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Basho

Cees Nooteboom, translated from the Dutch by J.M. Coetzee

We know poetic poetry the common dangers
of moonstruckness, bel canto. Embalsamed air, that is all,
unless you turn it into pebbles that flash and hurt.
You, old master, polish the pebbles
that you fling to bring down a thrush.
Out of the world you cut an image that bears your name.
Seventeen pebbles for arrows a school of deathly singers.
See by the waterside the track of the poet
on his way to the innermost snowland. See how the water erases it
how the man with the hat inscribes it again
preserves water and footprint, capturing the movement that has passed,
so that what vanished is still there as something that vanished.

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