enabled to choose the influence he wants to live under.
We find the same concept in Terebess's haiku poems. Each piece is a story, a narration of moments caught in the process of things happening, time. The author remembers and re-lives his expeiences, puts them into a perfectly condensed narrative. Then suddenly one feels as if being part of the writing of some haiku-novel which has as many versions as the number of its readers.
D. H. Lawrence writes the following about the novel(7): Turn truly, honourably to the novel, and see wherein you are man alive . . . at its best the novel, and the novel supremely, can help you. It can help you not to be a dead man in life. If we take into consideration the active, creative imagination of the recepient, we can see how every work of serious art heralds resurrection. The writer is alive in the process of creating, the reader in the act of reading.
The third part of the book is about the Australian stay of the author in 1969-70. Immigration must've been a queer choice in the eyes of his friends. But a diary fragment interspersed with poems, a haibun from the time of leaving France for Australia is a witness of the author's state of mind before departure, proving the clarity of his spiritual aim. For the poet the question is not to be or not to be, but how to be. One answer is liberation:

Break out from all bonds
before you become
torn apart by them.

Where one lives is not important anymore. It could be Australia, Europe, Africa, America or Asia. What we call condition humane holds true everywhere on our planet, therefore it causes no difficulty to finally move back home. The poems don't tell us what happened between 1970 and 2004. Nearly thirty-five years pass before we see the author on the road again, as a tourist in Bali. It's constantly raining there, but the inner ears are open to the sounds of the animal world. Many pieces from this last cycle are about birds, dogs or frogs. Where people are mentioned they seem to be in the background, they're observed while doing rituals, but no familiar face would emerge from the crowd. Still, there's a sense of profound contentment in the acceptance of distance, because it has led to the unification of character. We need perspective to put our lives' puzzle together.
Redemption poetry, like Gábor Terebess's Haiku in the Luggage, grows on us. The poet tells us through his experience to take part in the mundane, and we learn from him how to integrate and elevate it. The sacred can be found in the details, in any movement we make, but most of all it's a state of mind:

Running in the rain
to the swimming-pool.
Saved!

The last word, saved, can be assocciated with many images. But the greatest gift of this poem and of the whole book is the joy of being human transmitted to us. The haiku is a miracle. We need only to listen.

Jon Tarnoc
29 September 2005
Budapest, Hungary

(1) Lousiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1986. Chapter 3. Traditional Poems of Set Length. p. 70.
(2) See: www.terebess.hu/english/haiku/terebess.html
(3) Haiku a poggyászban, artORIENT, Budapest, 2005.
(4) See: note 2; Gábor Terebess, Haiku in the Luggage, English translation by Jon Tarnoc.
(5) In Spirit and Existence, Pannonia Books, 1988. Pécs, Hungary
(6) Quoted In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky, (1947); Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc. New York, 1949, pp. 14-15.
(7) Quoted in Lawrence by Frank Kermode, Fontana/Collins; 1973, Great Britain, p. 27.

 

 


France (1965-1969)


(Ezra Pound in memoriam)

The Paris Metro.
You sit down among withered
faces on black bough.


(Paris, 1968. May nights)

1
Live broadcast of the
student revolution, your
radio turned on.

2
"All power to the
imagination!" Cannes
festival closed down.

"All power to the imagination" was one of the most well-known slogans during the student revolution in 1968. The "bourgeois" Cannes Film Festival was interrupted on the 20th of May, due to the political crisis.

3
3M's — oh come on!
Marx, Mao, Marcuse,
teach one another!

4
Wrapped in teargas-cloud
the summit of the Sorbonne.
You might as well cry.

5
Check out the papers —
they keep on lying here too,
just make yourself home.

6
An actor switched sides
on stage at the Odéon:
Jean-Louis Barrault.

Jean-Louis Barrault, the director of Odéon, fondly embraced the revolters and opened the doors of his theater to them.

