old birch

the wild gestures of one
living alone

My favorite tree along my favorite section of Pennsylvania’s Mid State Trail. It stands apart, growing in the middle of a patch of mossy, ridge-top boulders. It’s a black birch, not a yellow birch, so it’s probably near the end of its lifetime.

slow fall

the standing dead
turn blue

An image-prompted ku, obviously. My first attempt, which I almost went with, was more conventional:

autumn woods
saving the best colors
for dead trees

But that made me yawn, so I slept on it and came up with the above instead.

death in autumn

that inevitable cliché

the deplorable rightness of nature

Black gum leaves in the first photo; a red-tailed hawk and northern watersnake black rat snake locked in combat for the rather more dramatic second haiga. Both snake and hawk lived, as far as I know. I had to move them in order to drive past, so I turned the hawk over with a stick and as soon as both wings were free, it flew very unsteadily off, and the snake headed for the stream at top speed. I suspect the hawk had been badly bitten (painful, but not venomous) and perhaps suffered a concussion when it hit the ground. It wasn’t moving when I discovered them.

I went for a twelve-mile walk to shake some thoughts loose, and the two haiku came as a pair just before I got back to the car. It’s a useful challenge, I think, to hold two competing ideas in mind without favoring one or the other: that life is duḥkha, and that our sense of order and beauty ultimately derives from nature.

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.

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.