haibun

  • 0

    in the beginning it is as an old pond that looks as if there could be a before or even an after but within these words has neither although it could contain change if a frog were to jump in or out giving the water a sound it does not have of itself much like this earth we tear apart that may be 4.567 billion years old or the 6,000 years that we have been able to put our thoughts and tallies into a written form which takes these words circling back to what the word may have been


    a breath of light
    wind ripples
    the waters


     

  • A Play for Keeps

    A Play for Keeps

    CAST:
    BA & OT

    OT: Were we here yesterday?
    BA: [Pressing finger to forehead.] It seems so.
    OT: Be is the beginning of seems.
    BA: So it seems. [Pause.] But how is that so?
    OT: In the beginning?
    BA: The heavens and the earth.
    OT: God is being; the other splits at the seams.
    BA: I remember.
    OT: [Excited] As if this is yesterday!
    BA: Have you said your yes today?
    OT: [Mournfully] Noterday.
    BA: You seem always negative.
    OT: Even when I am being positive?
    BA: What is being?
    OT: Here? Now?
    BA: Yes.
    OT: Being created the heavens and the earth.
    BA: None of this is real then.
    OT: Or now.
    BA: Not since yesterday.
    OT: So nothing exists?
    BA: Only in seeming so.
    OT: Created ex nihilo?
    BA: It is only you or I who say so.
    OT: What of the others?
    BA: Just ourselves.
    OT: And our non-self in common.
    BA: I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
    OT: More or less this I suppose.
    [They sit down and look up at the absence of day.]

    out of the
    indistinguishable
    our shadows

  • A Play on Words

    A Play on Words

    CAST:
    BA & OT

    OT: I don't think I'm here.
    BA: [After reflection.] Nor I. [Pause.] Ot!
    OT: Yes.
    BA: The moment has forgotten us.
    OT: There’re no more moments.
    BA: We’ve lost the moment.
    OT: When?
    BA: It was right here yesterday.
    OT: [Elegiac] Ah yesterday!
    BA: One of us could write something.
    OT: Make it present.
    BA: Always in the present.
    OT: Like now and then?
    BA: The moment before we lost it.
    OT: Yes! Like a haiku.
    BA: Haiku and similes don't mix.
    OT: No metaphors.
    BA: We learn from the pine.
    OT: Hear its isness.
    BA: The lily in itself.
    OT: Out of the water?
    BA: Out of itself.
    OT: The moment when we lost it.
    BA: When it forgot us.
    OT: Lost in the sound of water.
    BA: Everything changes.
    OT: Images.
    BA: Words for images.
    OT: Tried and trivialised to death.
    [Pause.]

     

    hidden depths secreted from the pores

  • 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
  • Afterwards

     
    Oftentimes I may find myself gazing at black swans as they glide in and out of the twilight hours of an inlet's low hanging mist.
     
    At my desk too, I grow attentive to the memories of things that I have seen, heard, smelled, tasted and touched as they again seem to become enfleshed. 
     
    Once more the smell from the steaming afterbirth of a newborn calf, the sight at dusk when, with the sound of an eyelid's blink, a blackbird parts the shadows to settle upon a branch within a tree's silence.
     
    I feel just as truly the rough-tongued clasp of a sea anemone around my finger-touch to its heart. I taste once more the austere sacredness of my first communion host and the sound of my breathing as I enter the stillness where I become at one with my absence.
     
    As my body slows down, almost fully engorged from the lust of the senses for the world it dwells in, I listen to the music of my mind interpreting the nuances of meaning, the subtleties of connections.
     
     
    ancient pond—
    the everywhichway
    of words

  • Akatarawa Cemetery

    Akatarawa Cemetery

     

    About 30 years ago I had a significant dream of a cemetery through which I wandered with an amazing sense of peace and well-being. The sense of space and life lived deeply has remained with me although the only visual remnant from the dream is a memory of the entrance. I took this dream to be a presentiment of where I would one day be buried, although I did not know if the place actually existed.

    About 8 years ago I moved to Upper Hutt from the coast. One day, as I drove into the forest ranges bounding this upper valley, I was startled to recognise the cemetery entrance of my dream.

    Yesterday, All Souls Day, I entered this cemetery for the first time to keep vigil for an hour or so with all the bodies, which once breathed, occupied space, and moved among us, and now, motionless, fill a more localised earth-space.


    All Souls Day—
    silence lingers long after
    the loss of words

  • All the Days of the Dead and Dying

    All the Days of the Dead and Dying

     

    At seven, as the firstborn child of a physically and socially isolated post-war family in rural New Zealand, I cradled nightly the overarching vastness of the stars to bed with me; a stone I clung to through the infinity of space and time that stretched between wakefulness and sleep.

    Filled with the universe, I would await sleep by trying to image the silence of total absence before the universe gained an existing presence. Nothing - no space, no time, no light, the total absence of everything - strained to take conceptual form within my childhood brain. Absence of light was easy but then I battered my mind against an easily imaged darkness but without form. Was it cubic, conical or spherical? Space requires boundaries. Can nothing be contained? But to be contained within one of these necessitated form and surely the void has no form and thus cannot change.

    For hours I would lie in no-sleep trying to come to terms with an infinite sphere with no centre and no circumference until my being slipped into that place which was no-place.

    Many years later I would read Jorge Luis Borges' essay "The Fearful Sphere of Pascal" in which the author explored the possibility "that universal history is the history of a handful of metaphors." Giordano Bruno, for instance, would come to state exultantly in 1584 "We can assert with certitude that the universe is all center, or that the center of the universe is everywhere and the circumference nowhere". Borges then suggested that Pascal would darken this image with the words "Nature is a fearful sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."

    Stephen Hawking later misrepresented that Pope John Paul II had said to him “It’s OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not inquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God.”

    Valuing the omnipotent reach of physics and mathematics, Hawking and associates have continued to explore the applicability of quantum theory to the instant before time and space came into being at the big bang. (I continue to struggle with the idea that the beginning can have a "before".) They came up with a model of the big bang according to the theory of general relativity that was developed to take into account quantum effects which they called the No Boundary Proposal.

    The words the Pope actually addressed to Hawking were "Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world, such as the hypothesis of a primitive atom from which derived the whole of the physical universe, leaves open the problem concerning the universe’s beginning. Science cannot of itself solve this question: there is needed that human knowledge that rises above physics and astrophysics and which is called metaphysics; there is needed above all the knowledge that comes from God’s revelation."

    with one last breath
    nothing slips out of
    the universe

  • Ancestory

    Ancestory

     

    In a fit of Bashō, I am moved to wax lyrical and philosophical on our lives in which each day is a journey and the journey itself home. Being so moved, my heart lead me from cemetery to cemetery within sight of Mt Taranaki to find the final resting places of my many Polish ancestors and the the sound of my origins.

    journey's end
    epitaphs teem with my blood
    in fertile decay

    Back in my 24th year, I purchased a small rural holding on the southern slopes of Mt Taranaki near Fantham's Peak. A long abandoned cottage was sited on the land amid regenerating native rain forest. With my earth-mother partner and our wild-child autistic daughter, I found time to clear some areas of the land to grow vegetables and flowers, make the cottage habitable again, set up a water-driven ram pump to bring water up the gully from a cold mountain stream to the house, and supply the house with electric power.

    in the wild
    less pioneering
    day by day

    Forty-five years later I returned to the life-teeming hills formed by Taranaki's last eruptions to revisit the old homestead and find those of my ancestors further around the mountain. One family settled near Midhirst and the other near Inglewood.

    In a desire to practice their religion, maintain their cultural identity, and to escape the German juggernaut of the 1870s, the families became assisted immigrants from Poland to New Zealand. From New Plymouth port they were transported by ballast train to the areas in which they were to settle. The roads towards the mountain were little more than bush tracks and progress was made by climbing over old logs, supplejack vines and lawyer bushes on the way. The farms were in standing rain forest save for clearings where the homesteads were to be built. These first houses were originally built out of ponga trees.

    Great great grandfather Johann grew fruit trees and kept a few bees. He lived to see his children married and was known as Lul to his grandchildren who remembered him as a deeply religious man, reciting his rosary outside while attending to his trees. His wife lived for 96 years.

    tangata whenua . . .
    we recite the mysteries
    bead by bead

  • And Yet . . .

    And Yet . . .

    The swell of her belly that has been progressively pushing us apart for the last 36 weeks approaches its fullest ripeness.

    "Feel baby move," she asks with the easy lilt that marks this time of our intimacy.

    "It is still," I whisper.

    In the delivery theatre an obstetrician tells us that baby has died and must be delivered now before its body decays much more in utero.

    We greet our child, resembling a blanched tomato, robed in his white gown.

     

    first blessing —
    the sign of the cross
    tears his skin

  • asleep within a parabolic reflection

    asleep within a parabolic reflection

    When Yosa Buson painted the "butterfly sleeping on the temple bell" haiku, he implicitly alludes to the Heike Monogatari tale of the demise of the Taira clan who, under Kiyomori's leadership, took a butterfly for their crest. In one visually appealing image the poet brings together a clear allusion to Chuang Tzu's dream that he was a butterfly and also to the Heike Monogatari's opening gong - "The sound of the bell of Gion Shōja echoes the impermanence of all things. The hue of the flowers of the teak tree declares that they who flourish must be brought low. Yea, the proud ones are but for a moment, like an evening dream in springtime. The mighty are destroyed at the last, they are but as the dust before the wind."