7
How many smoky
nights were you staying awake,
talking on till dawn?

8
Total sleeplessness —
with your morning coffee
scare-news, croissant.

9
Barricades being
built of cobble stones? Are they
shooting a movie?

10
Where is the third side
of the barricade? Dawn has
gone grey on your face.

Barricades don't have a third side, said Aragon. Well-to-do students of the new left-wing and their Gaullist parents demonstrate against each other. Where to stand in this feud?

11
The word broken inside —
underneath Mirabeau-bridge
the Seine's flow has stopped.

12
The smell of teargas,
that taste of rotten apples —
unforgettable.

13
Boulevard Saint-Michel,
knokcked over sycamores — you
weren't flabbergasted.

14
Turned the night into
the day, all for the sake of
ideologies . . .

15
Street at night again:
the film of your memories
remained black and white.

16
What happened by day?
You'll have to search in other
people's memories.

17
Spring and violence
in public places ended —
it's general strike.

- - -

Considerable
lack of soup. Not even a
vegetable dish! Ha!

Arabic donut.
The Bald Soprano is played
right across the street.

Ionesco's play, The Bald Soprano, is continually performed in a small Parisian theater (Théâtre de la Huchette, 23, rue de la Huchette) since 1957.

No toilet-seat in
the restroom — just as before:
you crouch like A. J.

The reference is to Attila József (1905-1937), Hungarian poet, who also lived in Paris for awhile.

Two floors of chance
with Mireille in the lift . . .
Arrived. Over.

Corsican girl:
ice-wet handshake,
scorching eyes.

Her problem bores me
shitless, but the girl herself —
how uniquely odd!

The look in your eyes
like that of a startled bird's,
though your mouth aspires.

Your overheated
book lies open in the sun —
you should cover it.

A cliché opened
with another cliché's key —
the gate of secrets.

The tower-clock
strikes midnight.
Falling snow.

Winter. Bleak morning.
Closed windows. Can you hear it?
The chirping of birds.

Writing a poem
by the window, you didn't
turn on the lights.

You're browsing through
the display of the bookstore.
They're already closed.

 

 


I Set Off from the City of Paris
Haibun-diary, November 21 — December 3, 1969.


This piece of writing, the story of my immigration to Australia, could have become my "Long Voyage to Down Under" in place of Bashô's Narrow Road to the Deep North, but I didn't get any further than the day of my departure, for I felt bored by writing a journal. I wouldn't be able to write a haibun even today, only haiku on the theme of traveling . . . All of a sudden I realized there's a potential haibun-diary in this fragment written 35 years ago, I would only have to sprinkle it with haiku — afterwards. It's not bad as entertainment either: a diary from the time I was 25 and writing its haiku-commentary at the age of 60.

(Haibun: Even one sentence of prose with a haiku, or a long travel journal interspersed with a number of haiku may be accepted as haibun; and of course, the same goes for everything between the two extremes.)


21 November (Friday)

Don't be concerned about struggle. Make no plans for what you would do or what others would do against you. Your energy should be waiting in your solar plexus, don't paralyze your muscles and your brain by wedging your power into them in advance. So you can break out with full power in the right direction and at the right time, aiming at the real (not imagined) target with the greatest spontaneity.

It's unnecessary to daydream about Australia. What's to be done and how will be dictated by the circumstances there and then.


Australia!
Just go ahead! Your errors
will give you plenty.


Dusty as Paris
with red dust instead of grey —
you don't know it yet.

 

22 November (Saturday)

After having sent over 20 packages of books, today I posted my typewriter and Japanese monk-robes to Pest. What a relief! We only realize while traveling how many useless things we collected as indispensible.

The farewell lunches that began a few days ago, which start with an apéritif and finish with a digestif, remind me of the necessity of "frugal" meals. I have a constantly upset stomach and I'm dead sure I'd drop dead shortly if I had to continue these indulgent stuffings. (No question, the French know how to enjoy food — that's why they all suffer from gastric disorder.)


