Saturday, September 21, 2013

A simmering of cicadas


Shizukesa ya
Iwa ni shimiiru
Semi no koe

This pervasive silence
Enhanced yet by cicadas simmering
Into the Temple Rocks dissipating            
—Matsuo Bashô

I sat outside on the stone patio the night before last to make my examen.  There was no wind, a pervasive stillness, and — I realized with a start — a simmering of cicadas.  I felt as if I were in the midst of a gently bubbling pot, the stillness seeping into my rock hard heart, infusing it with silence, with God.

An alternate translation (mine) which preserves the breath of the original.

A piercing stillness
The rocks open their hearts to
The cicadas voice

Just breathing the word shizukesa and the exhaling sound ya is stilling. 

Bashô spent 5 years working on this poem, the first draft was written in 1689, a final version inscribed in his diary in 1694.


  1. How serene to make your examen under the night sky! I enjoy doing that also but the weather here is certainly not cooperating these days. Your poem is beautiful in its simplicity. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Oh how this touched me... the poem, your presence, your prayer. Thank you.