“Basho Solo” by Steve Lautermilch

Lautermilch’s poem “Basho Solo” appeared in Sing What Is Well Made, where it received first prize – the 2009 poetry prize competition – from the W. B. Yeats Society of N.Y.

Steve Lautermilch

Basho Solo

Thirty years in a monk’s
hut, island hermitage of an artist’s boat cottage;
wayfarer rain and wandering storm,
now and then a cloud, a gathering mist
for a hiking companion.

the haze and fog that sidle in,
sun at their back, burning them away, ghosts
in steaming rags and tatters.

Syllables, whispering silence,
dissolving phrases, watery dregs of tea.
Language that floats and fades,
shuffles down a path, hedges and back roads
out of mind. In the one door
and out the window.


Creaky gate where walk
leads to raft, river to plunge. Well fed
moon, stooping under the horse chestnut tree,
going to pieces in the rain –
leaves dripping or falling, streams that puddle
under your feet –
robe, mantle, sleeves
wet as your cheeks – every bone and sinew
in your skin bag aching or preparing.

Cloak like a rice sack torn open,
knots and threads catching on branches and thorns.
Elbows spilling, flapping loose at your ribs.
Bird neck craning this way that,
trying to escape.


Porous cup, fire cracked clay, fingers and palms
of a child, little boy always grasping,
begging to see.
Trying to read the map.

Trying to find the way.
Eyes, bleary and going blind,
do you ever know what you see.
Where you stand. Porch step, railing,
pier and deck. Wobbling bottom of a leaky boat.

Deer’s cry, bleating, water’s ripple, chanting,
moon down on all fours, searching rushes
and scouring reeds, ears snatching
at scraps of song,
hints and traces of notes
caught, lost in the bamboo –

Her hand, brushing the hair out of her eyes,
your fingers along her lips, a strand of her hair
caught on your tongue, the sudden spill of her breath
touching your face, reminding you, forcing you
both to remember to breathe –

Rhythms and tones of a woods, shadows
that always keeps changing,
always keeps time – the rise and fall of limbs
beyond hearing, beyond time,
beyond words –


Tree leaves. Water leaves. Leaves.

~ by samofthetenthousandthings on July 30, 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: