After Reading Kobayashi Issa’s The Spring of My Life On My 49th Birthday

On a dull December day it’s never noon 
more briefly, though what a relief 
to look around and realize our lies, in the long run,
won’t last long. 

                       I feel like the nail 
holding up someone else’s painting.
My thoughts are the loose thing 
in the dishwasher only I can hear.
When I say, Snow, what will become of this world?
it says, I was not taught future tense.

                        Through the window, 
after the heavy storm, I can follow mysterious 
paw prints to the spot along the fence 
where, in summer, the neighbors like to whisper.
They’ve taken their secrets inside.
It’s left a silence so complete, so free 
of ambition, it feels possible to know forgiveness, 
which hammered thinner than memory
carries a brighter light.


Copyright © 2021 by Dobby Gibson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“After a snowstorm, there’s a stillness that hints at a grace we can’t quite access. It becomes possible to imagine the unburdening of the self. Hence my debt here to Issa, and also to Milosz’s poem written after Issa, who wrote his haibun after Basho’s. Which is to say that poems, like birthdays, are intensely serial. I’ll never know all the voices speaking through me.”
Dobby Gibson