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.

 

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Calvin Coolidge — Live or Memorex?

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This poem is dedicated to the memory of haiku master and good friend Ron Evans, who provided and sponsored the title for the Tupelo Press 30/30 fundraiser challenge I participated in during August 2015. Ron passed away in September 2018. I miss our pun-filled exchanges, his zany sense of humor and our wide-ranging discussions. Life continues, but the light has dimmed…

Calvin Coolidge — Live or Memorex?

They say the wind in Alvarado bypasses closed doors, slips through
book-laden walls and plate glass and into your dreams where it circles
and accumulates, whirling, whirling, steadily gaining force, gathering
loose pages and errant thoughts and memories too combustible to
burn, ignoring time’s compression and the gravity of dying suns, forever
counting, talking, thinking, looking up and out between the long nights.

unable to sleep           he opens a window          daring the wind

The 30th President of the United States breathes and writes at the junction
of an invisible house and a wheat field in Alvarado, in the guise of a
74-year old haiku poet. No longer the solemn ass, Cal laughs and speaks
and observes his two birthdays, recalling Harding’s scandals and Dorothy
Parker’s “How can they tell?” with equal relish. Sometimes he dresses
in tails and top hat, and speaks in 17-syllable phrases. Sometimes.

spitting out sake            in the shadow’s glare            death forestalled

Alvarado’s laureate is leaving it all behind – the presidency, the books,
the kolaches – catching the next breeze out of town, a silver-tongued
dust devil riding the word, spewing puns all the way to Indiana. But
buried in a waterproof box near Oswald’s grave, 314 cassette tapes
capable of shattering crystal carry his voice further than their unwound
lengths, whirring incessantly, celebrating life, praising the long wind.

standing in the sun          wisdom blows by          no questions today

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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

 

Community of Hands (Haibun)

making

He thought much of these disembodied hands, pictured them moving to the light of the burnished lantern, weaving patterns intricate as those in the most delicate hummingbird nest, textures and shades of light with traces of webs and soft fibers of unknown origin, making knots of shadows and their companions.

*

It was not that they were so very much like his; they were hands of another sort, hands that touched nothing held by another, hands that knew no lips or wooden hearts or curves in a quiet moment, hands that knew only themselves in the community of unnatural hands.

waking to the rain
he hears a far-off whistle
oh, the neighbor’s tea!

* * *

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“Community of Hands” first appeared here in April 2017.

Incongruities

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Years ago, I worked in a library…

Incongruities

so little depends
upon

the half-Japanese
bookman

reading Italian
haiku

in the Texas
library.

Once again, my apologies to William Carlos Williams, whose poetry inspires and therefore often bears the brunt of my little diversions into whimsy. “Incongruities” first appeared here in October 2015. The original WCW poem can be found here.

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Shaping (Haibun)

 

Shaping (Haibun)

He needed to shape things, make them his. Stones in the garden, carved wooden bookstands, the absence of light in certain corners of the house, all captured this need. His was not so much a desire for control as a means of learning, of observing and participating in processes not ordinarily viewed as such. To watch shadows develop in the presence of trees and vine-covered walls, flowering for brief moments, their entire lives encompassed in seconds: he wanted to hold and be held, to breathe in what the air brought him and return what he could. To live.

what greeting is this?
bugs tapping at my window
tell me winter’s gone

In the evening he often sat in a room lit only by a candle in an old iron lantern. He preferred candlelight for it did not obliterate darkness as did the electric lamps, but diminished it, allowing a room new life. Each crevice in the book shelves became a new world, each doorway an entrance to something beyond one’s perceptions of black and white, the difference of moon and sun. Corners lost their edges. Shadows flowered with every movement of the candle’s flame, became hands without bodies, fingers tapping time to an unheard music.

no gods in this room
singing the blues
darkness lights the way

 

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!

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.

Poem a Day Mini-marathon is Not Quite Over

Reflections

If you submitted a sponsorship directly through Brick Street’s donation link, and you have not been in communication with me about it, I may not know of it. Please contact me via comment or email if you’ve done this, so that I may write your poem! In the meantime, the poem a day mini-marathon (to raise funds for Brick Street Poetry) is winding down. I’m so pleased that we’ve surpassed the original goal of ten sponsored poems (we’ve received sponsorships through the 22nd)! The mini-marathon will end with Wednesday’s poem if I do not receive any more sponsorships by Tuesday evening. Thank you, everyone, for reading along and providing inspired titles and words. This has been great fun, and we’ve earned a few bucks for Brick Street, which was the idea, after all!