Don't be decadent!
The Saturday-market is
over — ripe the brie.


Be nostalgic in
Australia, having
Danish canned-brie.

 

23 November (Sunday)

After lunch we have a nearly three-hour-talk with Brigitte and Marie-Thérese. (Their uncle, the abbé, had to leave earlier.) The more I explain, the clearer it becomes how incomprehensible it is to them what I'm searching for. (My desire diminishes for sharing my thoughts with anyone.) The conversation started, of course, with the idea of me marrying Marie-Thérese (she might make a good wife, but me, a bad husband),


You'd happily say
yes today — you aren't wise
and young anymore.


but finally we were talking about what Christ might have meant by the blessedness of the "poor in spirit." My explanation has little to do with Christianity. Our luxurious images and thoughts alienate us from the world, they won't let us be open to people and things in their own reality, we won't be able to identify with them — although it would be the only possible "heaven" in an eternal now.


Litany.
Old ladies teach you
pray in French.


Cool church.
Left your tormented
thoughts there.


(pauvres pécheurs)

The hour of our death,
may the devil take it, is
full of divine grace.

 

25 November (Tuesday)

I had lunch with Mireille today, in the Chinese restaurant, of course. After getting rather tipsy, she forced a farewell necking (should her husband, who's always dying of jealousy, see it!). But instead of getting horny, suddenly her face went pale and she couldn't hold back her trembling. She might think I'm "superior" (what an idiocy), and in the crucial moment there's more fear in her than passion. (Or because she doesn't understand more.)
How can her eyes be so fearful, like startled birds, while her mouth sucks you in with such celestial power, pulling you in and surrounding you? She should know that when my hands touch her hip — it's unbearable bliss for me.


Like Krapp, you'd
happily rewind the tape
right here.

As if Krapp's Last Tape by Beckett had happened to me.


I'm leaving for Australia in one week.

 

28 November (Friday)

I haven't written anything for a few days. When my time's full of activities and experiences, nothing seems more absurd than writing about them. Conceited idleness makes the writer, most probably.

Today was my last day at the office. Being set free from prison could resemble the feeling. I'm shocked how many people love me so much — and what joy it is to leave them all.


Break out from all bonds
before you become
torn apart by them.

 

29 November (Saturday)

Maybe the truth, our personally attainable truth, is not more than gathering all our strength and forcing ourselves to the uttermost limit of our sincerity again and again.

I watch with the greatest suspicion when anxiety tries to take hold of me though I've seen no sign of it so far. On the contrary. Occasionally, when I'm alone, I start laughing for no reason; and I have no regrets about forgetting things from my luggage, I would rather leave all my possessions out of it.


Torn lizard's tail in
your hand. But tails don't
grow into lizards.

 

30 November (Sunday)

For a year and a half I haven't seen a single Hungarian, but now that I'm about to leave, I have the pleasure of aquaintance again. Károly, my sister's boss, and I saw each other the second time this week. (We're on familiar terms with each other already.) At first I feel like a stutterer while speaking Hungarian, but soon I start warming up and no one could shut my mouth, not even by force. I'm speaking about things he's interested in, so he's all ears. His being overcome by emotion when saying good-by makes me feel slightly embarassed. (If there's anything I feel, it is the shame of feeling nothing.)

There's no true aloneness in the solitary life, especially if we constantly daydream about possible companions. True aloneness must be found in human relationships in which neither interest nor curiosity play part.


(thirty years later)

Infected dog-tick
drilled its head into your flesh —
somebody loves you.


