A Carefree Creature

As my response to the Ragtag daily prompt: FREEDOM
with a nod to Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: NONCHALANT

I offer this poem about this carefree toad:

The Happy Toad

by Edgar Guest

As I was walking down the road
I met an ugly, grinning toad,
who squatted in the shade and said:
“I never wish that I were dead.
Wherever I may chance to stray
I find rich food along the way;
I have no dreams I can’t fulfill;
I owe no other toad a bill.
In slimy places I abide
but with them I am satisfied.
My little children I forsook
as tadpoles in a nearby brook;
I know not where they are, nor care.
I have no burdens I must bear.
At night I never lie awake.
My bitterest enemy is the snake.
I have no taxes, no beliefs,
no cares, ambitions, hopes or griefs;
no clothes to buy, no cash to lose,
no tools that I must learn to use.
I sing no dirges, tell no jokes.
I’m just a jumping toad who croaks;
contented, placid, happy I
shall be until the day I die.”
~~~
Yet as I trudged along the road
I thought, “Who wants to be a toad?”
From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Toad

Impressionism and Haiku

We were together with friends on Monday for dinner. Ruth is a writer and Ray is an artist. Read his bio here. We got to talking about his artwork, and art in general, ending up in a discussion of Impressionist paintings. He was saying that impressionism shows something the viewer can identify, but nothing too detailed. General colour and/or detail indicate the subject, but it’s not meant to be a clear picture. Rather a scene the viewer gets as they view it from a distance.

Before I went to bed last night I spent a good hour reading various haiku at Troutswirl, the blog of The Haiku Foundation. * I had a good long read in the section on A Sense of Place: The Shore, verses all about the sounds of the seashore. Oodles of them! And then read over Haiku Master Alan Summers comments on various verses. I found this altogether so enjoyable and enlightening! (If you’re reading this, Alan, I really appreciated your long commentary.) Check out Alan’s blog here.

I should also mention Cattails, the journal of the United haiku and tanka society. Another of my favourite haiku haunts. 🙂

It dawned on me while we were listening to Ray’s artistic experiences that haiku is much like impressionism. The goal is not to produce a detailed description but rather give a few words to paint concepts and call to the reader’s imagination a scene, a thought, or feeling.

A paragraph in the introduction to the book, Japanese Haiku, © 1955 by Peter Pauper Press, says this:
One final word: the haiku is not expected to be always a complete or even a clear statement. The reader is supposed to add to the words his own associations and imagery, and thus to become a co-creator of his own pleasure in the poem.

For example, Issa’s verse — translated by David G Lanoue:
one man, one fly
one large
sitting room

Just words, until you recall your own experience of what a pest one fly can be. No matter how big the room, especially if you’re sitting quietly waiting that one fly with be a constant annoying buzz and/or it will find you and pester you no end!

Though I’m just a learner myself, I know what I like and what I don’t when it comes to haiku. The verse shouldn’t be so detailed the whole picture is there. I’ve seen some verses called haiku that may have the three-line form but are like one long sentence. Straightforward; no layers of meaning. I’ve written two verses as examples:

red and blue flashers
accident on the highway
traffic rerouted

A reader might make something of the idea that an accident reroutes people’s lives, but it still doesn’t say much beyond the initial words.

the cricket crawls
over the ripe pumpkin
a long journey

My thought is, “Oh, thrills!” However, if this says anything profound to you, please let me know.

Here’s a delightful verse from Chosu, a poet from ancient Japan.* Can’t you just picture this scene?

broken and broken
again on the sea, the moon
so easily mends

*from HAIKU HARVEST,
© 1962 by Peter Pauper Press
Verses translated by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn

Here are two of mine: senryu, actually, dealing with people and their feelings. I hope you can find some layers in them. Critiques welcome.

the war is over
soldiers go home
to strangers

Sometimes I get into quite a dither over one word and how the meaning might change. For example, I could have written the verse’s last lines as:
soldiers go home
as strangers

Would it have made the poem better or worse? I need a second opinion. 😉

escaping
into my tears
memories  of you

Since I doubt any of the “One-word Challenge” prompters will give us the word HAIKU to write on, I’ll post these thoughts and hope some of you will find them interesting. Coaching comments and other good examples welcome. 🙂

Curiosity

Curiosity quote

On April 1st, 1899, thirteen-year-old Christina Young recorded the following in her diary:

Sara Murphy and I came near catching it today. She is one of my chums, but she lives one and a half miles from here. We sit together in school.

The teacher was standing with his back to our seat and we were seeing how close we could come to his back with a pin without his knowing it. Sara had the pin almost through his coat, and I didn’t hardly know I was going to do it, but all of a sudden I gave her arm a shove.

The teacher jumped about a foot high, and turned around and brought his strap down BANG on the desk. We were pretty scared, but he just looked at us pretty sharp for a minute, and then turned around quick and didn’t do a thing to us. We behaved after that.

 

