clouds gathering – – tanka

“After several days, clouds gathering over the North Road, we left Sakata reluctantly, aching at the thought of a hundred thirty miles to the provincial capital of Kaga. We crossed the Nezu Barrier into Echigo Province, and from there went on to Ichiburi Barrier in Etchu, restating our resolve all along the way. Through nine hellish days of heat and rain, all my old maladies tormenting me again, feverish and weak, I could not write.

Altair meets Vega


already the night is changed”

Basho, “Narrow Road to the Interior,” translated by Sam Hamill, the Essential Basho, p. 27-28…quote selected by Frank Tassone for Day 19 of November with Basho

Suddenly this passage from Basho’s Narrow Road to the Interior sinks in. After a gruelling day on the road, Basho’s spirits lift as he remembers that the next day is a special festival (Tanabata) celebrating the annual reunion of two lovers. For a response, I wrote a tanka finding words from Basho’s haibun for the first three lines:




gathering along the way

through heat and rain

tasting salt on our lips

the sea we left miles behind



©️2019 Ontheland

Tanabata Festival, woodcut by Ando, Hiroshiga

11 thoughts on “clouds gathering – – tanka

      1. Tanka is a five-line Japanese form and haibun is prose with haiku, usually at the end, but sometimes also included between prior paragraphs.


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