in the pines

my ration
of moonlight


I originally drafted the ku several weeks ago with a kind of maudlin first line. Revising it to accompany a photo I took yesterday, I thought of the old folk song covered by everyone from Leadbelly to Bill Monroe to Nirvana. I’m hoping it’s widely known enough that at least some readers would understand it as a reference to sleeping outdoors, much like the stock phrase (makurakotoba) “grass for a pillow” in classical Japanese poetry.

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through …

end of summer

holes in mushroom parasols


This is sort of on the line between haiku and senryu, I think, but the choice of image with a speech balloon for the text pushes it over into senryu territory. In fact because of that, I altered the text to refer to mushroom parasols in general, instead of “a mushroom parasol,” which would be more sabishii.

tombescence (n):

the fruiting body
of a fungus


This may not be a proper haiku, but presenting it as if it were might prompt an attentive reader to look for multiple meanings. E.g. could a particular mushroom be intended, and/or a mushroom-like thing (nudge nudge wink wink)? Why no “mushroom” when the arched moss in the haiga is so architectural? And of course the whole sex-and-death thing, la petite mort as nature morte, etc.

So why then did I present it as a one-liner? Because I felt the urge to make the haiga on my phone, and the free app I use (Snapseed) has very limited font and formatting options compared to GIMP on the laptop. So why do that, then? Because lately I’ve been trying to recapture the sort of frictionless, in-the-flow self-publishing magic I first experienced 18 years ago, when blogging was new and so many of us got excited about becoming documentarians of our daily lives, mining the quotidian for moments of beauty or heightened awareness. These days, that mostly means posting stuff to social media, in part because the WordPress app for iPhones can’t seem to handle posting to this blog, I think because it’s hosted on a multiuser installation (WordPress.com) but under my own subdomain, and that confuses it. But I was at least able to post the just-made haiga to Instagram (and on to Facebook) while it was still super fresh, sitting on a bench in the woods. I love that. I hope my rock-bottom cellphone data plan continues to allow it.

moon-gazing

sad face circled
by a moth


Night-flying moths will come to pale faces for the same reason they come to a light, I think: their navigation systems have evolved to orient by the moon, which of course is constantly changing, so they have to be flexible. So I’m afraid that countless generations of Sufi-influenced poets have gotten it wrong: moths don’t fly into a flame out of mad passion. They’re simply lost.

The image is a shot of sulfur shelf mushrooms from above, processed in Snapseed. I wanted something that looked like a Creator’s rough draft of moon, moth, or face all at once.

July’s white heat

blossoming wintergreen


Crouching to photograph a parasol mushroom, I spotted the white, bell-shaped blossom of Gaultheria procumbens next to it. My first reaction:

white bells in the summer woods wintergreen

which is kind of superficial and obvious, but definitely a haiku I would’ve been satisfied with just a few years ago. Then I gave it a thought and came up with

wintergreen in July’s bridal white

which seemed to point a way forward. I thought of Wallace Stevens’ great poem “The Snow Man” — very meaningful to me as someone born in winter

mind of wintergreen blossoming in July

But that struck me as too cerebral, both literally and figuratively. I’m not saying the haiku I chose for this haiga is my final say, but I do think it preserves multiple possibilities for the reader.

wood ears

another language I’ve lost


The not-at-all-cheesy font is Showcard Gothic — one of those fonts I’ll probably never use again, but seemed right for this.

Is the haiku too cryptic? I hope not. I was shooting for just a little cryptic.