Team Work

by Edgar Guest

It’s all very well to have courage and skill
and it’s fine to be counted a star,
But the single deed with its touch of thrill
doesn’t tell us the man you are.
For there’s no lone hand in the game we play;
we must work to a bigger scheme.
And the thing that counts in the world today
is, ‘How did you pull with the team?’

They may sound your praise and call you great,
they may single you out for fame,
but you must work with your running mate
or you’ll never win the game.
Oh, never the work of a life is done
by the man with a selfish dream,
for the battle is lost or the battle is won
by the spirit of the team.

These Small Things

By Helen Welshimer
1902–1954; American journalist, writer and poet

He did not have a house where He could go
when it was night; when other men went down
small streets where children watched with eager eyes,
each one assured of shelter in the town,
The Christ sought refuge anywhere at all–
a house, an inn, the roadside, or a stall!

He borrowed the boat in which He rode that day
He talked to throngs along the eastern lake;
it was a rented room to which He called
the chosen twelve the night He bid them break
the loaf with Him, and He rode, unafraid,
another’s colt in that triumph-parade.

A man from Arimathea had a tomb
where Christ was placed when nails had done their deed.
Not ever in the crowded days He knew
did He have coins to satisfy a need.
They should not matter – these small things I crave –
make me forget them, Father, and be brave.

What Do I Have to Lose?

One day as I was mingling among the multitudes at the mall a passing T-shirt caught my eye. In bold black and white it declared, “Compromise is for Losers.”

I eyed the bearer of such anti-diplomacy. Was this his life’s philosophy, the rule he lived by? No doubt he thought he was making a statement, “Don’t mess with me.”

Losers of what, I wondered?

Truth? We should never compromise the truth, nor our honesty, our integrity, or our purity. Did the young man wearing the T-shirt have these in mind?

If I were to compromise with sin, I’d lose my self-respect. I’d feel degraded and guilty. If I fudged around with the definite “Thou shalt nots” of the Lord, I’d lose His blessing in my life and gain an uneasiness in my soul. If I say “okay” when in my heart I know the real answer should be “no”, this can be compromising with sin.

Or was he thinking of principles? Possibly. But whose principles? Would it be so bad if I lost some of my own understanding about how things should be done, my own sense of right and wrong? Does it hurt to be a little bit flexible on these at times?

So what might I gain by a compromise?

In the areas of my life where opinion, understanding and preference hold sway, a compromise could well benefit me. I’d lose my rigidity as I bend to someone else’s methods. In doing so I might well learn a better way, see things from a new perspective. Discover why a certain approach works when I was so certain it wouldn’t.

I’d lose at least a little of my pride and admit I might not have the best light on the subject. I’d have to abandon the “My way or the highway” attitude if I wanted to reach a compromise with someone.

I might have to abandon self-righteous indignation and gain better relationships. If what this person said or did was an affront to me and my nose is out of joint, I’d have to snap it in place again before I could reach a truce with her. At times I’d have to admit I was wrong and ask for forgiveness.

I’ve seen where a “No compromise” philosophy of life means “No real friends.”

Yes, it’s true. Compromise is for losers — and there are some things we really could stand to lose in order to gain something better.

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…”
I Corinthians 1: 26-28

That Foul Fiend “I CAN’T”

CAN’T

by Edgar Guest

Can’t is the worst word that’s written or spoken;
doing more harm here than slander and lies;
on it is many a strong spirit broken,
and with it many a good purpose dies.

It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
and robs us of courage we need through the day;
it rings in our ears like a timely-sent warning
and laughs when we falter and fall by the way.

Can’t is the father o feeble endeavor,
the parent of terror and half-hearted work;
it weakens the efforts of artisans clever
and makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.

It poisons the soul of the man with a vision;
it stifles in infancy many a plan;
it greets honest toiling with open derision
and mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.

Can’t is a word none should speak without blushing;
to utter it should be a symbol of shame.
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
it blights a man’s purpose and shorten his aim.

Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
refuse it the lodgment it seeks in your brain;
arm against it as a creature of terror
and all that you dream of, you someday shall gain.

Can’t is the word that is foe to ambition,
an enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
its prey is forever the man with a mission
and bows but to courage and patience and skill.

Hate it, with hatred that’s deep and undying,
for once it is welcomed ‘twill break any man;
whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
and answer this demon by saying, “I CAN.”

From his book, Along Life’s Highway
© 1933 by the Reilly and Lee Company