Because of a debilitating disease Masaoka Shiki had to be confined to his bed for almost 7 years until he passed away. Despite the pain, he continued writing poems while lying on his back. When Shiki came near to death, one of his disciples, Hekigoto was at Shiki's bedside. Hekigoto wrote about how Shiki wrote his final three haiku as follows.
It was around 10 o'clock on the morning of September 18.
I dipped his old writing brush ,whose stem and brush were both thin, full of ink and had him hold it in his right hand.
Then quite abruptly in the center of the paper Shiki began to write readily "sponge gourd has bloomed " , and a little below that phrase, he again moved his brush in a breath "choked by phlegm"
I was a little curious what he was going to write next and was watching the paper closely, then at last he wrote "a departed soul", which bit into my heart.
Hekigoto was very touched when Shiki began to write the poem. Shiki was so weak, and desperately coughing, but he still had a determination to write these haiku.

hechima saite
tan no tsumarishi
hotoke kana
sponge gourd has bloomed
choked by phlegm
a departed soul
tan itto
hechima no mizu mo
gallons of phlegm
even the gourd water
couldn't clear it up
ototoi no
hechima no mizu mo
the gourd water
of the night before yesterday
they didn't get it either

Shiki's last 3 haikus written by himself

It is said that fluid taken from a sponge gourd stem is effective in relieving coughing. The night before there was a full-moon The fluid collected on a full moon night was believed to be the best to clear phlegm up. Since Shiki was really dying, Shiki's family may have been too discouraged to collect fluid on the full-moon night. One of his friends described that Shiki looked like a living mummy. On the next day of his 35th birthday he fell into a coma and then on the 19th his life came to end, while sponge gourd blossoms were in bloom in his garden. We call the anniversary of Shiki's death "anniversary of sponge gourd.

I hope Shiki-Team can spread Shiki's enthusiaum for haiku to the world.

Kimiyo Tanaka (Shiki-team)