Painting

First published in Stories Under Every Rock, the British Haiku Society 30th Anniversary Members’ Haibun Anthology, Andover, England: British Haiku Society, 2020, page 63. Originally written in March of 2015.

I once taught a haiku workshop at Hakone Japanese Garden in Saratoga, California years ago. I had invited my students to head out into the garden to try writing one haiku for each of their five senses. It was a beautiful spring day, and the garden was vibrating with colour. I walked around too, trying to come up with poems, thinking about all of the tastes and touches and sounds around me, but nothing came. Zilch. After ten minutes of this fevered hunt for haiku, I gave up and sat in the wisteria arbor by the pond. I let out a long sigh and slowly began to relax, enjoying the freshly blooming wisteria, noticing the bees that came and went, and the occasional ripple in the pond from a turtle raising its head. That would have been enough, and no poems needed to come at all. I had slowed down and abandoned my intention, come hell or high water, to write haiku. Yet eventually, I was able to write a few poems, about those details that came to me while I was sitting in the arbor, simply idling. So the haiku came by not trying too hard, or by not trying at all. All I needed to do was be present.

                painterly clouds—
                the shadow that comes
                also leaves