The Cat’s Bell

First published in my privately printed collection, Egret, Foster City, California: Press Here, 1989, pages 79–81 (see selected poems). According to my records, I had this book printed on 12 October 1989. The issue of Modern Haiku referred to in the following prose is XX:3, Autumn 1989, and my copy indicates that I read the content mentioned on 10 September 1989. So this haibun must have been written sometime in the month after this date, most likely late September 1989, given the mention of this month in the first paragraph. I believe this was the first haibun I’d ever written. Many of the poems feel more like reports than being haiku, but I like their openness to experience. Yet I don’t have a cat! Also, I refer to Modern Haiku as a quarterly, but it actually comes out three times a year (this was true even when I wrote this haibun). Also, I now disagree with some of my thoughts on senryu. For example, senryu is not what we add to haiku by reading them. This haibun shows where I was in 1989.

Sunday morning, lying late in bed, I reach up, slide open my window. A cool moment of breeze puffs in and I hear September bird-sound. The morning slowly moves me. I roll over and spy autumn’s Modern Haiku, atop Zen to Go and Thomas Gray, Philosopher Cat.


reaching for Modern Haiku

at the bedside

cat meows at the door


I turn to the marker on page 40-something. Then I turn back, scanning the last few pages.


reading Modern Haiku


at the windowsill


turning the page

in the distance

a siren



a new haiku

the clock ticks


I reach for the clock radio, turn it on, turn it off. I read more, and then an image, an idea, takes me off. I see Bashō’s crow on a wet-black bough, a frog and a rose, then Puget Sound.

     Noticing the magazine fallen shut in my hand, I get up, wrap my bathrobe over my shoulders, make a pilgrimage to the bathroom.


late summer morning

the toilet’s

cool seat


Returning to the bedroom, I slip again into bed, slide the covers up around me. I read over Tom Tico’s “Reading of Eric Amann.” Then Lee Gurga:


amish waitress

black dress stretching down

to her reeboks


I think to myself . . .


In these three lines I see: haiku, haiku—senryu!


And in a moment, a new idea of senryu . . .


Senryu is not “funny haiku,” not haiku about human nature.

Not only. Not especially.

Senryu is haiku.

But senryu, unlike the objective haiku, is subjective.

Thus senryu remains haiku until the haiku mind

interprets a comparison

as incongruous, startling, humourous . . .


I put the quarterly down, and jot on a notepad:


Haiku is what is in the world.

Senryu is what we add to haiku by reading them.


I turn to a new page of my notepad.


reading Modern Haiku

beyond the bedroom door

the cat’s bell


Feeling hungry, I step downstairs to eat. In the kitchen, the cat rubs at my leg. I reach for granola and a bowl.