This cold winter night
English version by Sam Hamill
This cold winter night,
that old wooden-head Buddha
would make a nice fire
|-- from The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library), Edited by Sam Hamill / Edited by J. P. Seaton|
/ Image by thanapat /
Chilly weather this morning. Makes a person cast about for a source of warmth... Hmm...
Every time I come across this haiku it makes me laugh. It works beautifully on several levels and can suggest almost opposite meanings. Superficially, we are contemplating an act of sacrilegious vandalism -- hungrily looking at a large wooden Buddha head, perhaps it is neglected or fallen, and fantasizing about setting it on fire for a little comfort. On the other hand, the head engulfed in flames is a common image in Asian iconography to represent enlightenment, a variation on the nimbus or halo -- so the haiku can just as easily be saying something about warming oneself through spiritual illumination.
The haiku shocks, it even offends, at the same time that it inspires awakening -- a masterful joke!
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/ Photo by Daisuke Matsumura /
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