Discovering Haiku While I Am Waiting
Vagrant birds fly west
Chasing sunset’s subdued light
Dense clouds clear behind.
Waiting is one the toughest passages of life. I feel confined and stranded being neither here nor there. I am not anymore what I used to be, but not yet also what I would become. I’m like a hatching egg on a hanged nest, and what I am tasked to do for now is to wait.
In 2004, I left the safety of my harbour – resigned from my job – and plunged into an ocean of uncertainties to answer the beckoning of a better life promised for nurses in the US. I never thought I would go back to the profession I deserted 10 years earlier. After all, I was contented living one of my childhood dreams working as a store manager. But in life, there are things that we have to do not because we want to, but because we need to. That explains my unpopular decision and the risk I took then, which surprised my peers and against the advise of my superiors. And so, just like other nurses chasing their fate overseas, or worse, like most filipinos dreaming to live anywhere but here, I became part of our country’s version of modern-day exodus: The alarming problem of Filipino Immigration – or is this the solution to our ailing economy?
Clear shallow puddles
Fishes feed in the harbor
Off seas, the fleet goes.
I found the enlightenment I seek for my action while treading the narrow passage of my life’s transition. The clues are revealed in the fleeting moments while I wait. I capture them by writing, and it is amazing how they take shape on paper as I move forth. Heedful to the unfolding of each day, I trusted God’s time to take me where I am headed. Books opened my mind to look at things in a pellucid perspective that mostly I didn’t fathom initially.
Perhaps it was providential that I chanced upon a haiku piece from a book I am reading that started it all. Basho’s most famous verse, the old pond, stirred my interest on his works and the Haiku. I found a perfect form and pattern to inscape my ideas and present state of mind. It inspired me to compose my Filipino Immigration series : a collection of poems that helped me explore my sentiments about this journey.
Land of Childhood Dreams
Hedged in by enormous seas
Haiku is a poem that depends on images for its effect. Suggestiveness and brevity are the soul and life of a Haiku. It is the shortest of the Japanese poems consisting of 17 syllables in three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables respectively. Almost always, a Haiku makes some reference to the seasons. Although contemporary Haiku writers maintain that such is not a necessary element. They infused human affairs and variety of subject matters such as love, journey, and the uncertainties of life in their works. Like other Japanese poetry forms, it has no meter and rhyme.
Cool winds from the west
Carrying the scents of pines,
Entice the palm’s fronds.
Matsuo Bashu (1644-1694), is the greatest Japanese Haiku poet. His style contenues to exercise great influence on the works of his followers upto the present day. His Haiku are finished art giving expression to actual life he calls, a life of poetical refinement. His themes mainly are natural beauties. He has deep insights on the essence of things and the advantage for powerful impressiveness. Here is my attempt to becoming his would-be follower:
Rare pearl of south sea
Strewn on far off foreign shores
One of Basho’s follower I admire is Taniguchi Buson(1715-1783), Buson’s style retains natural beauties, an influence by Basho, but differs the master in some respects. He infused romantic themes and interesting incidents in history on his works, giving free play to fantasy and imagination. Many of his verses are sketches in words with wonderful realism and vivid descriptive power derived from his style of painting. Buson exercised his strong influence in these 2 verses of my series:
Odd drizzling showers
Frozen waters on brown skin
Drenched soul, shivering.
Sweet tropical fruits
Food for migratory birds
New trees in new lands.
Another disciple of Basho that added fresh touch on his style is Issa(1762-1827). His verses are essentially pathetic. They are poems in human affairs dressed in haiku. His tragic art is the apt pattern to cloth my own pathetic insights on immigration.
Foreign busy streets
Teeming with nameless faces
Alone in the crowd.
There is confusion among some western writers calling Haiku the japanese epigram on the ground that in length it resembles the short european epigrams. Asaturo Miyamori cleared this issue sighting that epigrams rather bear great resemblance to Senryu or witty poems. Senryu is another Japanese verse of the 17th century originated by Karai Hachiemon who uses senryu(the river willow) for his pen name. Though it resembles Haiku’s syllable count, they differ much in manner, contents and subject matter. Senryu is more biting, witty, welcomes humor and is often vulgar. Humor is considered bad taste in a Haiku, which is a serious verse. Here’s my senryu verse that fits to this series:
Fingers rolled on ink
Black mark streaks on documents
Flying to US.
I encountered many setbacks along the process of my US immigrant visa application: false promises from agencies, retrogression, delays, delays, delays! The agony of waiting I silently suffer had shaken my optimism, but I realize now that all these, too, are part of my journey’s itenerary.
Waiting help build a person’s character: it did a successful overhaul job in mine. I appreciate better now the true meaning of the line: never save anything for the swim back. No matter how hazed the horizon in the morning, or how narrow the roads may seem, or how uncertain the ocean may be, we should always thrive to take that one more step forward. Because we would never know how close we are to the shore unless we try to take that one more stroke.
He is my life raft in the rough sea;
My compass when terrains are hazy.
I fear no more my journey’s dark alley,
For God lights a candle inside me.
I got my approved Visa in 2006; left the country and arrived here Chicago, October last year. It is my ticket to this current phase of my life’s journey. I thought before that my ultimate prize was to get here. I know now that I already claimed bits of my rewards with the wisdom I gained along the way. I dreamed of setting my feet on the american soil. I was enthused to have the chance to show them what Filipinos are made of. Perhaps, that waiting phase was God’s way of giving me time for self-appraisal before I leave, so I would know what I could offer the world.
Carry specks of home
Brown shoe-tracks on snow.
I value the wisdom that the school of life taught me in that oppressive confines of the classroom of waiting. I will forever treasure the Haiku lessons I am fortunate to learn in the side at that moment. I have packed them with the memories in my luggage. As I re-opened the pages now, Flashback of thoughts flicker in my mind. I promised not to forget and this haiku collection will remind me to remember.