In Common

still from In Common
This entry is part 24 of 24 in the series Pandemic Season

 

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What does it mean to be average? When a computer averages the features from hundreds of faces, the resulting image will look like a supermodel. This tells us that what is average is not necessarily common, and vice versa.

But I love the idea of this perfect face held in common, each of us contributing our own small part to it. Together we are conventionally beautiful. As individuals we can be uncommonly beautiful.

first day of fall
a harrow’s
yellow teeth

It’s the autumn equinox, one of two days a year with perfectly average durations of day and night. I look west to see the sunrise reddening the ridge till it’s as flushed as the face of my British wife after one drink. My uncommonly beautiful lover, whom I see now only by web conferencing software. The soft wear of her. The solid-state drive of her.

And of course our dilemma is as common as COVID. The law of averages may be on our side as individuals, but who wants to take a chance on being average? The only way out is if we each contribute our piecemeal vulnerability to the common good.

marsh hawk
the draft horses with
their blinders on

***

Process notes

Although the pandemic is far from over, I felt the need to wrap up the Pandemic Season series since my haibun seem to be heading in a different direction. In a reverse of my usual pattern (which I described the other day in a talking-head video solicited for a videopoem workshop), I actually wrote the haibun first (on, you guessed it, the autumn equinox) and then shot the video.

The haiku came from a drive through the neighboring valley, where the clay is yellowish brown and at least half the farms are Amish now, I think. I played with the idea of a spring tooth harrow in autumn, but ultimately decided that was too much, too clever for the kind of haiku needed here. And yes, I know we’re supposed to call marsh hawks harriers now, but I like the older name.

Since the goldenrod in the video is dancing, the soundtrack clearly needed something with a beat. I searched ccMixter for experimental folk music and quickly discovered this track by the user Anchor, which seemed perfect. They uploaded it back on April 5, describing it as “a musical prayer/plea which hopefully, the more beneficent forces of the unknown universe and the altruistic higher nature of humankind might project as a lodestar of Hope in troubled times.”

Crickets

still from Crickets
This entry is part 21 of 24 in the series Pandemic Season

 

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“On Monday, Iowa was leveled by what amounted to a level-two hurricane. But you wouldn’t know that from reading, listening to or watching the news.”

That’s how the Washington Post began its belated coverage.

With so little air travel happening these days, we might need a new term for “flyover country.” How about “slow internet country”? Or, given the widespread collapse of local reporting, “low information country”?

Is keeping people ignorant and disempowered the goal, or simply the unintended consequence of greed, callousness, corruption, and propaganda coming together in what one must inevitably characterize as a perfect storm?

When you know that you don’t know: then and only then will true words begin to appear.

in a dream
I can’t finish a haiku
[crickets]

***

Process notes

Having made a video haibun focusing on katydids, it was probably inevitable that I’d follow up with crickets. For what it’s worth, I really was struggling to compose a haiku in a dream the other morning. Later, I had the idea of playing with the pop-culture definition of crickets as silence or absence of any intelligible response, and the prose came quickly after that.

The source video was something I’d downloaded from Prelinger’s home movie collection a few days ago, not knowing how or whether I’d use it. I decided to edit the shots to change at the beginning of sentences in order to give the otherwise rather prosy bun section a more formal kind of rhythm.

Originally I ended with this:

even in a dream
I can’t write a good haiku
[here there be crickets]

which amused me since it was clearly a senryu disguised as a self-reflexive, 17-syllable folk haiku. But I went with the more serious and concise one in part because of the interesting (I hope) ambiguity about what it is I can’t finish.

Pennsylvania Spring: a videohaiku sequence

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Watch on Vimeo or Youtube.

Continuing on from Winter Trees, this cycle contains 24 videohaiku one minute long or shorter, all but one shot on an iPhone without any advance planning, just capturing things of visual interest and letting them prompt haiku a day or more later. (The exception, “coal country spring”, uses old home movie footage that came to me in a similar serendipitous fashion: via @HomeMoviesBot on Twitter.)

As with Winter Trees, I feel that these are best experienced as they unfold, scroll-like, in the video series (which Vimeo now calls a showcase—previously album—and YouTube calls a playlist), in part of course because the visuals and audio are meant to add an extra dimension to the haiku, as with any videopoem. I am composing as much with video editing software as with the pen, and some of the haiku fall a little flat on the page. But here’s a transcription of the texts for the visually impaired:

shedding its snow
the new
old mountain

*

March wind
the first rose-colored
vulture face

*

counting the rings
in the wood frog pond
another year

*

yellow-bellied sapsucker
tapping
its true name

*

former field
the ruffed grouse makes a drum
out of thin air

*

bee or not
the daffodils
keeping faith

*
sun-drenched woods
the first violets
are yellow

*

fake flowers
where they found his body
fly fishing

*

Good Friday
despite claw and knife marks
they’re no one’s beeches

*

wind flowers
the way Beethoven heard
an ode to joy

*

budburst time
the returned vet says he went
straight to the woods

*

spring rain
learning that Dad
has Parkinson’s

*

railroad ties
crowd the vanishing point
fiddleheads

*

such a rush
to come back from the dead
April heat

*

coal country spring
all her doll’s new
imaginary friends

*

tweeting
about the #MetGala
watch your step

*

red eft—
how salamandery
this path

*

painted trillium
already going limp
catch and release

*

this habit
of inhabiting hills
the ants and me

*

clouds lifting
the valley’s visible
clear to the bare earth

*

spring woods at dusk
a daytime firefly
flutters past

*

green green
the broken boughs hiding
that murdered girl

*

nitrous moon
your balloon voice gone
far and wee

*

hatchlings
do you miss the hard shell
of a perfect world?