Having lunch with the Marquets, this could be the last home-made French meal in my life. The old man offers to give me a ride to Saint-Maurice (Val-de-Marne), for the books sent by Dezsõ. My host bought his VW yesterday and obviously wants to show off; the car hasn't run more than 3 miles by now.
I'm calling Judit Tóth, the poet, she's not at home to me. That's why I know she is . . .
Iron-strapped hardwood door in the stone wall surrounding the yard. Closed shutters on every window. A small, soft, boneless woman. When she puts her flabby hand in my palm, I feel as if I held lukewarm butter in my hand. She offers me a chair to sit in, it's got a dirty, white cushion, the furniture in the room cheap and ragged. The greyness of dusk spreading and light coming in through the open kitchen door from a lightbulb. She begins to take out the books and is sorry about not having sent them yet. I notice her eyes for the first time, they have a dark and hesitating glow of dissatisfaction. Suddenly everything falls into place, her eyes tell me why she needs to be a poet and why she lives in an unfriendly French suburb. She doesn't come outside to see me off, it's cold, she tells me to shut the door tightly, so I do.


You'll never find out
what happened over the wall.
You're giving a boost.

 

1 December (Monday)

Wild running around. Shopping, cleaning, packing. At last I get to the train station, one hour before departure. I'm cursing the books for making my luggage so heavy. I'm dragging my things.
Chilling, cold night. Two Portuguese, a Spaniard and a Frenchman are with me in the compartment. For the Portuguese guys it's a sure card to go to Australia, to a relative of theirs living near Melbourne. Both are well dressed and up in the dough (they worked in nightclubs for two years, made a lot of money from the tipping), they're off for dinner shortly, in the awfully expensive restaurant car. The Spanish fellow knows only a few words of French, he's unwrapping his chorizo sandwich with his huge, rough hands, and smiles between every bite.
The Frenchman's whole family came to the station. His face ghostly pale, the cigarette quivering between his fingers, he takes a sip from his brandy bottle every now and then, offers it to each of us. I'm the first to lie down on the "couchette," but I have a hard time falling asleep, I see feverish, erotic dreams — on account of the train jolting, perhaps. A complete carriage is reserved for us. Ninety percent of our group consists of young males, if that's the rate of women in Australia, we're in big trouble.


There' always a chance:
flatten in the asphalt if
a steamroller comes.

 

2 December (Tuesday)

We reach Genoa at seven in the morning. Paperwork, waiting. The mediterranean sun comes up, it's getting warm, almost like summer. At ten o'clock, finally I'm allowed to see the town with my new friends. The sidestreets are so narrow that it's nearly impossible to walk on them, except sideways. Every second moment someone wants to sell me something, smuggled goods, especially Swiss watches, American cigarettes, or condoms, if you like. It's quite obvious why they're needed here in the harbour district. We start bargaining with an older blondie in a doorway, just for the fun of it. She wouldn't sell herself cheaper than 3,000 liras. A little farther down there's a breathtakingly beautiful, plump, black-haired girl. Also 3,000. It seems there are set prices here (about half or a third of the Parisian price).


Squeaking bed —
Enjoys more loudly
than its guests.


We're having lunch in a noisy, little restaurant, we eat pepper-salad, octopus, and drink Italian wine. In Paris I'd get mad with this joie de vivre in an Italian restaurant, but here I appreciate it. Everyone's laid back, happy, loud. The natural background does it, or the wine, the Sun? Soon I am also shouting and laughing my face off.

Departure is right at sunset. From the uppermost bridge, I'm looking at the city lights being turned on and disappearing in the distance. By the time we're out on the open sea I remain alone up there. The wind getting colder and sharper — reminding me it's December. Returning seagulls float away in the void; the boat softly wheezing.


Seagulls know
where home is, ahead
or behind.


The boat (Marconi, built in 1961, in its sixth consecutive year going to Australia, belongs to the Lloyd Triestino Line) is a snow white labyrinth of ten decks — I never find my way in it. (The Greek cargo ship on which I came back from Japan could fit into this liner four times.) Cinema, swimming pool, ballroom with orchestra, whatever you imagine. They say 1,600 passengers are on board — almost a thousand of them from Yugoslavia.


Our oceanliner
fared well: was sold for junk in
the year 2000.

