Moonfruit (Experiments in Tanka)

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I don’t know what’s up with the #moonfruit hashtags over at Twitter, but it kind of makes me think of tanka. From what little I can remember of Literature class, tanka is the oldest form of poetry in Japan.  The arrangement of the moras (syllables… verses… whatever, I’m not a poet) go 5-7-5-7-7.  It’s very constrained and spare… and I love it.

Come to think of it, I don’t know what a moonfruit is.  I imagine the things along the lines of mangoes or oranges or apples, growing from trees.  I wouldn’t know what to think when I see the “moonfruit tree,” instead of raindrops, on my apartment window tonight:

The morning moonfruit
Covered in dew, like the stars
Greeting me at dawn.
Its sight keeps me wide awake.
The smell makes me fall asleep.

Maybe moonfruits are something sort of romantic.  I can imagine the lovestruck exchanging vows, promises of moons and stars, from the astronomical to the cosmic and even the divine.  Is there perhaps a promise of moonfruits, with something hidden in a promise?

There I held your hand
Looked in your eyes, kissed your lips
At the moonfruit grove.
Together we had a taste
Of a fruit that we don’t know.

I remember the Japanese monk Yoshida Kenko, who perhaps holds the distinction of the most bored man of his generation.  Kenko was so bored that he wrote short essays on everything from inkstones to the meaning of life while he was in seclusion, far and away from the spiritually-unclean plebeians.  Maybe I should follow in his footsteps:

When moonfruits blossom
They turn from flowers to fruits
With each passing hour.
A taste that your tongue may love
But a sight your eyes will miss.

I must say that there’s nothing like the feeling of being under a tree.  It’s hard to look for trees and quiet spots in the crazy and dizzy hurly-burly of the Metropolis, but I can imagine “moonfruit trees.”

By the moonfruit tree
I look up and see branches
Rustling in the wind.
Patiently and eagerly
Waiting for them to ripen.

I think that’s enough waxing poetically for one day.  As much as I love the challenges of writing in a very constrained manner (mostly because I write in long sentences), I think there’s nothing that can capture the essence of life itself as the nari keri and the wabi sabi of the constrained, the economical, and the honest.

The poem in a fruit
May not be enough for words
Too many of them
Can never capture the taste
Of a heaven in my hand.

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