    Some eighteen centuries earlier a pregnant virgin, overshadowed by the Tao, retraced the way that had lead the Ark of the Covenant to a house in the hill country of Judea. In response to the enthusiastic joy of her pregnant cousin's greeting, the virgin humbly proclaimed her Magnificat declaring the greatness of and her delight in God while foreseeing the reversals in store for the proud, the powerful, and the rich. Already the most sublime of all human tragedies, that would culminate in her coming child's cry of absolute despair - "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!", was seeded within her womb.

    Of his 1926 sculpture, The Visitation, Jacob Epstein described the one single figure that he had completed as expressing "a humility so profound as to shame the beholder who comes to my sculpture expecting rhetoric or splendour of gesture".

    Twenty-one years later Simone Weil would write in Gravity and Grace, "Humility is the refusal to exist outside God".

    Reeling under the realisation that all creation "is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, but its circumference nowhere", Blaise Pascal focuses in on the imperceptibly small noting that "who will not be astounded at the fact that our body, which a little while ago was imperceptible in the universe, itself imperceptible in the bosom of the whole, is now a colossus, a world, or rather a whole, in respect of the nothingness which we cannot reach? He who regards himself in this light will be afraid of himself, and observing himself sustained in the body given him by nature between those two abysses of the Infinite and Nothing, will tremble at the sight of these marvels".

     

    with dewfall
    a mite swims
    the vault of heaven

  • Autism


  • Bashō and the Sound of Water

     
    Bashō and the Sound of Water
     
     
    Midway on the way he was bound upon, Bashō was seized by a restless spirit that coaxed him into the heartland, where poetry and spirituality become one, and where he could follow the footfall of the ancients through Japan's poetic spaces.  He yielded to the seductive sound of pond ripples lapping the mysterious edge of the dreadful sphere of Pascal.
     
    Well over three hundred years after Dante, Bashō looked to wanderer-priest Saigyō to be the Virgil who would inspire him through the narrow and difficult roads that wound ahead and within. Landscapes, through which he wandered, became infused with collective memory and complex emotions encompassing the profane right through to the sacred, and culminating in true vision as he beheld Sado Island.
     
    Some years later, he wrote several autumn haiku infused with a despair born of an overwhelming loneliness. Falling ill on his final journey, his spirit feverishly searched a desolate limbo for what may have been his Beatrice and the love which moves the sun and the other stars.
     
    The need to hear the sound beyond stillness drives all our journeying, and is its fulfilment. 
     
     
    midnight—
    my lungs widen
    with stars
  • Beaming Love

    New Zealanders face a 5.7% chance of developing skin cancer. Although our climate encourages outdoor activities, in summer UV intensities are high due to the overly-thinned ozone layer, clean air, and because the earth is closer to the sun.

    The most dramatic ozone losses occur in Antarctica, where spring ozone columns can be less than 90 DU. This ‘ozone hole’ lies well to the south of New Zealand and does not pose a direct health risk. However, when it breaks up, filaments of ozone-poor air can sometimes pass overhead.

    Elijah once needed to escape the burning sun, just as he needed to escape the burning anger of Jezebel and find shelter under a small tree. The Holy Land is a land of little shade. People there prized shade and identified it with the presence of God.

     

    in the shade
    of a peppertree
    I am who I am


     

  • Cape Reinga

    Cape Reinga

    My spirit awakens to the flight of those I have known and loved who have taken the leap into unknowingness.

    deepening night —
    a fantail sings up
    a pohutukawa

  • dead lives matter too

    dead lives matter too

     

    Boneholders, meshed within flesh. Wonderless, breath balloons squirming unheard. Worm-worded. Hegemonies of absence once upon their time. Gasping and groaning, Maui wriggles away into stillness and silence.

     

    grave matter
    in memory-made
    once with words

  • December 26

    December 26
     
    On this day 58 years ago my paternal grandmother visited me in hospital giving me a book about early Christian martyrs with my 2 patron saints bookmarked.
    The day before, while carrying a kettle of still boiling water to the dining room to make a pot of tea for our adult guests, the handle detached itself from the body causing the entire contents to cascade down the front of my body.
    Being Christmas Day, an ambulance could not be despatched, so a neighbour drove my father and I to meet the ambulance half-way to the hospital. Once there I had to wait in an otherwise empty emergency waiting room, trying my best to endure the pain for a further hour or two before medical staff could tend to me. Long threads of skin hung down from the raw, partly cooked flesh of my torso.
    Our next door neighbour's canary died of fright at the moment I let out my almighty scream.
    percussive sun
    everybody
    must get stoned
  • Farming

    I have been observing a strong writer-resistance to submitting my written words for formal publication. Self-reflection has yet to determine whether this is because of inertia or pride. It is much like the unease generated in allowing a photograph to be taken of oneself within a particular moment; freezing the instant while immersed in the process of aging and change.
     
