Up Poetry - Haiku

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© Merle Graffam and are not to be reproduced or used without the authors express permission.


A Note from the Author

Patricia taught 4th, 5th and 6th grade, all subjects, in a school in Southern Utah for two decades. Among the various literary tools she used to teach English in a rural school was the very creative and popular haiku poetic form. Haiku is so simple, so pure, that even children can write very beautiful short poems. Patricia collected them into booklets after teaching a unit, so all of the children could share their varied creations. I remember reading these innocent and lovely children's haiku after a long intermission of not writing them myself and being reinspired to create them myself.


For quite a while I have been again in a haiku haitus, but opening this website has caused me to reinvest my interest and review what was a joyous love affair with tiny poems of great beauty. My old love has been rekindled.


Haiku is a short poem of three lines in 17 unrhymed syllables (5, 7,5), usually having nature and its seasons as its theme. Since it is originally a Japanese form, and therefor created for the Japanese tongue, it is difficult to recreate as an English literary form, but it has been done, and with geat beauty. In order to accomplish a complete theme in such a tiny package, a subject must be boiled down to its very essence. That is the artful nature of its creation.


Purists agonize over making the 17 syllables perfect and holding themselves strictly to the theme of natural seasons, but we can probably thank the so-called Beat poets, Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac for introducing a lovely variation of haiku poems to America in the 1950s. Kerouac's haiku became freed from the corsets of traditionalism and a kind of free-verse haiku emerged. Take these Kerouac haiku as examples: "The barn, swimming / in a sea / Of windblown leaves," and "In my medicine cabinet / the winter fly / Has died of old age" and "Useless! useless! / -heavy rain driving / Into the sea."
He wrote hundreds of haiku, many found nestled in the prose of his novels, but there are also notebooks filled with his Pops, separate from his other literary work. Other writers from Pound to Amy Lowell also worked in the haiku form, but it the "new Bohemians" like Snyder, Kerouac, Whalen, and Ginsberg, that produced them in a sustained amount and quality to insure their continued place in modern American literature.


The original haiku presented below are a small and random sampling of over 2000 that I have written over the last decade or so. Often I would wake in the night with one composed during sleep, or rush for a pencil and any portable surface to write on to record them as they came to me while driving or one long walks. Haiku, once one begins to write them, can become quite addictive.
Having reread some of these, especially those written while driving through the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona, I realized that they are like Kodak slides, really, and presented vivid memories of the visuals that inspired them: bead stands, hogans, flags and roadside crosses. Each one is a snapshot, developed and framed in the short poem form. For example, can see you what I saw when I wrote" The sun is up./Frost cowers/in the shadows." Or, "Centipede/ hokey-pokeying/across a rock." Or, "Frost is rising/but the sky/is still on fire."


My haiku are generally like Kerouac's Pops, but occasionally I knuckle down and keep to the more formal 17 syallable form. My gut tells me that beauty should not be corsetted, nor handcuffed. Often haiku come out naturally in writing prose, or even in remarks people make to each other. I have found many lines that can stand as actual haiku in the wonderful writing style of Spokane Indian author Sherman Alexie, for example.


In 1996 I took a last cross-country trip with a dying man. He was on Chemo-therapy and could not sleep, so for the first two-days we drove from southern Utah to eastern Kansas, nonstop except to relieve ourselves and buy snacks. We talked all the way. Sometime during the first night he asked me to look at the map and tell him when we were nearing Denver, he wanted to stop there. Just then I looked back at a sign on the other side of the highway we had just passed and it said, "Denver 89 miles." We had already driven through Denver an hour and a half before. He said, "Write this down in your notebook," and as I did he spoke this haiku: "Denver / lost / in conversation."


 

blue bottle

in green kelp

and sea foam

 

shade tree mechanic:

grease, sweat,

and bulging biceps

 

glass eyes

amid the

marbles

 

after the flood

driftwood

snagged on cactus

 

waking,

her hair

tickles my nose

 

red wagon

full of

pop bottles

 

waterfall

vibrates the stone

beneath my feet

 

AFTER THE MOVIE

emerging from

the dark

nothing's real

 

bicycling

to the ball park

mit dangling from handle bars

 

called to recite

in front of the class

I wet my pants

 

bully

making fun of my hair.

‘did your barber die?'

