Seventeen Sounds

Were there portents in the sky?

I don’t remember the 1st haiku I ever saw. I don’t remember when I learned of such a brief, structured form that served its function so well that it held its own beginning and its own end within the short span of seventeen sounds. As a young hippie type I should have rebelled at the imposition of such structure. Too many rules to follow couldn’t possibly create real, honest art!

Except that the form created the function, the sounds filled the void with purpose, clarity, and sometimes an awful, terrible truth. Look, for instance at this one, written many years after the subject date.

I Never Looked Up
Were there portents in the sky?
I never looked up.

 With seventeen sounds, two entire books are included. We are placed, in the first line, squarely inside the world of George Orwell. Then comes the reference to the book The Revelation, contained in the Christian bible. From these two points of reference, the haiku then makes a profound statement about humanity. (Or… 1984 was the year my sons were born etc… you decide.)

What then, should we make of this one? The tone of it is almost taunting.

Wake and smell the fishies, your
time is almost gone.

 I’ll let you decide what that’s all about

Something else that I love about the haiku form is how well it captures a moment in time. Below is one of my older haiku, written nearly 40 years ago when I lived in a little duplex with my wife. We had two calico cats named Camuura and Amor.

Lindsay Street Haiku
Cats prowling, windows
wide let the music escape,
small feet pat onward.

Those were some pretty cool cats… then again, Kathy and I were pretty cool ourselves. I was 18 and she was 17, finishing her last year in high school. With no MySpace or Facebook, and no cellphones or iTunes, we actually did stuff. I was heavily into writing any and everything and she was into painting any and everything. She used watercolors in a way that made you swear it was oil or acrylic. She could get the starkest, finest lines into her paintings… One she did of the desert made me write this.

Shadows live, quiet
night falls on the desert, full
moon traces designs.

Haiku are wonderful ways to record a memory, not just an event. I remember once a woman kissed me, and the woman and the kiss and the day and the place and all of it was simply overwhelming. But the real experience of it comes through when I say it like this:

Your Kiss
Your kiss so subtle
rolls through me like thunder. Strike,
lightning! Pierce my heart.

She is an amazing woman… I’ll never forget her, or that day.

Then again, some days aren’t so wonderful. Some days it seems the world tries to bury you while you’re still breathing. That kind of overwhelming needs no introduction…

Arrows Shoot From Me
Tension builds inside
like the pull of a bowstring
just before release.

And sometimes, on those kinds of days, it’s nice to have a litany of mantras to repeat when you’re just about ready to crumble. This is one I wrote to get me through my 1st Calculus class.

I shall clear my head
and derive a solution,
resolve this ordeal.

I didn’t do so well in that class, as I remember. But I did get through it. Maybe I should’ve taken an incomplete…

I am Jon – writing
here only for a short time.
Tick. Tock. I am gone.