 

3 December (Wednesday)

We're in Naples when I wake up. Cloudy, cold weather. The Vesuvius looks like the midget version of the Fujiyama, with its tiny, sturdy, snow-capped volcano figure.


To Pompeii? No!
"In the end you are tired
of this ancient world."

"A la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien" Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)


We have three hours for sightseeing. When we get past the public buildings of the harbourfront, we find ourselves in narrow alleyways, not as narrow as the ones in Genoa, cars can also get through them. And they're rushing by with deafening honking to make the pedestrian jump aside and lean against the wall if his life is dear. Cobblestones beneath us, an incredible amount of garbage, dirt, and all kinds of rotting things. Above the head we see smart devices of bamboo canes sliding on wire hooks for hanging clothes, drying underwear dangling all over, like some thrown about and torn decoration in our honor.

I'm writing postcards when a six-year-old child starts poking me, asking for 50 liras. I give him what he wants. As I look after him he's lighting a cigarette then kindly waves good-by.


Spit out a cherry-
pit. It might become a tree,
if it finds good soil.


At noon we're out on the see again. My Yugoslavian cabin-mate bought a turntable and a lot of records for 14 dollars. His compatriots flood the cabin and use the machine full volume. Of course they asked my permission before, I said "dobro" (so much I learned) — then I flee. He even put his records on my lap that I may choose the music.

By the way, we're in a four-berth cabin: I share it with an Argentine, an Italian, and the above mentioned guy from Yugoslavia. None of them would speak any other language, but their mother-tongue.

We arrive in Messina, Sicily at eleven in the evening. We'll be leaving in an hour, and there's not so much to see anyway. Unfortunately I bump into my cabin-mate and a bunch of Yugos. Since they're all speaking loud Serbo-Croatian, I don't immediately understand that they're looking for whores. Well, here's not the place. Barren, dark streets, everyone sleeping. Here and there palm trees. Here and there Fiat cars parking (I haven't seen any other make in Italy). Apart from this: nothing, nothing.


No prostitute in
the street, neonlight on the
lamppost: the Moon.


Now two tongues: Serb,
Croatian. Yugo? Only
more and more countries.


This is the last European port, we won't stop till we reach South Africa, we're to arrive in Durban on the 16th of December.


(the end of the diary)

It takes up every
moment: you're busy sailing
around Africa.

- - -
Upon arrival to South Africa, I attached this diary-fragment to a letter for my friends,
Anna Fábri and Dezsõ Helmich. I dedicate this book to them.

 

 



Japan, 1967

(sento)

Snowing till twilight.
The bath-house two blocks away,
in geta, barefoot.

Your wooden shoe-prints
are snowed in by the Winter —
how will you get home?


(cha-no-yu)

Hang in there . . . on heels!
You might as well survive a
tea-ceremony.


(noh)

Restrained movements —
still the mask shows much
intensity.


(calligraphy)

Here in Japan you
will have to be painting your
poems with a brush.


(cinema in the suburbs)

Black and white movie
turns technicolor during
the erotic scenes.

Recovering from the poverty of post World War 2, Japan had this ambivalent message — the semi-colored film.


(soji)

The wind cannot bang
windows and doors: it learns the
art of sliding them.

Soji = sliding door. Common entrance type in traditional Japanese architecture.


(museum)

You definitely
remember the glass-cases —
contents forgotten.


(3 enlightenments)

Were conned: you found out.
You forgot: it crossed your mind.
Started sneezing:

You wake up in sweat.
Solution was not to be
found inside the dream.

Your dream-self arrives
in wakefulness without his
own self . . .

The wake-up bonze runs
shaking his hand-bell in the
darkness of cloisters.

The wooden fish drum
follows your heartbeat, although
someone else drumming.

"Wooden fish" is a fish-shaped Buddhist instrument made of a single piece of hollowed wood. It is struck with a padded stick to accompany sutra recitation.

