Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 3, September 2011

Jeffrey Harpeng
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Seven Teas—Sixth Tea
(Hamasa Yukki Bancha)

Candy floss at a fairground, the buttery tang of popcorn, trampled grass, hay-bale seating in the beer tent. Bancha nudges me to remember those notes and the rustic tune they compose. Bancha provokes me to remember what it is not. There are stories, tatty as backpackers' paperbacks, carried by pilgrims and fellow travellers.

The second cup, are we there already, is waiting for a fish grilling over charcoal. Then I unwrap the leaves wrapped around my small-treat rice dumpling with sweet red bean filling; every mouthful is a note-perfect duet.

ant on the page
Buddha doing what ants do
not being Buddha

There is an island of froth on top of the third cuppa, a chain mail of bubbles, a slaked off hide of transparent fish.

There is reincarnation and eternal recurrence in Bancha. I share a brew with Nietzsche,* who is drinking from a moustache cup. He says, "In a strong cup of tea there is all the happiness we need." He says he'll edit that later.

In Bancha there is a sweetness as sweet as a kiss. When we speak of sweetness in a kiss we speak tongue in cheek. There is the salt of a kiss. There is less than that in Bancha. Two grains in a wooden bucket brimming with rain water. Bancha, as the salt of a kiss, is but a rumour in the mouth.

lip to the cup's lip
a holy jazz of things about
to be told

Bancha is an inscrutable psychogenic. It quickens the heart, calms the mind. By those measures it alters the way we feel the world. Now consider the meditations of Zen monks who have taken a lesson from that cup.

Bancha is a pilgrim's conversation, belief pressed to the lips. A story that is true as it travels by word of mouth, as if ink would stain the facts. Then said again it is a sleeping draught for daydreams, and in those daydreams there is a sadness. The weight of nine or ten feathers rest on the heart. Quietly, bancha tells you there is always some sadness, some weight upon the heart. Perhaps many feathers. Bancha announces tea as the holy water for funerals, drunk in a grieving as long as, no longer than the Yangtze.

wind in the palm fronds
a magpie swoops
to sing where it lands


Note: Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: "Nothing should be eaten between meals, coffee should be given up―coffee makes one gloomy. Tea is beneficial only in the morning. It should be taken in small quantities but very strong. It may be very harmful and indispose you for the whole day, if it is taken the least bit too weak. Everybody has his own standard in this matter, often between the narrowest and most delicate limits. In an enervating climate tea is not a good beverage with which to start the day: an hour before taking it an excellent thing is to drink a cup of thick cocoa, freed from oil. Remain seated as little as possible, put no trust in any thought that is not born in the open, to the accompaniment of free bodily motion―nor is one in which the muscles do not celebrate a feast. All prejudices take their origin in the intestines. A sedentary life, as I have already said elsewhere, is the real sin against the Holy Spirit."





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