Haibun – “Shimo no koe ~ First Frost”

Well, I’m not so sure that frosting the cake or anything else before you bake it is a good idea. Leave it to the Japanese: ‘Shimo no koe – First Frost!”, probably some kind of trick they know how to do – a Samurai baking thing. What if it is a Zen Koan: “What was your cake before it was baked?” asks the Zen Master. “First Frost!” replies the student. I don’t know, it is beyond my limited mind/body duality Western brain. If I tried to frost something first there would be nothing but goo.

Maple sugar drips
Baked long in Summer’s oven –
Cool Autumn Frosting



For dVerse Haibun Monday

Haibun – Waterways

The geese here on the Hudson have no intention of heading south for the winter. They are New Yorkers, with hipster lifestyles to maintain. No way are they giving up Sunday morning bagels, Thai take-out, and small batch artisanal truffle fries. And the kids? Like all good Millennials, the gosling mini-me’s are going to live at home with Mom and Dad until, well, whenever.

This week the weather began the turn from Summer to Fall, and the fair-weather, friends-of-a-feather tourists began their landings, take-offs, and flyovers. The river is a busy runway of watercraft and waterfowl.

Our dog raises her nose and sniffs crisply at the drop in humidity and temperature. Her daily confrontation with Mother Goose goes as usual: barking vs. hissing and nipping. Another stalemate in the city of fairy tales.

Tidal river shifts
Salty city’s evening lull –
Fresh uncertainty



Haibun – The Shadow

We live on the Hudson River, and this morning the dog and I sat on a bench watching the working scows: tugboats and ferries, derricks and dredges. I was thinking how easy and fun it was to be nefarious back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s – hide a boat in the rushes, muffle the oars with rags, row across in the dark with untaxed whisky. Who would stop you?  I walk past the kayak rental with its bright red and yellow plastic boats. With my now bootlegger’s expertise, I calculate that I could probably stuff in a case or two per shell. But they don’t look dangerous; they don’t make me shiver that they are up to no good. I need creaky oarlocks, pitch tar smell in the staves, long flapping coats, not kindergarten crayolas!

The massive push of the river is indifferent. Its tide, running sin out to sea.

Harvest moon distilled
What lurks in the hearts of men –
Bottled shine, soul burns


For dVerse Haibun Monday

Free for All

My first winter in Boston, I spent evenings trudging door-to-door, canvassing money and signatures for good causes. All these years later I’m still amazed anyone would open their door in the freezing wind and dark, my height and size bulked up further by my parka. Boston is known for its cold, both in temperature and in people, yet many folks seemed happy to talk to me. Often they would let me in to warm a bit while we chatted about toxic waste and such.

I hated the job and was lousy at the fundraising, but it was endlessly fascinating to go to each house or apartment, wait for the door to open, and peer inside people’s little world bubbles. Every street or building was full of dozens of small, weird, parallel universes where I could see, and sometimes even smell, the hopes and aspirations. Tchotchkes, photo collections, pots on the stove, tables set for dinner or homework, kids yelling, grandparents kvetching, friends in t-shirts smoking cigarettes, flocked velvet paintings of Elvis, brocade couches and seashell lamps, TV shows or radios or records playing, crosses and menorahs, rich and poor. It was the joy of people watching with a deeper view into the question “I wonder what that person’s life is like?”

What was most amazing – and I value still – is I began to realize my own life was also only a weird little bubble. I lived in merely another, very small, and arbitrary parallel universe. Just another snow globe. What I imagined as the Truth of my life was cut a bit down to size. Certainly, we are all permitted our truth, but none of us has The Truth. We are odd and hopeful creatures, you and I, burrowed into our nests for the winter along with the shiny pennies and pins and strings we collect like crows, praying we make it through to Spring.

I am a leaf
before the fall

For dVerse Haibun Monday

Haibun – 白夜 (“Midnight Sun”)

“At four in the morning my body bumped against the ceiling”
– Jim Harrison


Svenn taught me how to get coffee ready for when we were pulling on our boots to go milk the cows. First, start water boiling in the kettle, then tear open a bag of grounds and dump them in the rolling water. Wait a bit and pour, grounds and all, into a cup. “Kokekaffe” or cooked coffee is what he called it, as best as I could make out. We’d drink it hot and black along with a thick slice of bread spread with butter and salmon roe.

On the islands of Lofoton Norway, like anywhere above the Arctic circle, light is a season, not a daily thump and bump of day into night into day again. The summer sun rolls around the horizon like an infinitely slow roulette marble. Or the electron of a halo, shutter stopped.

At first, I thought I was forever done with night, that darkness was something I could shed and never regret. But after a bit, the constant light started making the cows and the dogs and even the humans a bit crazy. I had to tie a rag around my eyes to try and sleep, since light leaked in through the window blinds despite my best efforts. Eventually, even just knowing it was light outside was enough to keep me awake, sanity slowly leaching out the corners of my eyes. In the end, the only handhold to full blackout was to drink more and more of the Everclear we made in a still behind the barn. Svenn taught me how to do that too.

Who knew how much we crave darkness? How necessary for our shadows to lengthen, dissolve, and fill the sky.

Calls for light season
Hints of crazy spices gin –
Distilled summer sun



Day 27, 28 Days of Unreason
dVerse Poets Pub, Haibun Monday

Haibun – Sundowner

At dawn after the Solstice, I shiver involuntarily in the heat and humidity. The sun will soon begin to dip below the horizon again on my early run. I’ve only just become used to its latest angle, know where I need to shade my eyes, how to manage the morning’s swelter. The temperature will continue to rise in the months ahead, but I will track the loss of daybreak. My daily touchstone in the world is first light. Morning has broken.

Every July 4th
Mischief in my Mother’s eyes –
“Christmas coming soon!”


d’Verse Haibun Monday #40 Summer

Haibun – Summer Sports

The apartment pool is finally open after so many weeks of cold, wet days here in New York. One group stakes out a table early, and outside our window we hear marathon drinking and hilarity from the morning through to the evening. We are good sports about it, but barely. Dozens of toddlers and children sport about on their floats and pool toys, with plenty of splash wars and Marco-Polo competitions. The twenty-somethings oil themselves up and jockey for position on the lounge chairs, sporting the latest in skimpy swimwear.

Summer has its sport –
Thin clothes don’t cool fireworks
Set off by eel and fawn


The breast diseased, careens toward metastasis. What once nourished life now feeds ruin. Removed, it clears the way for the bowstring to pull clear and full. Power now, strength now. What was weakness becomes the gift of the Amazons. Women warriors.

The Fall: lightning cracks –
Golden dust of fire ants –
The Spring: tea rose blooms.