Your spiritual
master was the master of
masters. Didn't speak.

Do No-thing!
You may sit down after
satori.

Your satori can
wait — a scrap of food remained
stuck between your teeth.

Nothing so easy
as enlightenment — only
to believe is hard.

Stay a beginner —
be hired as a master:
eternal serfdom.

I shall spare all
my people of
my doctrine.

Another reference to Attila József. This haiku is a paraphrase of a famous stanza in his poem, For My Birthday: "'cause it won't be on a high school level / I'll be teaching all my people / to know / to know" (translated by Gabor Gyukics and Michael Castro).

Masterly, keep your
satori secret, don't you
give a sign of it.

Now covered by snow —
you're doing exercises
beside the dung-pit.

While in the garden,
our bald heads are covered with shawls,
the master is first.

The laziest of
us can slurp his noodle soup
up the most quickly.

Wet cloth in hand, on all
fours you race along the
glittering floorboards.

Reference to Naga-roka, the hundred-cord passage in the Sôjiji Temple. The temple halls of this great Sôtô zen monastery are connected by a long, roofed corridor. We cleaned it with clean water every day, running on all fours with a cloth in hand — those were the races! - on the batten floor.

Money for a robe,
beggar that you are, holy
change fills up your bowl.

Torchlight in the night,
collecting day lilies
cannot be delayed.

Picking ripe kaki,
the master holds your ladder,
— important affair.

There isn't enough
room for life's big things under
your half-closed eyelids.

In a clay piglet
mosquitocide burning —
fortune be with you.

Losing consciousness
in zazen . . . you're still sitting
when you recover.

Reverie and
zazen: one and the same —
it's raining.

Lying on your right,
you fall asleep properly —
you'll sit up to die.

When the moment of death comes, a zen monk should be sitting up. Sleeping, on the other hand, should be in the death-posture of Buddha.

The screen of your closed
eye-lids shall be completely
darkened only once.

You prefer to eat
cold rice rather than having
festive buttered toasts.

Flowers of. g a r d e n s
still bloom in the valley
, then
they leave for their homes.

Quotation from the poem The End of September, by Sándor Petõfi (1823-1849).

Freshly mowed grass — your
grandfather enjoyed its scent
while he was alive.

Dry leaf floats across
the road in front of you, do
not trample on it.

Autumn trees surround
the row of pine, everything
is kept in order.

No fallen leaves, stones
called by their names — step in a
Japanese garden.

You were sleeping while
the cloister court had fallen
victim to the snow.

Who cares? Sit or stand,
follow a master or none —
the luggage empty.

Ship's horn screeching, you
take everything with you — no
zen is left standing.

Rebirth? You didn't
believe in it even in
your previous life.

 

 


Australia, 1969-1970

Itinerary: Fremantle, Melbourne, Bonegilla (Migrant Reception Centre), Wacol (Migrant Camp), Stradbroke Island (working in a quarry), Ipswich, Brisbane, Corinda (working in a plymill), Sydney

(under the Southern Cross)

1
At night, don't look up —
stars are not to be found, but
a cross in their place.

2
At night, don't look up —
no memories left you in
the entire world.

3
At night, don't look up —
the sky is the sky even
without the Great Bear.


December-summer —
the legs of the women tan
before you arrive.

Here, the Sun also comes up in the East and goes down in the West, but it culminates in the North. The seasons are opposite that of the Northern Hemisphere: the Summer months are December, January and February. Christmas-time brings sweltering heat, the Summer vacations and annual holidays begin.

Winter is summer,
snowless is your Christmas here,
as in Betlehem.

While clearing up, the
Yugoslavian cook-maid
honours me a glance.

Aussie greeting: you're
brushing off flies by day and
mosquitos by night.

Aussie salute: the flapping away of ever-persistent flies from one's face.

Put a scarf on your
neck, wear a hat, a long-sleeved
shirt: the Sun is out.

