A Trumpeter Swan

a kasen renku by Michael Dylan Welch and Jerry Kilbride

First published in Frogpond 45:3, Autumn 2022, pages 100–103. Originally written by postal mail from 30 September 1990 to 2 August 1992.

a trumpeter swan

its neck curled

against the cold mdw

branches whiten

in gathering snow jk

the first aphid

on a wild rose . . .

shadows deepen mdw

the mauve surface of the lake

holds a star’s reflection jk

a dog’s bark—

the moon rises

over apple boughs mdw

lunar seas

and patterns on the grass jk

the hoot

of the owl

hollows the night jk

with the breeze

bees change flowers mdw

shiloh battleground

reenactment bugle calls

echo and echo jk

pitch black—the blind man

tells the shape of the cave mdw

he speaks of ancients

the campfire reflected

in his eyes jk

left by rain-drenched swings,

a pin-hole camera mdw

childhood playmates

holding the negative

up to the sky jk

before we kiss,

two moons in your eyes mdw

the curtains balloon . . .

folds in the bedsheet

are still jk

through the spinnaker’s shadow,

the rush of sea mdw

a fading rainbow,

a bougainvillea branch

borne in the white scud jk

saved from burnt timbers

the family tree mdw

turning the first loam

with a new spade . . .

the bend in the gardener’s back mdw

cast aside, the curved rib

of some long-dead animal jk

the phone rings—


a box of old letters mdw

a twist of her wedding band

as the answer is faxed jk

the lost chess piece

turns up

in the Monopoly box mdw

fred sings “we’re in the money”

ginger dances on a dime jk

lint in his pockets . . .

the other boys

buy candy mdw

the maple trees tapped,

snow outlines the rims of pails jk

after last call,

making five Olympic rings

with a wet glass mdw

throughout the night

the flame from hand to hand jk

protest march—

a trail of moonlit ants

under the barricade mdw

rain pocks the waif’s face

on the Les Miserables poster jk


the scent of new growth

through the window jk

alpine meadow—

a patch of lupine swaying mdw

an updrafted eagle . . .

looking back once more

at the peak we climbed jk

two shades of prairie grass

meet along the fallen-down fence mdw

fog blown from poppies

san francisco

finally in sight jk

through the open window

a seed blows in mdw

Jerry Kilbride passed away at the age of 75 on 3 November 2005. This renku was written from September 1990 to August 1992 via postal mail. Jerry made a global impact on haiku, was a Korean war veteran, and traveled widely. He spent most of his working life as a bartender, especially at the prestigious Olympic Club in San Francisco. Jerry cofounded the Haiku Poets of Northern California in 1989 and the American Haiku Archives in 1996. His book Tracings is a modern classic of haibun literature in English. From 1998 to 1999, Jerry Kilbride was honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives.