Poet Nanao Sakaki died a year ago today. December 21, 2008. If I remember the stories, he died as he had lived: a free spirit in universe, resting for a moment in the mountains of Nagano prefecture, who stepped out into a star-bright night to use the porta-potty and fell over dead from a heart attack. No drawn-out agonizing death – so typical from what I’ve read of Sakaki: wandering scholar, voracious reader, living teacher – did you know he identified the B-29 that was on its way to bomb Nagasaki? He wandered the islands, mountains, and deserts of the world. Even at 86 years old, all he had were belongings in two backpacks.
The introduction to his book Break the Mirror says:
His poems were not written by hand or head, but with the feet. These poems have been sat into existence, walked into existence, to be left here as traces of a life lived for living – not for intellect or culture.
His life, a
Within a circle of one meter
You sit, pray and sing
Within a shelter ten meters large
You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.
Within a field a hundred meters large
Raise rice and goats.
Within a valley, a thousand meters large
Gather firewood, water, wild vegetables and Amanitas.
Within a forest ten kilometers large
Play with raccoons, hawks,
Poison snakes and butterflies.
Mountainous country Shinano
A hundred kilometers large
Where someone lives leisurely, they say.
Within a circle one thousand kilometers large
Go to see southern coral reef in summer
Or winter drifting ices in the sea of Okhotsk.
Within a circle ten thousand kilometers large
Walking somewhere on the earth.
Within a circle one hundred thousand kilometers large
Swimming in the sea of shooting stars.
Within a circle one million kilometers large
Upon the spaced-out yellow mustard blossoms
The moon in the east, the sun in the west.
Within a circle ten billion kilometers large
Pop far out of the solar system mandala.
Within a circle one million light years large
Andromeda is melting away into snowing cherry flowers.
Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
There again you sit, pray and sing
You sit, pray and sing
Thank you, Nanao, for practising,
Wow . . . Got the love in that letter!
Hey Barry! I read about Sakaki’s death the same day I lost a good friend. Visualizing the ever-expanding circles was very helpful. Just sit, pray, and sing.