    It is the uninterrupted process of change that gives the truest delight. What is written is the decayed manure of the present in its seemingly endless decomposition.
     
    The one who writes this is no more than the child who once ran alongside riverbanks in cicada-drenched air seeking out eel shadows in the infolding of water under a pristine sun. My words make present again his real presence yet he is buried within the words that consecrate who he is.
     
    morning fog —
    the flesh of shadows
    cast by words
  • Focal Point

     
    Focal Point
     
     
    Living things are defined by their ability to eat, move, reproduce, excrete, sense, breathe, and grow. How many have to be taken off this list before I lose definition?
     
    twilight mist
    whisper-words
    hang about
  • from The Diary of Let's Be Frank

    from The Diary of Let's Be Frank

    Dearest Kitty,
    An earlier diarist wrote this entry to you
    "A bundle of contradictions was the end of my previous letter and is the beginning of this one. Can you please tell me exactly what a bundle of contradictions is? What does “contradiction” mean? Like so many words, it can be interpreted in two ways: a contradiction imposed from without and one imposed from within. The former means not accepting other people’s opinions, always knowing best, having the last word; in short, all those unpleasant traits for which I’m known. The latter, for which I’m not known, is my own secret."

    She then ended her final diary entry with "I [...] keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if... if only there were no other people in the world."

    Here we are now on Easter Saturday in quarantined lockdown (offered in sacrifice) as a final stand against the coronavirus infecting an unresisting world. Each person I hear from is a bundle of contradictions craving social interaction while practising physical distancing at one and the same instant.

    a space to dwell in
    the gloom of isolation
    entombing silence

  • hemi sphere

    Hemi sphere

    In 1882 Māori from the Whanganui River area on a trading trip asked Archbishop Redwood for a priest for their area. In 1883, Father Soulas and Suzanne Aubert left Hawke's Bay to go to Hiruharama, or Jerusalem, 60 kilometres up the Whanganui River.

    In 1883, Aubert assisted Father Soulas as an interpreter and Māori cultural adviser along with two young Australian Sisters of St Joseph: Sisters Aloysious and Teresa from Whanganui. The two sisters from Whanganui were to teach in the school; their superior Mother Hyacinth arrived in Hiruharama to revive the Catholic Mission.

    Aubert taught the Sisters the Māori language and customs; many children and adults came to the school.

    The Sisters at Hiruharama, in addition to the usual customs of religious life, taught and nursed, farmed newly cleared bush, tended an orchard, made and marketed medicines, sold fruit to tourists and raised homeless children, as a result the community grew and thrived. Much of their income came through the sales of Aubert's medicinal formulations, including many cannabis-based medicines - Aubert is the first person known to grow cannabis in New Zealand. She was named Meri by the Maori community.

    The Catholic Church has now declared her to be titled Venerable Suzanne Aubert on the path to her canonisation.

    In 1969 poet James K. Baxter adopted the Māori version of his name, Hemi, and moved to Jerusalem where he set up a community based on a mixture of Franciscan and Maori spirituality. In 1969 he adopted the Māori version of his name, Hemi, and moved to Jerusalem. The community was a sanctuary for nga pohara:the poor; for nga mokai:the fatherless; nga raukore: the trees who have had their leaves and branches stripped away and who had resorted to drugs in particular to numb the sense of alienation.

    I enjoyed Hemi's friendship from 1968 up until his death in October 1972, 10 months before my eldest daughter was born.

    In 1981 my family and I escorted his widow and her friend, who was also my daughter's great aunt Janet Frame, to Hemi's last resting place at Hiruhirama.

  • In Deeper

    In Deeper

    Perhaps the most terrifying experience of my life came about from wanting to know what existence was like for my eldest daughter who was then aged seven. She was diagnosed as suffering from an extreme form of autism that left her almost completely in the world but not of it to the extent of being completely non-verbal - the classic changeling child of legend with a fairy-like beauty to match.

    At that time she was having ever-so frequent tantrums that manifested in screaming, banging her head with her hands and against objects, arm-flapping, finger-twirling, scratching others and so on. Information on autism in New Zealand was then all but non-existent and there was absolutely no place to turn for ways to support her apart from just loving her just as she was and coping with the tantrums, meltdowns and way others judged, rebuked, shunned and ostracised her and, by extension, us.

