Creek Haibun

Creek Haibun

The creek’s waters flow so quickly that I make little headway in my attempt to cross. A water moccasin slips by, and my left boot takes on water. This is not real, I say. We’ve had no rain and I would not be so foolish as to do this. Asleep? Perhaps, but I’ve passed the halfway point and have no choice but to move forward. I slip and nearly pitch headfirst into the dark current. Lightning stitches the sky.

 

dreaming, the snake

swims against floodwaters

oh, what have I lost?

 

Dispatches from the Pandemic: This Old Desk

Dispatches from the Pandemic: This Old Desk

This old desk whispers hints of lives lived in separate peripheries, of unseen treasures and thoughts and deeds. Whose fountain pen scrawled love notes on the inlaid leather pullout, which daughter broke a crystal finger bowl and wept for a lost pet? What books rested behind these glass doors? What curiosities? Old pocket knives, polished stones? Spent cartridges? And in these slots? Perhaps perfume bottles and note pads. Or unanswered letters and a worn deck of playing cards. A tin box of regrets, another of joy.

Haiku and Whitman
mingling behind beveled glass
Look: my mother’s ashtray

The desk and I are slowly making our acquaintance. I pledge that I will never take its untold history for granted, that I’ll respect its presence and do my utmost to fill it with purpose, with cherished objects and the satisfaction of good work. In turn it offers me solidity, an altar at which to sit and think, to rearrange words, create lists, read, conjure fantasies, breathe. I’ve only just realized that I’ve lacked such a base since abandoning my Texas shack fifteen months ago.

Another window
frames the distant crow
Home at last!

Political Haibun

 

Political Haibun

The wind knows impermanence but does not trust it.
Dependent upon atmospheric pressure, absorption
and rotation, who can blame the wind? We, too,
lend ourselves illusions, only to barter them away.
Three miles for a beer. Seven seconds for a fresh look.
A dollar extended for every five stolen. Empathy,
but only for the wealthy. Electing liars to office,
we justify our actions with more untruths. Nothing
improves. Even the quality of lies diminishes.

yellowed grass bending

under the sun’s weight

god’s will, they say

 

Pain (Haibun)

Pain

Pain reminds me that I’m breathing, still able to appreciate the fragrance of French roast coffee brewing, the diced red pepper, onion and jalapeño mixture sizzling in the pan. Today is a good day. When I roll out the dough for the onion tart, the leg barely protests, and as I sip ginger tea while the tart bakes, no throb interrupts my pleasure.

Sometimes the hip shocks me with its barbed lance attack, or the knee rasps “not today, sonny,” and I grimace, concentrate on deliberate forward movement, one short step followed by another, into the kitchen or down the steps to the shack.

Music soothes, as does poetry, but occasionally the weight of the guitar is more than the leg can bear. Still, when I manage to lose myself in a tune or a few phrases, I drift in their currents, weightless, free.

Oh, to climb that hill
among those lost maples
Look — my shoe’s untied

* * *

“Pain” first appeared in The Zen Space in July 2018.

Texas Haibun

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Texas Haibun

I dream of poetry in all its forms, rising and flowing and subsiding without end, much like ice shrugging within itself. Last winter a hard freeze split a valve on the downstream side of the cistern. Had it cracked even a few inches up-line there would have been no need to replace the valve.

captive rain recalls
its journey towards the ground
the garden returns

The well terminates at 280 feet. The water is hard, but cool, and tastes of dark limestone and ancient rains.

Even the gnarled live oaks have dropped their leaves. Grass crunches underfoot and smells like dead insects and dried herbs. Mosquitoes have vanished. Only the prickly pears thrive. Their flowers are bright yellow and bloom a few days each year.

sauteed with garlic
nopalitos on my plate
their thorns, forgiven

I wipe sweat from my forehead with the back of the glove, and wonder how many ounces of fluid have passed through my body this year, how the rain navigates from clouds through layers of soil and stone, only to return, how a cold beer might feel sliding down my throat.

stoking the fire
winter rain whispers to me
forget tomorrow

 

* * *

Originally posted in February, 2014, this was my first attempt at a haibun.

 

photo(15)

 

 

Four Poems Up at As Above So Below

I’m delighted that four of my shakuhachi poems are up at As Above So Below, which also includes two poems by Stephanie L. Harper (one of which was written while under COVID-19’s breath-crushing grip) and pieces by Kate Garret, Sarah Law, Mark Tulin and others you might recognize. Many thanks to editor Bethany Rivers for taking these pieces.

Rain Haibun

 

Rain Haibun

Watching that thought slide down the wall
into the grass. Losing it and the next,
celebrating each. How quickly the body
accepts decay. This knee, those arteries.
A fragmented life. Not even the rain
brings us back.

 

The ticking roof
swells with thunder.
My old friends, waiting.

 

* * *

“Rain Haibun” first appeared in The Larger Geometry: poems for peace, available at Amazon. This anthology of poems that “uplift, encourage and inspire,” features poets from five countries and three continents. Published by the interfaith peaceCENTER of San Antonio, Texas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to benefit the peaceCENTER.

I’m pleased to have had a small role in selecting the poems.

Contributing poets include Lynne Burnett, Charlotte Hamrick, Daryl Muranaka, Stephanie L. Harper, Sudhanshu Chopra, Texas Poet Laureate Carol Coffee Reposa, Michael Vecchio, Rebecca Raphael and others.

 

 

Emptying Haibun

 

Emptying Haibun

Waiting, I open myself but nothing enters. Even music’s comfort avoids me, preferring calmer ports or perhaps another’s wind choices. I drop the weighted cord through the flute, pull it, and watch the cloth ease out. Some days pain drags behind me no matter what words emerge, what phrases follow. Last night brought the season’s first fireflies. This wall of books grows taller each day.

exhaling, I note

smudges in the sky —

oh, dirty window

 

Creek Haibun

 

Creek Haibun

The creek’s waters flow so quickly that I make little headway in my attempt to cross. A water moccasin slips by, and my left boot takes on water. This is not real, I say. We’ve had no rain and I would not be so foolish as to do this. Asleep? Perhaps, but I’ve passed the halfway point and have no choice but to move forward. I slip and nearly pitch headfirst into the dark current. Lightning stitches the sky.

dreaming, the snake

swims against floodwaters

oh, what have I lost?

 

Empty Cup

 

I wrote this two years ago, a week after my father died. Many of us are mourning today, with more to follow. COVID-19 doesn’t care.

 

Empty Cup

I set down my cup, pour
tea and think this day, too,
may never end.

With what do we quantify love? How does grief measure us? Nine days ago I wrote “My father is dying and I’m sipping a beer.” More words followed, but I did not write them, choosing instead to let them gather where they would – among the darkening fringe at light’s edge, in that space between the shakuhachi’s notes, in the fragrance of spices toasting in the skillet. In unwept tears. Everywhere. Nowhere.

Seven days ago I wrote “My father is dead.” Again, I chose to let the unwritten words gather and linger, allowing them to spread in their own time, attaching themselves to one another, long chains of emptiness dragging through the days.

If experience reflects truth, sorrow’s scroll will unravel slowly for me, and will never stop. I feel it beginning to quiver, but only the tiniest edge emerges. I am nothing, I say. I am voice, I am loss, I am name. I am memory. I am son.

I have fifty-nine years
and no wisdom to show for it.
Never enough. Too much.

 

* * *