of a bear
I stay out
with fewer words

This power pole has always been a major message board for local and visiting black bears, who indicate their size by their claw marks, and also add pheromones to encode other information, e.g. whether a female is in estrus. Naturally, they tend to resent human additions (though when the power company replaced the pole three years ago, they adopted the new one without a fuss). As for the tanka, I decided to try to push ambiguity to the limit. I don’t think it would work on its own, without the image.

Earth Day

millipede on the green
bathroom wall

waves passing through
its carpet of feet

Good to find a use once again for the target-shaped text option in Snapseed. The auto-generated font sizes and lines were a good fit for this tanka as well, I think. All in all, I’d say my smugness about this haiga-like thing is appropriate for the day, which has long been mainly an exercise in corporate greenwashing and liberal performative virtue.

football stadium

pear trees advertising
for sex

Penn State’s annual Blue and White game, where the team plays itself, was in full swing yesterday while I was getting my first Covid jab at the indoor sports arena next door. I’m not 100% sure these are Bradford pears but I want them to be: spectacular in an obvious and somewhat tiresome way, just like American football.

Dutchman’s breeches

April clouds drift to a soundtrack of traffic. It could be anywhere, but it isn’t just anywhere, it’s the eastern part of western Pennsyltucky.

Dutchman’s breeches
trembling in the breeze
of passing trucks

The font used here, as for a number of these haiga lately, is called Gloss and Bloom, which seems appropriate.

Road cuts end up serving as wildflower refugia in many places for two simple reasons: they’re often moist with seeps, and white-tailed deer don’t hang out there.


in the forest
the footfalls of moss

Given haiku’s extreme concision, it is sometimes necessary to adjust the facts to fit the reality of an insight. In this case, the tar paper roof is not on a shack, exactly, but a corncrib-like feeder for deer. (This is a former hunting camp acquired by a land conservancy and just transferred to the public in the form of new Pennsylvania state forest land.) But there are plenty of hollows around here where people are poor enough to inhabit shacks with roofs very like this one, so if readers imagine that kind of scenario, they’re not wrong.


to warm up your engine
solitary bee

This rusty iron “flower” at the edge of my friend L.’s yard has always fascinated me. Today it got me thinking about the mechanistic metaphors often used to describe nature, as well as the early pollinators of spring. To paraphrase Philip K. Dick, do iron flowers dream of mechanical bees? But real bees are “engineered” by evolution so ingeniously that humans would have a hard time replicating them:

The major cold weather adaptations of bumblebees in general, and of the arctic bees in particular […] are the mechanisms that allow them to raise their body temperatures and to be active when the weather forces other insects into a deep torpor. The shivering of their flight muscles generates heat in the thorax up to 60 degrees F above the air temperature. Like all other bumblebees so far investigated, arctic bumblebees require a flight muscle temperature of at least 86 degrees F in order to fly. But flight is clumsy at such muscle temperatures, and fast-flying bees need to heat up to at least 95 degrees F. Being able to shiver, to heat up, and to fly so early in the season means being able to go out and bring back nectar and pollen to the colony. This allows colonies to grow during the cold nights as well as during the days.

Bernd Heinrich, Bumblebee Economics

behind the swamp

with its skunk cabbages
an empty airport

Photo taken at the edge of an infrequently used, remote airstrip which my hiking buddy kept saying reminded her of Breaking Bad. I made a version of this with and without drop-shadow, and it took me a while to decide which I preferred. The font is something called Splash, and I like how it seems both swampy and airporty.

pruning season

View across a two-lane road of rows of recently pruned, bare fruit trees under a powerline with steel pylons.

the angel of history’s
prosthetic wings

When there’s too much to fit into a haiku — the giant pylons, each tree’s signature of knots, the scream of a red-tailed hawk circling low overhead — my instinct is to reach for some unifying symbol. The Biden administration’s apparent decision to double down on our forever wars has been preying on my mind.

Made in Snapseed with a font that’s only supposed to be used for single lines of text, but since it looks so handwritten, it’s not imperative to get each line exactly the same height, so saving one line at a time more or less works.