Two trains running

Trying to find the words for a rock oak on the mountainside above the railroad tracks—its grace, its furrowed bark, its long translation of sun into solid presence—I find myself settling instead for a kind of stillness, one that seems prepared for the deepest of descents or the most deliberate of dances.

freight train
saying everything
I meant

Leaning into the haiga-as-poetry-comics idea, this time with a whole-ass haibun. Since haibun need to have titles these days, I stole one from an old blues song.

The text, including the prose, arrived at just about the same time as the photo on a walk the other day. I suppose my poetry-comics impulse here comes from wanting to make a virtue out of using a baldly illustrative image. I am pleased with the way the prose emerges from a kind of thin mental fog, to which the haiku serves as a riposte.

Revised 9/1/2021 to replace “long gathering of sunlight” with “long translation of sun.” I rearranged the text a bit while I was at it.

volunteer tomato

holding its children up
to the sun

The image sparked the haiku, and when I went to post it on Instagram, I saw that Noah Davis had a post of himself reading poetry in his tomato patch, so I dedicated the haiku to him. Noah grew up around here, and he and his father Todd Davis (also a poet) hunt deer on our mountain, so I’ve kind of watched him grow up. His first collection, Of This River, was one of my favorite reads of the past year.

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.


Some stumps of felled hemlocks may be kept on life support for decades by adjacent relatives, with their interconnected roots serving as feeding tubes. Other species might send up new sprouts, but that’s not within the hemlock’s skill set. You can recognize living stumps by the scar tissue that continues to grow over the cut, adding new growth rings, trying somehow to recover.

with its commitments
living stump

the spring sun now
only a taste

Thanks to my hiking buddy L. for spotting this and another living stump nearby on a walk near Huntingdon, PA yesterday. In her honor I used a font called Slyfaen (it’s an inside joke). I couldn’t compress everything I wanted into a haiku, so it became a tanka. So this isn’t properly a haiga (or, with the prose, a haibun) but something similar.

Smell Pox

Watch on Vimeo

My latest video haibun. For text and notes (and to browse others in the series), please visit Via Negativa.

I’ve posted a few haiku videos here before, as it occurred to me. I’ll try to make a habit of it from now on. They’re very much of a piece with my still-photo haiga. No less than Jim Kacian, the guy behind Red Moon Press and The Haiku Foundation as well as a brilliant haijin in his own right, prefers to call haiku films video haiga.