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ô kemushi ari no jigoku ni ochi ni keri

big caterpillar--
into the ants' hell
it has fallen

The "ants' hell" (ari no jigoku) is created by so-called antlions, whose predatory larvae dig pits to trap passing ants and other insects.

Issa's allusions to hell are often flippant, illustrating the unconcern with future life that befits a Jôdoshinshû Buddhist. One's future life depends, after all, on the liberating power of Amida Buddha--so one should put questions of rebirth destinations out of one's mind ... and simply trust. In this haiku, however, hell is grisly and real--and there's no Amida in sight.

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All translations © 1991-2010 by David G. Lanoue, rights reserved.