SECTION 3

fierce sunlight-
a pumpkin vine
venturing onto the sand

Japan has 4000 islands. I saw somewhere around 3800 of them by evening. One was Kurishima Island. Kris Kondo, who sat with her daughter, Karen, in the seat ahead and across the aisle from me, translated its name as Beckoning Island.

inviting island-
I am here for a moment
in September

We stopped at an observation area. The bridges are stunning. The scope of the Shimanami bridge project, 10 bridges linking nine islands or nine bridges linking 10 islands, something, is incredible. I spent some of myworking life in industrial construction and I was shocked at the scale of that first bridge I saw.One peculiar aspect of it is it has a separate ramp for motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians spiraling up to it.

I met Nanae Tamura at this stop on the tour. She introduced herself, speaking very good English, and we got along right away. The reporter asked me what I thought of the bridge. I think I said it was stupendous.

We reboarded our buses and crossed the bridge and travelled some more, swaying back and forth. As it turns out, I can ride planes, train, and automobiles, but I can not ride buses. Motion sickness.

sultry day-
the child on the bus
plays with a polar bear

We eventually arrived in a town on Omishima Islet (Island # 2862) to visit Oyamazumi Shrine. This shrine is a repository for ancient armor, and I think, dedicated to the crane maiden, revered in Japan for reasons similar to those for which Joan of Arc is known in the west. Her breastplate is the only ancient one made for a female which still exists in Japan. Nanae walked beside me, and the reporter followed. It was a fairly long walk to the shrine, however, and the heat and humidity took their toll on me, and I did not make it all the way to the storehouse of the shrine, but had to stop and rest not very far inside the gate.

miserable heat-
talk beneath the camphor tree
turns to mothers-in-law

The reporter asked me questions in impeccable Japanese of which I did not understand a single word. Nanae kindly interpreted his questions, and then my answers. One of the things he asked was: how and when did I did I first learn about haiku. I explained for the 3rd or 4th time since landing in Japan that I first learned about haiku in, in the early seventies, and that Lorraine Ellis Harr had published a few in Dragonfly. I wanted to write novels, though, so let haiku slip. I did write fiction for a while, but my attention span started shrinking over the years. I did not find out until the mid nineties that my medical condition was not a simple case of lupus, and that, essentially, my body was working to reject, among other things, the veins in my brain. As my attention span shrank, so did the forms I explored in my writing. I moved from novels to long short stories to short short stories and long poems to shorter poems and short poems and, eventually, after twenty years, haiku. I have no idea what Nanae said to the reporter. I think the camera was running the whole time I blabbered. The other thing the reporter wanted to know was how did I manage to find myself in Japan? I explained about finding the Shiki list on the internet in early 1997, just when what little health I still had went kaplooey and I could no longer work in the steel mill. As I learned more and more about haiku on the list, I learned more and more about Shiki and could not help feeling a certain affinity with him, not only for his views of haiku, but to some degree for suffering an incurable illness. I was even more fortunate, in a way, to find the Shiki list in the first place than to win the haiku contest.

Again, I have no idea what Nanae might have said to the reporter, but somebody later assured me that remarks I had made would please some of the people in Matsuyama. I don't know. I think anybody with sense would take my remarks as a symptom of hubris. Who knows?

Anyway, I had to abandon Nanae to the reporter and start back to the bus. I moved so slowly, she had time to finish interpreting my remarks to the reporter, stop in a store, and then present me with a souvenir collection of postcards that have images of the Shimanami bridges on them. It was the first of many gifts I would receive.

The sickness returned when the motion returned. We stopped for lunch, but I could not bear to look at any food. The trip back to Matsuyama involved a trip on a ferry, but I did not get off the bus. The trip back to Matsuyama also involved a two-lane highway winding through the mountains. The bus stopped at just the right moment.

on the ferry

I bought a small ice cream cone. I wonder if all Japanese ice cream has so many little chips of ice in it. In any case, it was some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted. It helped.

The whole point of the bus ride was to produce a haiku. I turned in a piece of nothing.

the preying mantis
in the men's room
watching me watching him

If I somehow gave you the impression that the day I traveled to Japan was a long one, which it was, my first full day in the country was even longer.

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