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Autumn, 1967:

These poems, early in my infatuation with haiku, were written shortly after a numbing divorce. We'd been in grad school together. I accepted a teaching job at Cornell in Ithaca, NY (in the middle of picturesque nowhere - "centrally isolated," the recruiters joked), expecting to go there with my then wife. (I much prefer "Now" wives.) In fact, I took the job there because it was a place she said she wanted to work. Then we divorced (she deciding to remain in California), and a few months later I found myself trying to find myself in a small room in Ithaca -- and in the hot-house cleverness of academia. These poems (with one or two additions later for clarification) were part of that.

What the poems perhaps hint at is that, somehow, it was one of the better times of my life. I'd never been so alone and lonely before, but gradually the loneliness was displaced by the expanding aloneness, and the aloneness became an awareness of something only beginning to be articulated in these haiku - a sense of liking my own company and through my acceptance of that lone self, finding that I was also in the good company of lots of leaves and stones and trees and other universes much like my own. I began to feel at home with myself. Unlost.

I'd written some haiku before, but in 1967 I got hold of the 4-volume R. H. Blyth work on haiku and read every word, and began to write differently and perhaps see differently.

About a year later, I became a Scientologist, which led to far greater changes in my ways (note the plural) of seeing. The following poems and a few others during the same period represent the closest I got to doing "pure" haiku, if there is such a thing. From 1968 onwards, I approached the form on less solemn terms.

Autumn, 1967 (a Haiku Series)

Folding only my laundry
since she left,
underwear looking lonely.

Can't get back to sleep.
Will I say the right things
this wet day?

A dog barks.
Nearby an answer; far off
another; miles away...

In the country,
learning to drive a stick-shift;
gears grind; hills, autumn hills.

Slow downward drift of leaves,
even as I watch,
a memory.

Out of warm rooms
where I made clever points--
cold clear night.

These leaves crunched louder
when my feet were small.

Autumn night,
rain on the roof...dawn --
I must have slept.

Red maples, yellow elms,
green pines, and nameless colors
of nameless trees.

I stop typing.
A clear night. I wonder
who my neighbor is?

Wind
in bare trees
outside the shower-steamed window.

Wet highway,
a drive-in movie's flicker...
I've cried in movies.

Snagged on the wiper,
back and forth scrapes
a dead leaf.

Rain patter,
swish of wipers,
poor smiling billboard people.

Here two months. Fall storm.
The last tenant's garish print
still on the wall.

Alone this autumn,
My youth on my student's faces
Like a rash.

The alarm set for six,
I wake up at five afraid
I slept through it.

Writing. Fall rain
makes me listen,
rain that isn't you.

Trying to write.
In the wet window,
A man with a pen.

Rain. Walls creak,
a man writes, a fly buzzing
somewhere.

The light left on
in the room where I wrote
unanswered letters.


There've been a few version of this sequence. Here's a shorter take on it:

A Lost Autumn

I write of fall rain --
rain outside makes me listen,
rain that isn't you.

I write this fall of you --
in the wet window
a man with a pencil.

The light left on
in the room where I wrote
unanswered letters.

Autumn rain drips,
walls creak, a man writes, a fly
buzzes somewhere.