    The sense of helplessness was almost overwhelming and instead of asking the Creator, "Why?", I asked that I may experience in my own being what it was to be her and how she experienced existence that manifested in her full-body meltdowns.

    My rash prayer was answered immediately. Everything that could pass through my five physical senses stampeded into me without any filter. Everything that could pass through the senses to be processed by the brain entered all at once, without distinction, without order, a complete and utter experience of chaos in sight, sound, smell, taste and touch without any filtering of intensity. It was impossible to even begin to process even the most minute fraction of what my senses were taking in to feed my brain. The sensory overload was extreme and to regain any sense of control I had to will myself to snap out of it.

    Mercifully it stopped as quickly as the experience began.

    Without that effort of my will I am sure that my identity would be submerged in a swirling chaos of undifferentiated sound, colour, smell, feeling and taste. I knew in the depth of my being now why my child had to withdraw into a world she could control.

    I adopted all reasonable measures to limit and control the flow of sensory input to her brain. I think that I somehow decided that if her synapses could not filter neural impulses I would have to set external processes in place to apply a measure of filtering. 38 years later she is still in this world but remains not of it.

    My youngest child had his 23rd birthday yesterday. He is also afflicted with neuro-atypical sensory perception but nowhere near to the degree of his older sister. In fact he is very intelligent with remarkable awareness of his neuro-atypical functioning and can communicate on a vast range of subjects that a vast number of neuro-typicals have little inkling of.

    Last night we had a heart to heart conversation about what it is like to be him. When I told him about my experience many years before with his sister he said, "Yes that is it."

    It is what it is.

  • In Isolation

    One of the positives of living in these small, isolated, and lightly populated islands is that one has the opportunity of not only being able to become (should one so desire) a big artistic fish in a small sea, but also one comes to know many other artistic fish as friends and regular acquaintances, including many mentioned in this linked article.

    In my college and university years I read everything that I could lay my hands on while also attending artist parties, poetry readings, art shows etc. etc. Perhaps I had become a regular culture vulture with literary aspirations of my own without the voice I could yet call my own in the ferment of artistic activity flourishing all around in the ass-end of the world.

    By some strange twist in the fabric of the tapestry of fate, I found my voice in the ever-challenging muteness of my first born's autism-born psychic isolation and resistance to human contact.

    My literary silence continued for the four decades of my life that I embraced as father and provider for a growing family sailing along the spectrum as refracted by the apparent spectre of autism and its consequences for us a family living at or beyond the fringe of normality.

    No longer able to work I have ventured a little out of the silent darkness of a paleolithic cave to rediscover my voice as a small fish in a vast ocean before it falls into timeless silence.

    haiku verse
    my voice settles within
    dreaming room


  • In Passing

    By the intermittent light of cars snaking through city street canyons, a man, in a language once his own, turns into the arms of the dark goddess, who once bore him the dawn; a lifelong grave in waiting.

    'Te wahi ngaro, e Hine.' The limitless, the silent, the black night from which his eyes had habitually cowered with ashen words.

    The night of stars turning according to vast and secret laws become the spirals of his dream as he sinks wordless into the dark mud of his ancestors.

    He awakens slightly as a red taillight flickers by, turning his eyes inwards towards a sanctuary light or the eyes of the goddess flashing on some horizon; his eyes, which had once imaged the war chants of his ancestors notated as heads impaled on dripping stakes.

    still water . . .
    a black swan arches
    into the depths

    The debris of a consciousness once filling the dimensions of time and space wash away in his final agony just as the flesh-like image of Te-Atua-among-us was washed away when the last witnesses’ eyes were extinguished and the perfect love for Beatrice that was no more the moment Dante breathed his last.

    my shadow . . .
    the page I dwell on
    afterwards


     

  • in settled wandering

    in settled wandering

     

    i experience a gradual decay through my seventh decade in an irresistible process of detachment from the world that will end when i end.

    with first light i first-person myself into the I you resurrect before Thou.

    O self-revelatory encounter!

    wordless at first there springs an attentiveness that mines from paleolithic shadows an endless moment's willing suspension of disbelief until once more I am wordless at last.


    this and this
    I bless each absence
    unaware

  • is it haiku?

    i continue to know nothing so i just writes what i writes. one word follows on from another sometimes echoing by sound or sense a word that precedes it. other times a word conjures up an image, a sound, a scent, a taste, or the feel of something once known. often words, or their relationships with each other, seem to make present something not sensed, such as absence 

    third eye closed
    a tuatara
    passes time


     

  • Kenosis

    Why was he looking up at the night sky?

