Obladi Oblada (21st December 2013)

Just forty-five years ago today my best friend’s body was found hanging from a wooden beam in the family barn.
Paul was an innovative artist who, at eighteen years of age, began a journey along a road to his own Damascus. I can still recall the images he created with his masterful understanding of chiaroscuro; images that he destroyed on his last day.
By that time his increasingly exclusive diet of speed pills had transformed his self-perceived identity to be that of the real and fully evolved John Lennon.
advent light . . .
a pendulum of shadows
creaks through me

The Shekinah *

Mount Sinai has its history of the nameless appearing as fire within a bush; and then again, not as a mountain-shaking wind, nor an earthquake and not even a fire, but as a gentle breeze. On Mount Carmel the nameless fell as fire and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. On another sacred mountain a shining cloud voiced the name of the nameless transfiguring the familiar before our eyes.
Here, on this day, within my eyes, the peaks of the Southern Alps fold up as joined fingers from the bowels of below. They become playgrounds of light in enfolding clouds, hiding and revealing sun and moon and stars. The folds of the mountains muscled in snow and shadow, the soundless depth of fiords, the sheen of cascading waters among alpine trees unfold continuous streams of change.
Countless are the poets who try to exhaust the nature of the scenes I behold yet fall prostrate in silence. Artists too find no further use for their tools and canvases after dashing off incomplete brush strokes in ink.
Shall I now, this day, strain to become at one with the ineffable, plummeting into the depths or soaring into the heavens? Must I too remain at peace with discontent as birds are with wings?
Night after night I strain against the stubborn rigidity of words and the finitude of my imagination as I seek to exhaust the ever-changingness of the day and the night within them.
through the mist
day after day bitten
to the core

NaHaiWriMo – February 2014

I have completed and survived all 28 days of the haiku challenge by responding to daily word prompts by Michael Dylan Welch.  Writing to such prompts can easily become a process that bears only a marginal connection with that place from which these little poems rise.  Having said that, the creativity of the human imagination is unlimited and has the potential to discover connections with the universal in and through the most mundane and unpoetic of objects.  Whatever poems one somehow creates out of this communal routine, there is fun to be had in seeing where the leap from the prompt takes one.
#1 banjo
sour grapes
the twang of magpies
through the trees
#2 brother
sunset fire
a blood brotherhood
of praise
#3 bandaid 
festering sky —
a child gathers bandaids 
from the cliff bottom 
#4 black
for the sky
a mix of cyan, yellow
and magenta
#5 bump
foggy path
her otherness bumps
into mine 
I I I —
all the ids that thud
in the night
I stumble among
undetonated egos . . .
haiku killing field
#6 battery
summer breeze
the sudden silence
of caged hens
#7 box 
sudden chill
a family boxes in
on itself
#8 bounce
morning jog
liveliness springs
from her step
#9 belief
first light . . .
I awaken to a dream
of myself
#10 bean
autumn dusk . . .
afterglow of peace, love
and mung beans
#11 biscuit
little sparrow . . .
biscuit crumbs trail
before her
#12 break
sound of water —
a haiku hinges on 
this line break
#13 book
rain forest . . .
all the trees not found
in my books 
#14 betrayal
valentine’s day
the wandering eyes
of a blackbird
#15 busker
still not found
what he is looking for
night busker
#16 bicycle
my unicode
built for two
#17 bagel
lenten vows
on her ring finger
a bagel
#18 burrito
summer heat
a burrito brays
after itself
#19 baby
in the bowl
a wailing madonna’s
pregnancy tissue
#20 bling
Huysmans’ tortoise . . .
a hip-hop pimp hobbling
under guilt
#21 brussels sprouts
almost there
the sprouting of green
on the stalk
#22 barn
 bumper harvest time —
a rich man plans bigger barns
to hoard his excess
#23 beehive
thunder hive
a taste of honey
from the rock
#24 boat
before Charon
summer ends
#25 braid
to this end
the twists and turns
of her finger
#26 brew
end of summer —
what spectres bubble
from the mud pool?
#27 button
cold war —
the rehearsal of
a button press
#28 bridge
the other —
my shadow bridges 
its abyss

Only Connect

This afternoon I spent several hours in a quiet place on the cliffs above incoming waves looking out to Mana island with clouds swelling up from the horizon. For some of that time an aging Maori couple sat nearby also lost in silent contemplation of their own sublime emptiness. No words were exchanged but the depth of connection between us, the sea, the land, the birds and vegetation brings a stillness that the wind, the sound of birds and the relentless movement of the sea only deepens.
The wife of a close friend is in the inexorable process of the last stages of metastasized cancer of the liver. Many of us are going through the process with her in the only way that we can be present to the abiding human loneliness she is now experiencing more deeply.
ebb tide . . .
the undercurrents
of silence

cattails  Premier Edition – January 2014
Editor’s Choice – Haibun

After the Fall

In these moments that wash up wave after wave over my sand-gritted toes, I am redeemed once more by the coolness hidden within the sound of the Pacific’s lapping infinity.  
What resonances of the body’s memory awaken? 
Does it manifest once more the taste of lime freeing up the papaya’s secrets? The refreshment of springwater trickling over my wrists? The face of the dawn goddess haunting the man-devouring night? The universe unearthed beneath the windbreaking macrocarpas? The delirium of summer honeysuckling through the wind? The quiver of the compass needle’s endless yearning? The mildew creeping along the wallpaper? The words that once blew a universe into life? The furriness of childhood-raided peaches? The shiver of penetration? The smell of a long unopened book? The diurnal ebb and flow of a haiku? The pause after a nocturnal breath exhaled? The pain of nails tearing the flesh?
without wind . . .
the music that once
knew my soul

The Return

I was born and raised on a post WW2 rehab loan funded farm in New Zealand. My father and his brother pooled their loans to buy and break gumland scars into a livelihood. Dad was an ambulance driver, based in London up to the Battle of Britain, and my uncle was at Tobruk. Another uncle perished on a farm near the Belgian border after a reconnaissance flight over Berlin.
rehab farm —
unspent shells weather
into ploughshares

Thirteen Ways of Imagining a Vulture


autumn’s end . . .
a vulture turns over
the pieces


urban garden . . .
among skeletal trees
a vulture waits


summer grasses . . .
a vulture circles over
soldier’s dreams


stricken ill
a vulture scavenges
extant dreams


dawn parade . . .
a vulture flies itself
at half-mast


moon halo —
the vulture eyes
a ring finger


Irish stew —
finnegan’s wake
of vultures


branching out —
vultures in committee
form a quorum


a vulture
sniffs out the state
of Denmark


seventh day . . .
vultures feed on the


pas de deux . . .
a vulture outsmarts
the crow


darkening sky . . .
vultures keep watch over
a vale of tears


empty sky . . .
a vulture returns
to fuck all