Something Small

      by David G. Lanoue

 

Bye bye Issa,

you bald cantankerous

cold-shadowed

 

poet with the crazed

crooked hand.

My days of squinting

 

at your warm

brush-dribbled Japanese

that sputters row

 

by wondrous row

queer small discoveries . . .

are done.

 

The Great Bronze Buddha

sneezed and out

popped a swallow!

 

Eighteen publishers

reject my translations

of you . . . wouldn’t

 

sell, try a smaller press . . .

But the presses got

smaller and smaller

 

like the dark urgent spot

of a flea swimming

in a sake-bowl

 

in moonlight going nowhere.

Bye bye Issa,

never again will I dare

 

try putting to dum-dee-dum

English exquisite mornings

muffled in mist,

 

your paunch-shape fading

in clouds, chuckling

at something small.

 

 

From New Orleans Review 19.1 (Spring 1992), page 98. As it turned out, in 1991, before “Something Small” appeared in print, the 39th press the author tried did actually publish David’s first book of Issa translations (Asian Humanities Press).