Volume XXIV, Number 2: June 2022;
a room inside
still some summer
in the hare
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
grants me tenure
East Lansing, Michigan
The Heron's Nest Award
a room inside
A bus stop is a transient place. Sooner or later, a bus will come and you will start a trip. It might be a short ride from a grocery store to home. It might be a daily trip to and from work or school. Or, perhaps it could be a trip to start a new life.
This poem has seven words, but only four images: bus stop, a room, inside, the rain. The first line immediately places a reader at the bus stop. An unexpected phrase comes next. "A room inside the rain"? Unlike a waiting area at the train station, a bus stop doesn't have much protection. Yet Newton finds "a room" there.
I visualize three scenarios: the bus stop omnibus.
Situation 1: A man is sitting on the rough metal seat. The digital signage says the next bus will come in 8 minutes. His cellphone battery is low. He is alone. He looks at the shop window across the street and asks himself when he last listened to a CD.
Situation 2: The bus stop has a kind of enclosure and a wooden bench. The man was in the middle of a walk when the rain started. He seeks temporary shelter at the bus stop. There is an old lady sitting there. A dog lies at her feet. The man wonders, "Is she waiting for a bus or just sitting here?" Thump, thump of the dog's wagging tail syncopates along with the sound of the rain.
Situation 3: A man is in a car. Stopping at the light, he sees a homeless man sitting at the bus stop. He touches a gift-wrapped package on the passenger's seat. His daughter's birthday is coming soon. He remembers her short message from the day before. "Mom says I will have a new father soon." She ends it with an emoji.
From here my imagination goes a little wild.
The word "inside" makes me think about a circle. It is a kind of eternal loop of life. The rain pours into a tiny creek in the mountain. The creek becomes a river. The river travels to the ocean. Water evaporates and creates a cloud. From the sky, the rain falls on the ground to grow crops.
We humans are a part of that cycle, though we disturb it sometimes. Do trees have their room inside the rain? Do fish have it, too? Or are we the only ones who need a room inside the rain?
There is a Japanese children's game called "Kagome Kagome." The literal translation of "kagome" is "a basket hole." To play this game, everyone holds hands and walks around in a circle. The person who is "it" sits in the middle of the circle with eyes closed. Players sing:
When will the bird in the basket come out?
In the night of dawn
The crane and turtle slipped
Who is behind you now?
When the song ends, "it" guesses who is standing behind them. If they guess correctly, the named player becomes the next "it" to sit in the middle.
We plan, set goals, and make efforts to realize our dreams. But like in a "Kagome Kagome" game, we cannot always guess right. A meteorologist gives us a weather forecast. Unfortunately, the rain does not always come when it is supposed to come. It may be a stretch to say "a bus" in Newton's haiku is a metaphor for a vehicle or a vessel which will carry us to a better place at a difficult time. Basho wrote in The Narrow Road to The Deep North, "journeying is life." There may be a room in the rain at the bus stop. The question is how to find it. Which bus stop has the right one we can enter to sit and listen to the rain?