    In the frost-crisped night of central Taranaki, when light was evanescent at best, he foot-crunched through a paddock to exteriorise the dark that had been suffusing him.

    What filled the night sky at that moment?

    Just stars. So cold was the air that the darkness was clear and starlight was breath-held in its stillness. The Southern Cross was risen there. Night-dew christened his beard.

    Was he seen?

    None knew of his presence there let alone the nature or length of his existence.

    What could he see?

    Only a chill arc of stars, a rainbow of night, creating its own light out of nothing.

    Why the tear?

    Because he could see as he is seen.

    Did this precipitate any change?

    He was strengthened to endure all that is still to come.

    Will he depict that night in words for others to see?

    He will learn how to do without words.

     

    at the end
    the beginning
    of the end


     

  • Kiss of Life

    Kiss of Life
     
     
    I started breathing early in life and have grown more than a little attached to it. You could say that we are inseparable companions in the same manner as my heart beat and my shadow are inseparable from me although my shadow is somewhat more so.
    In my earlier days a latent tuberculosis infection sought to wrest that from me with far less success than later episodes of laryngospasm and more recently asthma.
    The wordiness of my earlier writings elude my ability to read them aloud without resorting to frequently audible in-gasps. 
    Haiku has offered a solution fitting comfortably with one breath cycle cut sometimes with an in-gasp that can slot within the rhythmic space.
     
    word surfing:
    the ebb and flow
    of the spirit
  • Kushim

    Kushim
     
     
    “Heaven and earth are the inn for the ten thousand things, light and shadow are wayfarers of a hundred generations. And so this floating life is like a dream.”  (Li Bo)
     
    Tens of thousands of generations have come and gone. In ancient darkness on cave walls we may see silhouettes of the hands that survive the people who left them.  These red ochre markings are the "I AM" of people who left behind no names, no words.

    The earliest known form of writing appears in Mesopotamia a mere 5,000 years ago. People empowered themselves to record what was important to them and even to whisper their names across time to us.
     
    What ancient wisdom, what poetry could no longer be contained orally but demanded that it be etched into time?  What words came to be carved into a clay tablet in Mesopotamia in 3,200 B.C.?
     
    "29,086 measures barley 37 months Kushim"
     
    Rulers, conquerors, poets and prophets slip away into history, while farmers, herders, artisans, and traders record what they own and what they are owed.
     
    Is the written word, first and foremost, a technology for etching permanence into ownership, the movement from a time of the tribally-defined 'us' to the time of the materially-defined 'me'? 
     
    Writing grew out of the need to record ownership and debt. Enforceable contracts became possible; the opportunity to exact interest on lending becomes irresistible. 
     
    It is humankind's insistence on keeping track of ownership of barley, sheep, money, land, and property that determines the real history of the world as it has come to us.
     
    five-fingered jack—
    down the Mokau River 
    dreams too bear no names
  • Learning Connection

    Learning Connection
     
    Haiku! I had heard of her. An inscrutable touchstone of feeling tucked away among foreign habits. We became intimate once introduced one whisky-worded night under the moon.  Over the course of a few intervening years, I behold more and more of her as she sheds for me the silken veils of her captors.
     
    I do not mind her present promiscuity.  That is only to be expected after her centuries of confinement behind bamboo curtains.  Honour-bent men restrained her wild spirit by sublimating it into an aesthetic of tightness.  Mere suggestions of the blood-fury seething within.
     
    The muse, so long hidden away, teases words from my reluctant voice to give shape to the silence and the darkness drowning in the present age.
     
    these words
    a peninsula
    of almosts
  • Make It New

     
    Make It New
     
     
    Days and months are the wayfarers of measured time, living in an unimaginable reality 
    just as the years that slip by.  For those who have always known of the self-creating stars which
    live drifting with the currents of an everyday truth in which ordinary perceptions are denied,
    or leading a horse by the bridle into old age, overturned, the mind thrust into a channel in which
    each day is an exploration, the wandering itself the formerly unknowable because then unimaginable
    home.
     

    spliced genes
    an unnamed seed quickens
    the groundwork
     
    - Adapted from Oku no Hosomichi by Matsuo Basho and The Carpathians by Janet Frame
  • Obladi Oblada

     
    Obladi Oblada
     
     
    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
     
     
    21st December 2013
     

     
     
     

    Editor's Comments

    Titles in a haibun can add so much to the richness of the piece in question. In this fine example the title takes a song from the Beatles White Album and sets the tone for the entire piece. The first line of the chorus of the song in question is: “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da life goes on brah”. That song was written by Paul McCartney, and the other Beatles hated it, and John Lennon despised it. Now comes this young man of eighteen, who sees himself as Lennon, who takes his own life, valuing it less than his ‘brah’ did. Wow, that just sent me into a tailspin. So many implications here if you have the time, or take the time. As a reader you have your work cut out for you!