Drive indolently,
on the other side, not to
catch up with the world.

Driving is on the left side in Australia.

Summer night — wind shrieks
over the lying about
rusty drainpipes.

The wind puts on the
curtains, then starts running right
out into the storm.

There's buzzing even
under the fly-screen — what a
night it's gonna be!

Royal prisoner —
brought in disease, genocide.
When will he go home?

The nickname "POM" is a contraction of "Prisoner of His Majesty". This sign was sewn on the clothes of the convicts to Australia. Most family historians in Australia regard a convict in their ancestry as enormously desirable.

No land for Abo:
thousands of years, the country
uninhabited.

This is the Australian "Terra Nullius" principle, not a joke.
Abo = aboriginal. In Australia the term is considered offensive and its use is better avoided.

Reddish Uluru —
Sphinx-paw in the desert. Is
it the foot of God?

Didgeridoo speaks —
sound of the Earth in a pipe
carved out by termites.

A witchetty grub —
do you want it roasted or
raw? Spit out the head!

Witchetty grubs are the small, white larvae of the ghost moth, which is native to Australia. They are dug out of the trunks and roots of gum trees during the summertime.

Curious goanna
near your bonfire.
A bush tucker!

Bush tucker is food that can be found in the wild all over Australia. It includes plants e.g. berries and edible flowers, worms like the witchetty grub and meat like kangaroo, crocodile and emu.

If a shark would come,
swim behind protective bars.
They smell of algae.

Native dung-beetles
don't make pellets from droppings
unfamiliar.

Dung-beetles had to be introduced in Australia following the introduction of cattle, because their droppings covered and burned out the grazing grounds.

You can dig ditches
without rubber boots: your feet
water-repellent.

Hired! In the park
you stick litter on the pin
of an alpenstock.

We celebrated it. My friend from France, who was a university graduate became a cleaner. New immigrants are just like that, they love blue-collar jobs.

You may leave your white
collar at home, here it would
only get dirty.

Australia was the only country that didn't give university scholarship to the Hungarian refugees of the '56 revolution.

Work accident —
feeling guilty for
having escaped it.

Half a sandwich makes
you feel stuffed at the smoko,
back to the machine!

Smoko = short tea or cigarette-break from work.

Hit-and-run-driver
at night, the roo-bar kills and
keeps at a distance.

Roo-bar = bumper. Popular name for pubs.

In the morning on
the road there lies half of the
fauna, ironed out.

Kangaroo carcass —
swallowing dust with open
mouth by the roadside.

According to legend, when the first white man went to Australia, he asked one of the aborigines what the name was of that strange animal jumping in the distance. "Kangaroo", he answered, which meant in their language: "I don't understand you".

Long-weekend program:
you may use herbicide, if
there's no bushfire.

Old aged people's home,
gathering in the garden,
barbecue — join in.

The laughter of the
kingfisher says everything
of your being here.

Kingfisher = kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae), also called 'laughing jackass'.

Girl in miniskirt
among youngsters staring as
she drags her suitcase.

Wife sitting at home,
the man standing in the pub,
gulping up sevens.

People usually drink their beer by the 7 ounces.

Small glasses of beer,
apples being sold by the
piece, huge T-bone steaks.

Australian you
are not, though rewarded with
a frozen beer-glass.

Thirst-quenching, hot tea
you pine for, while drinking it
cold throughout the day.

Tea boils off in a
billy-can, in the Outback,
down under the bush.

Down Under = Australia; the Outback = inland Australia. In the bush, tea is usually made in a big, empty can with a wire handle attached to it, called 'billy-can'. Australian tea-ceremony, a real 'wabi-cha'.

Bottom of the globe.
Things happen elsewhere, you stay,
you're staying away.

Maybe we should put
the Earth upside down
on its own axis.

Cold southerly wind —
neither chimney, nor hearth,
your coffee cold.

