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.

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.


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.

April wood turtle

seeking shade

I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to get this right in GIMP. (This is the main problem with FLOSS, isn’t it? The uber-geeks who volunteer their time to develop open-source software don’t tend to see much value in creating quick and easy shortcuts for dummies, as commercial software developers do.) After trying a couple of other brush-calligraphy fonts, I settled on this one—Beyond the Mountains—for superior legibility. And only belatedly realized that the bare-twig shadows on the shell needed space, and shouldn’t simply be merged into the calligraphy as I originally wanted to do.

I flirted with the idea of treating the text like a personal ad, but who under the age of 30 even knows what that is?

This wood turtle was out and about in a place near here called the Barrens a little more than a week ago, so possibly actually late March. It’s all a goddamn blur.

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.


view of a sunrise in the Appalachian mountains

in January
only crows crow

Back with the crows again. I have noticed though that nearly every morning, crows seem to wake up almost exactly at sunrise, even when it’s cloudy.

Initially I had “January daybreak only the crows crow” but that put the semantic break too close to the center, and I do prefer the asymmetry of classic haiku. I might be overthinking it, though.