    Then we reach a haiku that caps the entire effort. The advent is that time of anticipation of the birth of a savior, yet prior to the birth that holds the keys to the resurrection, a rope swings and creates the moving shadows that mirror the chiaroscuro images of the artist, who has taken his own life. Indeed, this story creaks, like the beam used to end his life, through the reader as well, twisting and turning you as you connect with the story being told. If you have ever lost someone to suicide you can’t help but be taken by the skillful detail in this fine and deeply sensitive haibun.

    —UHTS Haibun Editor Mike Rehling, USA

  • 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


    Sometimes the most complex interactions we have with others revolve around birth and death. On the one hand, not one of us can avoid these two events, nor can they be experienced in a way that allows them to be fully shared with others. Yet, there we are in the midst of "the end", without words that matter, without explanations that truly have meaning. In the end it is the "silence" that most fully defines these moments, and completes the "sharing". This haibun brings this fact into sharp relief without a wasted syllable. Silence indeed takes a ‘form’ of it’s own, and fills the spaces in and between.

    —UHTS Haibun Editor Mike Rehling, USA


     

  • Remember Man

     
    Remember Man
     
     
    Is September always the cruellest month? The inexorable path plotted towards the vernal equinox. Hiruhirama (antipodean Jerusalem). Pine and midges pollinate the air. Breath-bruised now and at the hour of our death. Memory and desire. Dull roots of absence quickened with spring rain. Self-emptying breath. Throat strangled. Incoming wind choked off in an almost wordless stridor. "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!" 
     
    southern cross
    evening shadows clutch
    a handful of dust
  • Rumi Dawn

     
    Come rise with me to unearth the instant light begins. Come away from this death that is its illusion. What deer panting for a hidden spring fails to find the moon's reflection? What seer blinded by visions hears the dawn chorus stirring and sees again?  What silent monk seeks the fire's warmth and becomes that which burns within the sunrise?
     
    Watch! 
     
    An oyster opens its mouth and conceives a pearl. Trees rise from their Lazarus shrouds of mist.  Prometheus and Maui paint the earth with Heraclitean fire once more. I am the wave that is the presence of the ocean. I am become death, the creator and destroyer of separation. In a breath I become what the Christ is.
     
    dying wind — 
    a dandelion now
    just a stalk
  • saint's day

    saint's day

     

    am i here or are all my other moments of being here penetrating the present? am i processing what i am sensing or am i also in the overlaps of presents? if memory is the mother of the muses is her grandchild the alchemy of my history of nows in the crucible of the heated ecstasy of being here now?

    the fire
    of birdsong
    in a day's embers

  • seldom

    seldom

    does the nearness of non-thinking, or that which passes for such, break through, breath by maddening breath, the fogs of perception into the tripping tongue clicks and aspirations enfolding rounded sounds of words snatched from the void of dead letters ocean-bobbing in corked bottles

    all night
    the namelessness
    of becoming


     

  • Silent Live Stream

    Silent Live Stream
     
    As I stroll along the banks of the Waikanae River, it becomes clear to me that the making of a poem is also the process of translating a pre-verbal phenomenon into an idiom that changes one's perception both of the phenomenon and of the language used to evoke it. Patterning words into poems has become for me an act of language-making that strains towards the unique utterance of what has hitherto been outside the apparent purview of language.
     
    a mosquito
    what is not yet 
    leaps the length
    pierces my heart
    of our caresses
    with its absence
  • Solstice Eve

    Solstice Eve

     

    All living things manifest their livingness by their ability to
    • grow
    • move
    • breathe
    • respond to stimuli
    • eat and drink
    • excrete
    • reproduce

    I have been present at the birth of each of my children, and also at the birth of puppies, kittens, calves, lambs, birds, insects, flies, flowers and trees. The shortest lived stage of each is the last of these abilities.

    shortest night —
    sounding out his name
    a morepork

    All dying things manifest their livingness by slowly losing their ability to
    • reproduce
    • excrete
    • eat and drink
    • respond to stimuli
    • breathe
    • move
    • grow

    I have been present at the death of each of my parents, of relatives, of friends and also at the death of dogs, cats, cows, sheep, birds, insects, flies, flowers and trees. The loss of the last six body functions more or less follow this order of withdrawal in the final hours or days.