Whatever the price,
a penny returned to you.
No empty pockets.

In Australia nearly all retail prices end with 99 cents.

Earth-red trails hold this
dessicated continent
together somehow.

The edges of leaves
turn towards the Sun: gum trees
don't cast a shadow.

As in an oven.
Hot dust settles on every
thing. Fear not the rain.

Thirsty koalas —
they keep on climbing higher
in the gum tree.

Koalas never drink. Eucaliptus leaves provide the necessary liquid for them. The name in the language of the aborigines means 'no water'.

Five-year drought.
Couldn't you just paint
the fence green?

Easier to find
water in the billabong,
than in the river.

Billabong = stagnant backwater. (Oftentimes water remains here longer than in the living river.)

Walking on the bank
of the Murray river, it
might reach the ocean.

There were times when the river did not reach the ocean, for example in the 1940's. The Murray is Australia's longest river.

Empty hinterland.
Flying like a boomerang,
you're called by the sea.

You have another
Australia, except you haven't
reached it yet.

Just passing through here . . .
How many more washings by
hand, in a basin?

No mail today, you
keep on reading old letters
again and again.

They immigrate,
then emigrate.
The Lucky Country.

The Lucky Country = Nickname for Australia, after Donald Horne, Australian writer.

A flock of seagulls
toddling around for crumbs —
you might fly away.

Bring neither opals,
nor kangaroo-tail soup, nor
plush toy koalas.

 

 


Bali, 2004

(rainy season)

1
Out there, pouring rain.
Coconut-shell bonfire,
apprehensive crabs.

2
The sky coming down -
the taste of cloves in your mouth:
the kretek crackles.

Kretek is Indonesia's unique clove-filled cigarette. The inimitable crackling-fizzling kretek-kretek noise the burning cloves emit follows the smoking of each lit cigarette.

3
Warm rain
on and on
keeps you home.

4
Running in the rain
to the swimming pool.
Saved!

5
It rains not all the
time, just half of the time. Now
when is it until?

6
From the deepest dream
you wake to sudden silence:
it's finished raining.

7
The pelting of rain
losing vigour. Do you think
we should get going?

8
Incredible noise —
the flood allotted for the
day has just arrived.

9
No rain yesterday.
Had you realized it, you
would've been content.


(temple-going)

1
In Hindu temples
the women, the men, the gods —
all of them skirted.

2
In the temple gate,
like Balinese stone-gods, you
put on a sarong.

3
Temple tourists
wrapped in sarong
wouldn't pray.

4
The sarong ties down
base desires — aroused by
the sacred places?

5
Out of the temple,
you should absolve your
sarong.
Desire's no sin here.


(tropical fruit)

1
Snake-skin fruit — sour
as a quince-apple. It'd make
nice decoration.

2
Brown-skinned passion fruit,
the jelly of its pulp so
frighteningly grey.

3
Chewing a bag of
peeled jackfruit cores, their taste gets
better and better.


(tropical frogs)

1
Singing birds at dawn,
concert of frogs in the night,
music is done with.

2
Minnesinger frogs:
Eine Grosse Nachtmusik —
waste your sleeping pills.

3
Invisible choir
giving serenade: croaking,
grumbling and groaning.

4
Morning brought silence.
The throats of frogs full of song
completely dried out.

*

Necklengthening search
in the marketplace — now you're
crouching in a shop.

Air-conditioned room —
at dawn moisture covering
the window outside.

Your sandals full of
quicksand, should you come again,
do it barefooted.

Nuns in the bar.
Till now, they've been hiding
in bathing suits.

Empty ocean —
the swimming pool swarms
with people.

Down to wet quicksand
digs the dog, then lies down in-
side for cooling off.

Waterskiing? Now
you're a prisoner within
a wobbly old man.

In your comb, lost hair.
Which one is your toothbrush? You
wheeze. Moan. Make holiday.

Grading up and down
on the stairs of the hotel,
you measure your strain.