A Cézanne Haibun, Maitreyabandhu
Smith/Doorstop, 2019 £6.00
The gift of silence
After reading A Cezanne Haibun
I sit all morning
without my glasses,
unaccustomed to silence.
Maitreyabandhu might be in alone in the Sierra Aitana mountains but his haibun is crowded with people.
There’s Cézanne himself, of course, and his wife Hortense, whom Cézanne’s sisters Marie and Rose suspected of gold-digging and about whom Cézanne wrote in a letter ‘My wife likes only lemonade and Switzerland’ (p.48).
Then there’s Maitreyabandhu’s mother who thinks ‘CSE’s aren’t worth the paper they are written on!’ (p.8)
And Ruskin who ‘wrote rapturously about about rocks, drawing and painting them, studying them, seeing the mountain in them’ (p.12).
And ‘Zola’s ostentation and awful wife’ (p.17).
And Rilke, who ‘in the Elegies said the trees around a shrine become the shrine: old pilgrims standing around in all weather with rough clothes and dirty feet’ (p.19).
And the old man having an allergic reaction to amoxicillin who would ‘sit and shout out the days of the week — Monday! Tuesday! Wednesday!— in a declamatory crescendo’ (p.21).
And there are people on trains — ‘someone yawning, a woman gazing at her phone, a couple with a man seeming to explain something, and an elderly woman with a Sainsbury’s bag’ (p.16).
I press my hands into the prayer position, bow and give thanks. Maitreyabandhu has been gracious and chivalrous enough to provide a space in which I can sit for so long my thoughts get bored and wander away. I do not care where they go or what they do when they get there. In the midst of a discipline built of words, this silence is a special gift from a generous author.
The whole valley
seems deserted —
only clouds live here.
Now Bashō sits down beside me and recites his poem, the one that ends ‘Take this old body and hide it in the mountains’ (p.21). Then he too takes off his glasses and, fully at home in the silence, breathes slowly and deeply ... slowly and deeply ...
Soon the rise and fall of my ribs matches his.