    Where in this process resides consciousness, will, imagination, love and malice and when do they leave?

    longest night —
    the artist paints
    his white 'I AM'

  • Still Extant

    Still Extant

    On passing a mirror in the foyer of a hotel that I cannot afford to spend a night in, I recognise myself on some parallel path to that which I am presently on. I know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the reflected image is not another person but a moment's apparition of myself and, most certainly, not a duplication of me in the flesh.

    As a member of the seven thousandth generation of the not-yet-extinct homo sapiens species, my use of language continues to open up an infinity of meanings from a finite range of words, just as if my words are being reflected back and forth endlessly between two mirrors. 

    My stringing together of words to penetrate the understanding of others empowers me with a capacity to represent things and happenings that are not occurring in present reality to take up residence in the shared imagination of our intercourse.

    I take and eat
    bread broken
    on the altar

  • Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Today I recall the years when, as destitute students, we occasionally gathered together from all over the inner city to share a meal. The host would fill a large pot with water, drop a large stone into it, and place it on a hot stove. Each guest would then bring their offering obtained from food cooperatives and communal gardens to add to the pot. Offerings of onions (both red and brown), carrots, celery, potatoes, leeks, pumpkin, parsnip, spinach, capsicum and so on joined seasonings and herb garnishes to gather the many into one.

    When it was ready we would break bread and consume the feast.

    dewfall —
    the ripples en route
    from a single word

     

  • Textual Healing

    "Dystopia?"
    "My eyes have been squinting."
    "All three?"
    "One after another."

    gallows pole
    a wind chime hangs
    on each word


     

  • That Than Which

    That Than Which

     

    Without the creation of a word to name it in the late sixteenth century, did the doctrine or belief that there is no God have existence? What prompted the active rejection of God leading to the refusal to believe in that than which no greater can be conceived  let alone have the ability to even conceive of a being greater than oneself at all? Was it the hubris of an impatient heir on the brink of committing parricide?

    Some three hundred years after the word was created Friedrich Nietzche proclaimed "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

    A self-avowed atheist, did Nietzche mean that there was once a God who had actually died, or rather that the collective idea of one had? Following the so-named Enlightenment, the idea of a universe entirely subject to laws of physics instead of divine providence was now reality. Philosophical discourse had shown that governments did not need to be based around the idea of divine right to be legitimate, but rather formed by the rational consent of the governed — that it was possible to develop a full-scale and consistent human morality without reference to God. It seemed that the human adventure no longer needed God as the source for all morality, value, or order in the universe; philosophy and science now seemed capable of doing that for us.

    Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design states "M-Theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law..... Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

    Are we the words we make flesh from?

    my shadow follows
    the sun to the edge
    of the earth

  • 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
  • The Shekinah

     
    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
  • The Thirst

    The Thirst

    For the present I live within walking minutes of the river that shapes and waters this valley. Two parks run parallel to the river's course through this part of the valley. One is called Moonshine Park and the other, Poet's Park.

    Birdsong in the nearby stands of dense native bush is the leftover sound of this land from psalms chanted before the advent of the human presence. My heart burns within me as I catch snatches of the silence that the floating world drowns out catchphrase by catchphrase.

    panting deer . . .
    a hyssop branch drips
    sour wine

  • Writer's Block

    Writer's Block
     
     
    From the blank page of the Unknown Poet, these words echo back in stony rebuke: 
    "Some things are best left unsaid and this, being my last, is one of them."
     
    The reader, taken aback, takes the poet to task. "Again you repeat the irrelevance of words amid the ocean's roar as we navigate the beach's darkness by the light of the stars.  What is the meaning again of this coincidence of place?"
     
    this and that
     
    The Unknown Poet quotes gravely at last:
     
            Voices, voices. Listen my heart, as only saints
    have listened: until the gigantic call lifted them
    clear off the ground. Yet they went on, impossibly,
    kneeling, completely unawares: so intense was
    their listening. Not that you could endure
    the voice of God -far from it! But listen
    to the voice of the wind and the ceaseless message
    that forms itself out of silence.
     
    As dawn comes upon the reader the following words come to mind:
     
              It was her voice that made   
    The sky acutest at its vanishing.   
    She measured to the hour its solitude.   
    She was the single artificer of the world
    In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,   
    Whatever self it had, became the self
    That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,   
    As we beheld her striding there alone,
    Knew that there never was a world for her   
    Except the one she sang and, singing, made.
     
    doomed to repeat
     
    "Why?" he wails. "Why must the singing end? What are the order of words that give such flesh to the song?"
     
    this and that
     
     
     
                along the strand 
    crab bubbles
    here and there
     
     
     
    Sources:
    - First Duino Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke (tr.Albert Ernest Flemming)
    - The Idea of Order at Key West by Wallace Stevens