If only a woman

If only a woman could get a jacket
     with an inside pocket
     an elegant fit around her broad shoulders
     and sleeves that didn’t expose her wrists
If only a woman could get some gloves
     to neatly sheath her gracile hands
     without webbing
     her long fingers
If only a woman could get some boots
     to let her walk wherever she wants
     without hurting her back
     or binding her toes
The world might be okay, after all, if a woman
     could do that

Bashō at Kokubuyama

I’m just a mountain dweller, sleepy by nature, who has returned his footsteps to the steep slopes and sits here in the empty hills catching lice and smashing them.
— Bashō

Bashō, sickening to death, lousy,
worn out from walking the country
and sleeping in flea-ridden dorms,

Bashō, weary of society, weary
of dealing with people,

Bashō, closer to fifty
than forty,

sat in a hut by the roadway
and gave himself entirely
to poetry (and the smashing of lice)

The epigraph is from “The Hut of the Phantom Dwelling”, translated by Burton Watson, in The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass, New York: HarperCollins, 1994, pp. 55-58. The quoted passage is on p. 57.


The other day
I had to call Vodafone and talk
to a human
He said his name was Royston
He spoke clearly and carefully
His English was very good
Even though I’m a native
I understood
every word
He took in what I said
and didn’t interrupt
He was helpful
friendly but not too familiar
and probably getting paid

The next day Vodafone
or perhaps its agency
Another young man
with very good English
reading from a script
He asked me to rate
out of 10
on his knowledge
his manner
and how satisfied I was

At first I tried to be honest
Gave him 8
for knowledge
since I’d had only
a taste
But then I thought
about what it might mean
for Royston
A human

I gave him 10 for the rest

If only they’d ask me to rate
their menu system!
To get next to Royston
takes several minutes
Hi! I’m Lisa! goes the computer
Tell me what you’re looking for!
My tongue
doesn’t have
the appropriate
I’m fighting through a hedge with a blunt knife
I’m trying to make friends
with a psychopath
It refers to itself as “me”
as if it has
lovely hair
a pretty smile
and a brain full of facts
Its Aussie-girl voice has been bought
from some agency
and chosen to satisfy
not a middle-aged straight
smart woman
but the more important

In the 21st century
if you go to a brothel
do they ask you afterwards
to rate out of 10
the prostitute’s knowledge of sex
her friendliness
and how satisfied you were