New wrinkles

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Haiku comment week continues after a two-day pause. Actually, I might make have made this a permanent part of my blogging, and retire have retired the Smorgasblog. We’ll see.

My theory of why haiku in English work: it’s the three lines, and the fact that the middle one usually has one more stress than the other two. That, and the lack of direct metaphor — that reticence. The spaces at the end of each line prepare us for the space afterwards, which is needed to do the extra work that haiku require of a reader, if they’re any good (and some of mine aren’t, I realize).




Slipping through a crack
in the shed wall, the sun finds
the one round thing.


Light Verse for a Heavy Universe

What isn’t wrinkled? Plastic. Glass. Chrome.
Unless, through a microscope, you discover
the scandalous truth.

A verse must be light
to traverse the hidden depths
in every surface.


the cassandra pages

Tonight, the priest on his right listened, raised his eyebrows, smiled, and didn’t say anything; B. smiled a bit more broadly, enjoying ruffling the feathers. The question is actually timely: while traditional Catholic and Anglican parishes all the province are emptying, groups of young people are forming their own house churches, sharing bread and fellowship, prayer, meditation, and community.

Steady presences:
a friend, a journal, the smile
of a silent priest.


Blaugustine (Nov. 2)

The transition from canvas to camera to computer to website to internet doesn’t allow for accurate reproduction. Never mind, at least you can follow the changes. I don’t know if any more apples are going to appear.

Even the vase
on the windowsill wants
to be an apple.


Riverside Rambles

Tucker and I walked over to Dogbane Corner, one of my favorite neglected patches of weedy vegetation. The dogbane pods have burst and I took these shots.

On the weedy lot
near the new jail, dogbane seeds
loosen in the wind.


The House & other Arctic musings

What? One hundred and thirty-seven Nunavut bloggers?

Bloggers vanish
in the long Nunavut winter
as their fingers go numb.


Marja-Leena Rathje

I also learned, to my great surprise, that ‘marraskuu’, the Finnish name for this month, means ‘month of the dead’. But wait, it may not be like Dí­a de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead as celebrated in Mexico. It’s thought to come from the earth being ‘martaana’ or in a state of death.

All Souls Day:
the dead hortensia speaks
in a thin whisper.


bird by bird

Red-legged partridges are not native to the Americas. This one obviously belongs to someone. We tried to catch it but it flew onto the roof. If it isn’t careful, it’s going to belong to the red-tailed hawk that’s been flying around all day, calling…

Christmas already?
A red-legged partridge on the roof,
a red-tailed hawk.

Shine or shimmer?

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Haiku comment week continues. Today’s relatively small haul of half-baked haiku shows what happens when I prioritize my own blogging and going for a walk instead. Even without the extra effort to write haiku, it’s always hard to know how to balance writing with reading, commenting, and linking.

Velveteen Rabbi

How can I separate
from the insidious desires
of the temporary self, that voice

which whispers “today I want
warmer socks and a box of truffles
and praise from the people around me
and an easy shortcut
to everything I don’t yet know?”

It’s shine or shimmer,
sunspots on the camera lens
or my own shadow.


Creek Running North

There are pomegranates in the refrigerator, untouched, and persimmons ripening on the tree. On Sunday a boisterous dog covered my shins in mud. She paid close attention to me in a way instantly familiar and wrenching…

Left in the fridge,
slowly turning sweet —


Dharma Bums

We forgot to bring the Sibley’s Bird Guide with us (that and a bunch of other important things like the telephone, the modem, the cat’s kibble), so the new birds we are seeing in the creek are unknown to us. It’s like the good old days, when we just looked and couldn’t identify anything.

I like a café
where nobody knows my name:
I can eavesdrop.


Somewhere in NJ

Most important is the sea and a beach empty of people. Shorebirds wheel in the far distance trailing their shadows along the shoreline. The haze at the horizon suggests gannets or scoters tumbling into themselves above the breakers.

Shadows on the surf,
reflections on the wet sand:
black skimmers.


Factory Town

White stands for purity.
Maybe that is not appropriate.
Use a different color.
I myself would not use a plaid cloth.

The red pillow case
I use for an altar cloth
never shows the dust.

Behind the Trees

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

trail junction
Click to enlarge

Haiku Comment Week continues.


The five-pointed star inside each apple. The pattern of roots beneath the soil. The fetus sucking her perfect, tiny thumb. Blind fish in the depths, the ultraviolet messages flowers send to bees, all the colors hidden in white, the fossils buried deep in solid rock.

