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