 

stuck

in a restroom

zipper won't close

 

off duty clown

red nose buried

in shakespeare

 

cold water waiting

at the end

of this furrow

 

laughing hard

accidental launching

of a snot ball

 

feeling empathy

inserting the hook

into a water dog

 

ignorance:

teasing a scorpion

with a match stick

 

reeking of other's cigarettes

dad accuses me of smoking

I decide to take my first drag

 

FREAK SHOW

Bangor Fair, age 12,

barred from viewing

the man/woman

 

full out

camping

in our back yard

 

with a straw

up its butt

the horsefly zooms straight

 

fresh from the lathe

dad presents me

with a new spin top

 

discovered

chester a. arthur coin

in the old basement

 

magazine cover

of a man reading

that magazine cover

 

empty nest

save for

this tiny blue egg

 

age four:

caught trying on

my mother's dress

 

kicked out of the game

for introducing

homemade clay marbles

 

not a leaf or twig

for twenty feet

around the ant hill

 

glass marble

held to the eye

my whole world turns blue

 

tiny scorpion

clear as glass

stinger as sharp

 

two men at the market

father and son

son's' t-shirt says: ‘dad'

 

three girls exit

halloween mask shop

one's face horribly scarred

 

asking for divorce

I spend two days

weeding the garden

 

VIEWMASTER

insert disk

pull lever

3D!

 

multi-screen theater

sound coming

from next door

 

moon shadows

haunt

my bedroom

 

sleet

dancing

on the windshield

 

bird tracks

in snow

atop fence posts

 

steam rising

from the power plant

undifferentiated from clouds

 

CHEAP PENCIL

sharpened twice

graphite

still off center

 

teacher reaches

to adjust her bra strap

again and gain

 

gargoyle eternally

sticking its tongue out

at tourists

 

hollow clatter of

knife blades

scooping clams shells

 

state troooper

reflected

in broken glass

 

morning sun

steals across

the border

 

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

leaving utah at seven

get to arizona

at six-thirty

 

student

2nd row, 3rd seat,

wire in ear

 

tattooed lady

matches

the wallpaper

 

ventriloquist's dummy

has its own

microphone

 

asked a question

the student

hunches his shoulders

 

waking in a greyhound

glare of bright lights

i don't know where i am

 

maynard dixon clouds

fluffy white and gray-blue

bottoms flat

 

suspect sees himself

watching television

through a window

 

neon runners frame

the marquee

at roxy theatre

 

halloween costume

smiling eyes peer out

of holes in the bedsheet

 

white trick or treat ghost

steamy breath escaping through

roughly cut eye holes

 

halloween,

starched petticoats

scratching my knees

 

spaghetti straps

tugging at my shoulders

the sun dress billows

 

JACK OF THE LANTERN

cut out pumpkin top

rough curve of the vine stem

underside blackened

 

apropos treats:

boy in chicken costume

given candy corn

 

MAGIC CHILD

tiny fingers interlinked

hands behind tousled hair

links released. ta daaaa!

 

gardening

uprooting the weeds

of my life

 

busy london street

madman measuring distance

between street and his knee

 

woman smoker

raises her cigarette

to the hole in her throat

 

PACIFIC DUSK

stars in the sky

stars on the water

stars on the beach

 

the lawyer

blinked

his lizard eyes

 

even before carving

a gargoyle's face

leers out of the burl

 

sauntering down the road

new cowboy boots

kicking road apples

 

dog on river bank

barking at fish

teasing in the water

 

dog sniffing

crotch

of the palace guard

 

three masted ship

banners flying

in a bottle

 

shiny black seeds swim

a translucent red pulp sea

chilled watermelon

 

AFTER THE TORNADO

boy with toy tractor

playing on the cleaned slab

of his vanished home

 

flowers, cross, and beads

in a weighted mason jar

roadside shrine

 

sunny day

snowman melting

on the baby's grave

 

next to missionary tracts

wanted posters

on the post office wall

 

climbing all day long

reach the lofty pinnacle

find lipstick on cigar

 

shaving my loved beard

after twenty-one long years

the mirror uncognizable

 

passing man

closely eyeing a hundred dollar bill

in the blind man's cup

 

sssssssslip

sssssssslipper

sssssssslippery

 

NIGHT DREAMS

who authored the script?

who are these players?

whence the lighting?

 

INHERITANCE

my mother

left me

her bundle of nerves

 

GOSSIP

bleeding from wounds

inflicted by the edge

of her tongue

 

DOCTOR'S BILL

using a

scalpel

to cut a purse

 

DESERT TOAD

reaching for

an unusual rock

it jumps away

 

shotgun blast

sky littered with ducks

but this one

 

under the cliff

the clay scrotum

of a mud dauber

 

lazy waves

lay one upon another

in an ecstasy of replacement

 

wave growing

fluting

collapsing to a roll

 

COACHELLA VALLEY, 1950s

up before dawn

to catch the flash

of an atomic bomb

 

broken fridge

not enough heat

to make ice

 

from the surf

a gift in foam

the white conch

 

GULL

pumping wings

as sharp

as its cry

 

shells

gently rocking

in backwash

 

waves crashing

their furious challenges

to the beach

 

wicked recurve

of the bow

like a wench's pout

 

DAY AFTER A DESERT FLOOD

nature

lays up tiles

of drying mud

 

great herd of whales

spouting as they go

like locomotives

 

generation:

from a few

many

 

trees creak

in the

ululating wind

 

crawling crab-like

the sidewinder's

ladder tracks

 

pincers clenched

circle dance

scorpion love

 

his umbilical cord

stretches

from boston to san diego

 

you have a right to a vulture

if you cannot afford a vulture

one will be appointed for you

 

three dimensional object

two dimensional shadow

one dimensional surface

 

journey so long

it seems we're on

a mobius strip

 

her intentions

advertised

in her expression

 

his tongue

lashing out

like a whip

 

freckles

peppering

her button nose

 

pigtails

begging

for an inkwell

 

skunk alert

backseat kids

holding their noses

 

tragedy

rearranging

the elements of his life

 

HIS FIRST SHOTGUN

geese

sailing the moon

in his mind's eye

 

baby in the doorway

with a half-eaten

dog biscuit

 

she leans

one shoulder slumped

and shaking

 

two portraits reflecting

in her eyes

of me smiling

 

outdoor concert break

magpie singing

on the lip of a tuba

 

TRUST

child poking its eyes

THE cat blinks

but stays put

 

his weary forehead

furrowed

like a well-plowed field

 

child on the floor

licking water from a bowl

with the puppies

 

thin lips

cut a across the field

of his face

 

chewed nails

register the length

of her waiting

 

tiny mole

counterpoint

to her beauty

 

angry clouds

storming

on his brow

 

his smile

bracketed

by dimples

 

still angry

after dinner

I can't remember why

 

he smiled

through a picket fence

of teeth

 

helplessly

caught in the headlights

of her stare

 

maturity

slashing through the jungle

of his youth

 

his mind

folds its arms

in defiance

 

garden of her mind

choked

with weeds

 

raised eyebrows

parenthesize

his questions

 

her hands

always serving up

her heart

 

proposal

like sugar

on a cowpie

 

pen poised

trying to recall

last night's haiku

 

more hair

in the teeth

of my comb

 

returning to bed

she rearranges

everything

 

drawn like a moth

to the flames

in her eyes

 

smoke gathers

on kitchen ceiling

breakfast is ready

 

child next to me on bus,

mother across the aisle,

keeps poking me

 

car drives off

baby in car seat

on the roof

 

telephone wires

pairs of shoes

hang from laces

 

red kite

flapping

from a tree branch

 

only two videos

to choose from:

pinocchio and cyrano

 

yelling at my son

hearing the echo

of my father

 

yellowed report card

palimpsest

of second grade

 

blind for the time

it takes to get used

to the darkness

 

cheating on tests:

artificial

intelligence

 

remember

when we remembered

together

 

now that she's gone

reading twice

the same paragraph

 

cutting a switch

for your own

punishment

 

memory of

hand painted flowers

on turtle shells

 

heightening the chiaroscuro

of snow and birches

a bluebird

 

pattern of lines

on corn leaves

like in a wyeth painting

 

roan horse

rubbing its neck

on a fence post

 

mother goat

unconcerned

treads on her dead kid

 

lioness

carrying a cub

in her soft mouth

 

ill-mannered child

sensing father's approach

morphs from minx to angel

 

SEALING THE DEAL

spitting

on their palms

they shake hands

 

DIVORCE

ex-mate

becomes

insignificant other

 

INJURY

tripping on his ego

he fractures

his word

 

PAY TIME

magician

claims his wallet

has disappeared

 

putting a penny

in a

gift purse

 

chopping pause

singing birds

chopping resumes

 

old paint under new

palimpsest billboard

on red brick wall

 

colors bleached from

too many suns

metal 7up sign

 

half buried in weeds

rusted hulk, broken glass.

ford pickup

 

pulled from a dump

rusted daisy air rifle

still shoots

 

willow tree

weeping all the way

to the earth

 

ROAD KILL

teddy bear

lying in

the roadway

 

ascending water bucket

echoing bonks

against the wall

 

HERITAGE

photograph:

grandpa's dimples

next to mine

 

grandma smiles

seeing her old things

in the museum case

 

banging cans

tied to

back bumper

 

hammering in the tree top

i see the woodpecker

only in my mind

 

terry cloth towel

serves as a

superman cape

 

at its passing

grandma had the cat

stuffed

 

in the den

the old computer

now a doorstop

 

turbaned turk

smiles from

a meerschaum pipe bowl

 

rich kid

folding a paper airplane

from a dollar bill

 

barbed wire fence

protects

the church yard

 

first day of school

checking students

with a metal detector

 

waving to grandma

from the other side

of the security check

 

not feeling so well

reading the small print of my

death and dismemberment policy

 

TARGET PRACTISE

launching

and shooting

rap cds

 

CAREER DAY

kid with bad handwriting

decides to become

a doctor

 

indian child

in a cowboy

outfit

 

shepherd

falls asleep

counting his sheep

 

grandpa

blows out the candles

wishing for another birthday

 

open book

on his sleeping chest

like a small roof

 

HOT SUMMER

wind chimes

silent

these three days

 

before hurricane

wind chimes

tinkle

 

beneath the table

shadows of lace

on white tiles

 

tandem bicycle

rear rider

not peddling

 

notwithstanding

frightful grammar

genius

 

watchdog

licking the face

of the smiling burglar

 

persistent flies

attempt escape

through glass

 

clap of folding chairs

final applause

for the performance

 

sixty-mile-an-hour shadows

duck in and out

between tree trunks

 

clear night moon

silent flight

of the barn owl

 

light sifting

through a collection

of perfume bottles

 

try to step in

dad's boot prints

deep snow

 

plastic flowers,

cross and american flag

roadside shrine

 

indian women manning

roadside bead stand

mastercard okay

 

gunshot

ravens darken

tuquoise sky

 

lost hubcaps gleam

on the highway through

the reservation

 

house size red blocks

of sandstone

tumble into the little colorado

 

game trail

foot path

super-highway

 

navajo man

at a bead stand

tearing a package with his teeth

 

her eyes

giving competition

to the diamonds

 

worried

that the airbag

will break my nose

 

fell asleep

in the bathtub

woke up in cold water

 

sherds of pottery

beneath the pilings

microwave tower

 

old traditional

navajo woman

gold lamé skirt

 

navajo woman

in full regalia

tennis shoes

 

eight

roadside

crosses

 

arizona desert:

able to see entire horizon

while lying on the ground

 

raven on a wire

styrofoam cup

in its beak

 

caduceus:

white roadside cross

draped with a feather boa

 

chiropractor steals

construction sign

“shoulder work ahead”

 

round green shrubs

graze the hills

like hungry sheep

 

kids in the back seat

counting

road kill

 

fake plastic horse

nosed up

to the corral

 

middle of the road

solitary

deer leg

 

baseball diamond

in the middle

of an empty desert

 

water spigot

used as a

door handle

 

DEJA VU

remembering everything

before it happens

for the first time

 

no tub curtain

in the stripper's

bathroom

 

gang graffiti

on the wall

police parking garage

 

  “don't carve in the desk top”

carved

into the desk top

 

MT. PLEASANT, UTAH

midnight cowboy poster

in tall blue window

framed in aged wood

 

old pepsi bottle

tied to the fence post

with barbed wire

 

pastel street artist

reproducing da vinci

on the sidewalk

 

eagle's nest

perched

on light pole

 

i

in

india

indian

indiana

in diana

indianapolis

            napoli

                police

                    lice

                        ice

 

writing a haiku

about writing a haiku

about writing a haiku

 

awakening

to a soft glow

vcr flashing 12:00

 

always looks mad,

the guy

with one eyebrow

 

haiku

high coo

high coup

hiccup

 

strange reassurance

of patricia's cough

in the night

 

one ant bothered

the whole colony

knows at once

 

mistaking cicadas

for buzzing

of electrical wires

 

GUARANTEE?

bandaid box:

sterile

until opened

 

tread marks

on a

stop sign

 

ON THE DONATION BOX

help us

maintain

the ruins

 

dead end sign

road leading

to the cemetery

 

windmill

inside

a building

 

car headlights

turn out to be

two motorcycles

 

guy says:

tower of pisa straight

town crooked

 

racing to buy gas

van quits on the road

coasts to the pump

 

there's a toilet

in the pope's

quarters

 

i see it,

point it out.

he doesn't see it.

 

hand painted sign:

“indian jewelry”

on   a car hood

 

abandoned block house.

next to a well-used hogan

asatellite dish

 

tattered flags

fluttering proudly

over indian bead stands

 

RESERVATION WINTER

old tires

like frosted donuts

line the roofs

 

nestled among

government-built housing

the stained and smoking teepee

 

ravine water

runs down to the culvert

snakes under the highway

 

born again parents late

son panics thinking

they have been taken in the rapture

 

memory of my father

hands splayed out and empty

then … quarter from my ear

 

so many wrinkles

it seems a chicken

had walked her cheeks

 

contemplating that nature

cares nothing of longevity

only of reproduction

 

wrinkled woman

walking

a sharpei

 

three weeks on the bus

bandage over his nose

fourth week   …    no nose

 

kept checking the clock

for ten minutes

before realizing it had stopped

 

child frightened

by the pirate

taking the tickets

 

three green children

sprawled on the grass

after the Gravitron ride

 

baby screaming

trying to get away

from the clown

 

boy carrying a shovel

and a bucket of hay

heads for the elephant

 

2 a.m., greyhound station

disheveled girl reading

laughs loudly

 

BUS STATION

a hundred people

uncomfortable poses

quiet as a tomb

 

TRIAL

attorney's false politeness

turning the air

even more poisonous

 

country lawyer

loses my confidence

with an erudite word

 

JURY DUTY

fighting to pay attention

I suddenly notice

the judge is asleep

 

quiet anxiety

as the jury

files back in

 

INDUCTION PHYSICAL

line of men in underwear

nervous eyes right

awaiting cold fingers

 

adding to the chill

starry darkness

shrill of the train

 

MINISTER

boldly intoning

the only true profanity:

I speak for god.

 

blood red maple leaves

lending a riot of color

to gravestones

 

WALL ADVERTISEMENT

60 years

of peeling stucco

coca cola

 

drifting snow

obscuring names

on gravestones

 

leaves red and orange

early this year:

winter in drag

 

HARD NIGHT

eyes like eggs

staring from

the frying pan

 

paul newman

reading the label

on his salad dressing

 

corral gate open

sheep spilling out

like milk

 

disgust

at even the word:

phlegm

 

MANY FARMS, ARIZONA

depending on the viewer

mirrors are either

ugly or beautiful

 

sudden wind

peeling and scattering

the hay rows

 

HIS AND HERS

announcing a new relationship

mixed gender underwear

on the clothes line

 

CRANBERRIES

uneasy

at wiping my mouth

on the new linen napkin

 

black rock

a lounge

for lizards

 

tornado stalks

the horizon

like little miss god

 

 

sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky

sky sun sky sky sky sky sky hawk sky cloud cloud

sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky cloud sky

sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky

sky sky sky butte sky sky cloud cloud cloud sky

sky sky sky butte sky sky sky sky sky sky sky sky

sky sky butte butte sky sky sky sky sky sky sky

sky butte butte butte butte sky sky coyote quail

desert cactus desert desert rock rock desert desert cactus

desert rock desert desert hiker desert

desert wash desert desert desert cactus desert

 

moon

so bright

it woke me

 

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

tree bottoms

cut like skirt hems

at browsing height

 

REDCAR, ENGLAND

eyes closed

so quiet

I hear the snow fall

 

walking home

reluctant shadow

lagging behind

 

fighter jet

races from butte to horizon

gone before the sound