New Moon


Some of the homes in our neighborhood post poetry near the sidewalk that I like to read on our dog walks, and though I detested poetry when I was young a couple of them have really caught my eye and made me want to start exploring it. I loved this short poem from a few hundred years ago by samurai and poet Mizuta Masahide, who is quoted in this translation as:

My barn having burned to the ground

I can now see the moon.

Mizuta Masahide

There are several translations available, translation is tricky in general but I would guess especially so for poetry, another version is:

Barn’s burnt down –

now I can see the moon.

Mizuta Masahide

I was unfamiliar with the poem but loved it immediately, there are many layers in those few words. And I think this translation, though not as poetic, hints at that:

My storehouse having been burnt down,

nothing obstructs my view of the bright moon.

Mizuta Masahide

It’s important to stay positive in the face of tragedy, to see opportunity in change, to seek the beauty of the world that surrounds us but that we hide from ourselves, to see how easily our love of wealth harms the spirit. But to remember too, that barn may have stored food for the winter, and if people are suffering, they need more than “thoughts and prayers”, they need help. That they are us. Let us break bread together and wonder at the moon.

Poet Tree

Poet Tree

Several people in the neighborhood post poetry outside their homes, either in a dedicated housing or in this case, attached to a large tree by the street. Sometimes the poetry is self-written, while some highlight the work of others. Ellie and I pass by this tree pretty frequently on our walks, depending on the route she wants to take home, and the postings change over time, a Pooh quote below and a poem above. I was rather struck by the current poem, Langston Hughes‘ “I, Too”. I despised poetry in my youth so it’s not surprising that I was familiar with neither poem nor poet, but I was both moved and educated on our walk that evening.

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table,
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed —

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes