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.

an old man now

I take a look at myself:
so much more
than that rail-thin kid
who loved the blues

I’ve been reading Machi Tawara‘s mega-bestseller Sarada Kinenbi, Salad Anniversary, a collection of tanka originally published in 1987 and depicting events (apparently at least partly fictionalized) set in 1985-6 — the very time I was in Japan and falling in and out of love myself. So it’s making me reminisce a little. A bit of self-consciousness and the remembered lyrics to Neil Young’s song “Old Man” birthed this effort the other night before bed.

Looking through my folders the next day, I was chuffed to find a snapshot someone sent me from around 1991 — when I was 24, just like the singer of “Old Man.” It is without a doubt too obvious a fit for the tanka, but what the hell. This is after all partly a joke about my current waistline. Unlike Tawara, I’m not aiming to be the next Saigyō or Ono no Komachi.

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.


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.