This morning
I saw behind the trees
the first bits of sky.


The Rain in My Purse

somewhere there’s a beard with my name on it
a nest for crumbs and smoke
because life comes at you from all directions
when you’re a man

You can have mine
when I’m done with it — right after
I rob a bank.


Pines Above Snow

Lucky Charm and his successors became my ambassadors to the outdoors, drawing me away from my books and literally carrying me into the woods and fields. On Lucky’s back, I chased foxes, watched a snake swallow a frog, and developed my first hostile relationship with an invasive species–bull thistle–due to its impact on bare legs.

Every young dreamer
should be issued a horse
just for the thistles.


Riverside Rambles

Often these wisps of spider-silk travel through the air at an angle of around thirty degrees to the ground. This is because the lower trailing end is gripped and weighted down by a small spider traveling to a new home.

To see ballooning spiders,
stand in the trailing shadow
of a tree.


The Middlewesterner

The farmer with flowers at Five Corners is parked there looking at them; as I pass through the intersection he pulls away.

The first morning back
on Standard Time, the farmer
checks on his flowers.


box elder


The first fire
sprouts from a pine cone’s cluster
of crackling tongues.



Couldn’t stand to look at that miserable excuse for a painting another minute so I changed my position, sat close up to the table, grabbed my palette knife and attacked.

With three empty chairs
and only two apples, this life
can hardly stay still.

All grass is flesh

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I hearby declare October 28th through November 3rd Haiku Comment Week. Almost all of the comments that I leave at other blogs this week will take the form of haiku (which for me means approximately 17 syllables arranged in three lines and containing some element of surprise or grain of insight). I’ll collect them once a day and re-post them (slightly edited in some cases) here at Via Negativa, with links to the posts that prompted them, along with brief quotes.

Why haiku comments? I read a lot of blogs, but rarely take the time to leave substantial or interesting — or any — comments, in part because I tend to do my blog-reading at the end of the day, when my brain is tired, and in part because I’m a slow thinker in the best of circumstances. Also, I’ll admit I sometimes skim even the better blog posts rather than giving them the close attention they deserve. Americans in particular are schooled in unhealthy patterns of consumption, assuming that if a little of something is good, a lot of it must be even better, but in most cases that’s simply not true. I need to slow down. Composing haiku is a way to try and get myself to come up with thoughtful responses to posts I like.

I seem to have had grass on my mind today…


Fragments from Floyd

How would you describe what a breath of late October air feels and smells like where you live?

Grass blades edged in frost
for the first time since April:
a sharpness in the nose.


Dick Jones’ Patteran Pages

she is a continent
without roads, without cities.

Maps are redundant:
all directions lead
to polar north.

Are there tides on the moon?
The Sea of Tranquility
looks darker tonight.



Everyone knows that people write poems, but what’s a little less obvious is that poems write people too.

The keeper of spells
killed & buried in the bog
turns to bitter parchment.


Roundrock Journal

With luck and a clear sky, Pablo will be out at Roundrock today, enjoying the seasonal color and the mild weather. Nothing much on the agenda, which makes for the best kind of visit.

I was asked if I had any news to report about the decay of the shopping bags. Alas, I haven’t been out to my woods since the day I placed them. Maybe I’ll be able to report now.

Nothing to do but sit
& watch empty shopping bags
break down in the sun.


In a Dark Time

Lael also seemed rather drawn to this statue, even arguing with another little girl who said it was HER family.

A girl climbs into
the sculpted circle & gazes
at the father’s zero face.


Pocahontas County Fare

I was never sure whether “Kitchener” should be capitalized, or why the seamless grafting technique had that name, but yesterday, while looking for something else, I discovered the answers to both these questions.

The perfect suture
may wear a general’s name,
but was he the knitter?


3rd House Journal

One day after work before we moved, I drove over and parked at the end of our street, got out and hiked up the embankment to see the reservoir — a grassy mound surrounded by a high railed fence. Where’s the water??

A tall fence surrounds
The underground reservoir.
Why not a moat?



Where is the Pratyekabuddha?

Where did it get
such a perfect pair of lips?
The grass isn’t saying.


One Word

…a bound to appreciate,
Rub his face in the sprouting wheat he’ll be
hawking up later…

The cat feasts on grass,
& just like a ruminant,
brings it all back up.