A Gnat in Amber

         A kasen renku by Paul O. Williams and Michael Dylan Welch

Written August 1990 to October 1991 by postal exchange (even though Paul was my nearest haiku neighbour at the time—we lived in Belmont and Foster City, California). Corrections finished May 1992. First published in Brussels Sprout X:1, January 1993, pages 18–19. This may have been the first renku I ever wrote.



the gnat in amber

       gleaming in July sun

                on her throat                                                                     Paul


            knocked from its tin

            a fresh loaf, steaming                                                        Michael


wings tucked,

falling toward the grain barge,

two pigeons land                                                                             Paul


            a cough from the doorway—

            the bag lady’s shadowed face                                        Michael


this clouded moon

my son may soon see clear

in Arabia                                                                                              Paul


            a letter home, unsealed . . .

            rain streaks the window                                                   Michael


            ~   ~   ~


sudden gust

across the tide pool

the smell of the sea                                                                        Michael


            the fragrant watermelon

            cut open—I check my hands                                           Paul


a crab apple

from the highest branch

rattles down the rain spout                                                         Michael


            a red rag in his pocket,

            his dog’s tongue hanging far out                                   Paul


supper time . . .

       the runaway

              comes home                                                                        Michael


            once again garlic

            follows him down the walk                                              Paul


autumn morning—

          old neighbours

                    trimming the hedge                                                    Michael


            a cold early morning run,

            the moon fades sooner than I                                        Paul


beige beach stones

fringed with frost—

a wave recedes                                                                                Michael


            distant rumors of war

            in the yard sparrows quarrel                                           Paul


nodding faintly

in the spire’s shadow—

blue columbine buds                                                                      Michael


            this pitcher and this sunset

            agree about cranberry                                                       Paul


            ~   ~   ~


his last beer bottle

hidden these three years

in the junipers                                                                                   Paul


            grey winter day—

            a scrap of paper blows against traffic                          Michael



for the house key

as the phone rings                                                                           Paul


            hands outstretched—

            the baby toddles toward the flames                           Michael


by the river

the reunion picnic

the river slips by                                                                               Paul


            a jar of hominy grits

            stands in sunlight                                                                 Michael


all these years clouds

riding the surface

of Moosehead Lake                                                                        Paul


            spilling from the potpourri,

            only lavender                                                                        Michael


tiny cleome seeds

cupped in my palm

whisper white flowers                                                                   Paul


            blurred by the sink’s soapy water,

            a white dish                                                                            Michael


birds blunder out

o the dark spruce tree—

the new moon                                                                                  Paul


            in the mushroom’s shade,

            a litter of shrews                                                                  Michael


            ~   ~   ~


rainy circus tent—

the child gives a red balloon

to the sad-eyed clown                                                                   Michael


            cattail pollen scattered

            on the lake—some sinking                                              Paul


an afternoon

in mid-October . . .

the unmade bed                                                                              Michael


            the late paper slaps and skids

            down the sun-warm drive                                               Paul


waking me,

she brushes my cheek

with fringed gentian                                                                       Michael


            this morning of fog and frost

            a woods full of rime-edged leaves                               Paul