Heidi StephensonThe heart of Issa: my "Cup-of-tea" (Part One)
Animal Rights Poetry By Heidi Stephenson From All-Creatures.org

Poems of compassion dedicated to the non-human animals who share this planet with us and the people who fight for them.

The heart of Issa: my "Cup-of-tea" (Part One)
By Heidi Stephenson

caged bird –
watching the butterfly
with envy

sow stares through crate bars
remembers ancient woodlands
(when her will was free)


first snowfall –
soon to be boiled
the playful pig

male calf born today!
(he’ll be shot through mouth tomorrow)
human milk snatchers


the year ends –
how long will that turtle
hang there?

badger slumped on verge
bullets pepper his soft chest
victim of sick lies


the sold pony
looks back at mother…
autumn rain

pregnant Dartmoor mare
sent to Italy for ‘meat’
summer’s post-card girl


boars and bears
are my neighbours
winter seclusion

storm pounds the glass pane...
lambs clinging to oaks in fields
(heart sinks like granite)


which one of those
tame cranes
will the arrow hit?

panicked vixen stalls…
they will rip apart her cubs!
bystander turns sab


she cries and attacks
the human goblins...
mother sparrow

looking shameful
to the pufferfish
people’s faces

thicket bees
in the next life don’t
be like me

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) known by his pen name Issa (“Cup-of-tea”) was one of Japan’s four great haiku masters. His compassion and empathy for our fellow beings was legendary. These verses in English translation, which I have interspersed with my own, are from Professor David G. Lanoue’s 2014 book: Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A Buddhist Poet’s Perspective.

©Heidi Stephenson, January 2018

Go on to: Issa's Peaceable Kingdom (Part Two)
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