one snow

the forest is fully awake for
doomed blooms

I didn’t go out of my way to shoot photos of yesterday’s snow because I felt like I’d done that to death on previous Aprils, and there was nothing new to see. But then of course I got this haiku and only had a couple of snapshots I’d taken from my porch. That’ll teach me!


that ain’t a skull
winter’s end

Edited in GIMP but with one of the fonts familiar from Snapseed, Raleway. With the pressure to conserve syllables in modern haiku, I wonder why more haijin don’t use ain’t instead of isn’t.

On an unrelated note: Having decided back in January to start sharing my haibun videos here, I promptly forgot again. So maybe that’s a sign; I dunno. Anyway, for those who missed them, here are the two latest at Via Negativa: Winter Den and 55.

where the sun

don’t shine

I’m interested in exploring the use of colloquial language in haiku/senryu so there may be more to come in this vein. I’m also using Segoe Script for the first time, and I have to say I’m not terribly keen on it, despite its popularity with other makers of photo haiga.

This hollow snag was still a living tree, despite extensive porcupine damage, up until a storm topped it three years ago. (Chestnut oaks are so tough, winds rarely uproot them; bole snap like this is much more common.) I was bummed because an earlier photo of it was the basis for the lovely woodblock print that publisher Beth Adams made for the cover of my book Ice Mountain: An Elegy. Fortunately I have a framed copy to remember it by.

I love porcupines, but man, can they be destructive. There’s one currently ravaging what’s left of our hemlock trees near the bottom of the hollow. They den up in hollow trees, logs, rock shelters — sometimes even under the damn house.


as old as I am
raw hide

I almost went with another word before “raw”—either still or singing—but in the end decided it was stronger without. I took a snapshot of my showshoe tracks as soon as the haiku occurred to me, but the next photo I took after that turned out to be a stronger, more allusive match. Since a lot of people will probably think of The Blues Brothers when they hear “rawhide,” I figured the comic associations of a speech balloon wouldn’t go amiss.

if I can’t dance

In a snowy, mountainside forest with long shadows, tall trees with curving, dancer-like trunks and limbs.

it’s not my revolution
winter trees

I’ve written so many things about winter trees, I’m forced to get creative… or simply repurpose a famous, if apocryphal, Emma Goldman quote. Trees are a lot of what I see these days. I’ve been leaving the mountain no more than once a week throughout the pandemic, yet I remain a gregarious sort of loner, so in a real sense the trees have become my people. I never get tired of their endless, inventive forms—especially in the winter when they’re all nude, and sometimes dancing very, very slowly.

The font is La Guapita in GIMP, where I’ve just learned how to rotate layers. (Ah for Snapseed’s touchscreen simplicity! But its limitations are severe.)

Brush Mountain

the upward mobility
of water

Plummer’s Hollow, where I live, is cut into the northeast end of Brush Mountain, a typical long, low ridge in the folded Appalachians, raised above the valleys by differential erosion (and also shaped by periglacial processes during the Ice Ages). It would perhaps make more logical sense to talk of water’s downward mobility, but you know, I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now.

Photo taken from my front porch yesterday morning after the latest snowfall. I’m not sure what the name of this Snapseed font is, but it’s perfect for achieving legibility against a busy background.


my breath freezing
to my beard

Some ridgetop rime where a cloud sat. This was one of two good photos from yesterday’s walk, the other more conventionally pretty. But it was the weird, hood-shaped maple leaf dangling from the wrong end that prompted a haiku.

melting snow

for tea
time alone

This one is dedicated to my hiking buddy L., who does things like this. (One of my favorite possessions is a pocket-sized, hand-bound recipe booklet she made years ago called Tea in the Wild, all about which trees, shrubs and herbs can be made into tea.) The first two lines were sparked by a YouTube video she shared last night about the Nenet reindeer herders of Siberia.

There’s a pernicious belief approaching dogma that haiku must be based on direct, personal experience, as if there’s one, best way to have an ah ha! moment. This ignores the fact that many classic haiku/hokku were products of the imagination (including the most famous haiku of all, about a certain ponderous frog). But it was a popular idea long before Masaoka Shiki codified it at the end of the 19th century. I’d argue that it was a conceptual frame to give haiku a patina of profundity by association with the Zen conceit of satori. Readers of Japanese poetry practice a similar willing suspension of disbelief about death poems, most of which were of course prepared and memorized well before the poet reached the point of death. But if you read them thinking this could have been that poet’s final word, they become so much more powerful. So it is with haiku and the notion of their artless spontaneity.

Speaking of death, slowing down time is the main reason, I think, for drinking tea or coffee (or for smoking, when I used to smoke).