Reader Response #1 – Uchida’s Simple Twittering Universe

The concept for this series is pretty simple: It’s an excuse to post and talk about some of my favorite poems (mainly haiku, but I will likely bring in tanka and some longer verses in the future). Each post features a single poem and commentary about why I enjoy it.

I had planned to start chronologically with the first haiku I fell in love with, but this simply was too fitting not to talk about this poem today. You may also want to look at this afterward.

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me tsumureba saezuri nomi no uchū kana

With eyes closed—
a simple twittering
universe.

—Sonō Uchida

Today, for the first time in ages, I sat down to meditate. The midmorning sun streamed through my flimsy blinds and sheer lace curtains; I could feel it on my face and eyelids. As said, I have not really tried to meditate, or even sit quietly for some time, so even though I had woken up warm, cozy, and calm, my mind resisted. It took about halfway through my mala before my breathing became more natural, and my mind started to unwind. Then, as thumb touched the guru bead, signaling that I had come all the way around to the beginning, something happened. It came quietly and mundanely.

Birds chirped outside my window, and someone opened and closed the door to the apartment complex across the yard. In that moment, the world was crisp and clear, and just so. Just those birds, just that banging door, just the sunlight on my face. No bedroom, no curtains, no me. Just being.

Then the poem rose up from the depths of my mind, and I thought, Ah! This is what Uchida meant.

Okay, maybe that’s not what Uchida meant at all when he wrote it—I would almost guarantee that his experience was different than mine—but at the time, that’s what it meant to me, which is part of the beauty of haiku and this poem.

To be honest, for me, this haiku has always seemed a bit magical. It’s so open-ended, simultaneously being in a tiny moment and embracing the broadness of the universe. It makes me think of a great void, but also the universe contained within the small twittering of a sparrow, and the universe within each of us.

This poem is simple in language and straightforward, but not any less potent for it. It carries with it the essence of being, and the universe being. There is so much room to move in the duality of this poem. With eyes closed, the universe feels limitless—it stretches into eternity. But then there is also the space, when you are centered and here in the moment, with the simple twittering somewhere nearby.

 

“With eyes closed” from: Uchida, Sonō. A Simple Universe. Foster City, CA: Press Here, 1995.

I have to apologize that the formatting of the poem is not correct—the lines should be staggered, but WordPress is being difficult.

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