Memorial Haiku

The following are selected memorial haiku (and the occasional tanka) I’ve written for poets who have died, arranged in reverse chronological order (most recent poem first). Two of these poems (for Kaji Aso and the first poem for anne mckay) were also Per Diem featured poems on the Haiku Foundation website in May 2014. Please also see the “Memorial Haibun” section of the Haibun page for longer tributes to these and other haiku poets.



“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” —Thornton Wilder



September’s first chill—

the bees seem to know

their keeper is gone

                For Bob Redmond

                (died 12 September 2023, at age 57)



                                                                                summer sunlight

                                                                                brightens the playground

                                                                                next to the graveyard . . .

                                                                                can I ever do as much

                                                                                with my five lines down?

                                                                                                For Sanford Goldstein

                                                                                                (died 5 May 2023, at age 97)



tulips rising—

the last of the firewood

almost out

                For Carol Purington

                (died 8 December 2020)



                                                                                trees still hung with moss

                                                                                she moves into

                                                                                the sound’s silence

                                                                                                For Winona Baker

                                                                                                (died 23 October 2020)



a meadowlarks call

amid a flurry of leaves . . .

the woodpath turns

          the silence between us

a quail finds its way

     through the underbrush

                For vincent tripi

                (died 17 August 2020; first poem originally written for vince in 1991 when he stopped coediting Woodnotes with me, the second in July of 1999 when he moved away from San Francisco)



                                                                                last of the sunset . . .

                                                                                fewer scratches

                                                                                in the chicken yard

                                                                                                For Marian Olson

                                                                                                (died 17 August 2018)



where has he gone . . .

his cat’s tail

forms a question mark

                For Carlos Colón       +

                (died 30 October 2016)



                                                                                news of her death . . .

                                                                                this year’s falling leaves

                                                                                a little more lonely

                                                                                                For Jane Reichhold

                                                                                                (died July 2016)



daffodils in bloom—

the mint in my mouth

still not done

                For Gary Barnes (Soji)       +       +

                (died 12 March 2016)



                                                                                Eric Amann’s name

                                                                                sinking deeper and deeper

                                                                                into the red leaves

                                                                                                For Eric Amann       +

                                                                                                (died March 2016)



total eclipse—

our shadows curve

and then disappear

                For Kat Creighton       +

                (died 15 January 2014)



                                                                                spring woods . . .

                                                                                a distant voice

                                                                                falls silent

                                                                                                For Hortensia Anderson

                                                                                                (died 21 May 2012)



autumn haiku meeting—

all of us smile at the poem she says

isn’t any good

                For Jay Gelzer     +

                (died 29 December 2012)



                                                                                rain again . . .

                                                                                      the moon brightens

                                                                                the cloud’s other side

                                                                                                For Helen Russell     +

                                                                                                (died 10 January 2011, age 101)



day lilies—

her last letter

still unopened

taken again

by the slant of her lines

by the slant of rain

                For Peggy Willis Lyles     +

                (died 3 September 2010)



                                                                                gone from the woods

                                                                                the bird I knew

                                                                                by sight and song

                                                                                                For Paul O. Williams     +     +

                                                                                                (died 2 June 2009)



a change of season—

I turn again

to one of Bills books

                For William J. Higginson     +

                (died 11 October 2008)

                                                                                spring’s deepening green—

                                                                                beside the silent heron

                                                                                our long shadows touch

                                                                                                For Robert Major     +

                                                                                                (died 18 May 2008)



winter sky—

her palette still

with all the colours

                For Francine Porad     +

                (died 27 September 2006)



                                                                                blue September sky—

                                                                                the wordless things

                                                                                we want to know

                                                                                                For Francine Porad     +

                                                                                                (died 27 September 2006)



after the brushstroke,

his head stays tilted

to a sun-dappled sumi-e

                For Kaji Aso

                (died 11 March 2006)



                                                                                fog . . .

                                                                                just the tree

                                                                                at the bus stop

                                                                                                For Jerry Kilbride

                                                                                                (died 3 November 2005)



the beach is wide—

to honour his passing

I write a line of his poetry

in the sand

close to the waves

                For Robert Creeley

                (died 30 March 2005)



                                                                                her last breath—

                                                                                the strings vibrating

                                                                                on her dusty harp

                                                                                                For Elizabeth Searle Lamb

                                                                                                (died 15 February 2005)



Iraqi sunset—

a sand dune begins to build

around his bootprint

                For Navy Lt. Kylan Jones-Huffman     +

                (died 21 August 2003, in Iraq)



                                                                                for her this spring

                                                                                the greengoing woods

                                                                                still greening


                                                                                the smell of cigarettes

                                                                                still in her book

                                                                                                For anne mckay

                                                                                                (died 4 March 2003)



Asilomar dunes—

      she rests her hand

against the tree she planted

                For Kiyoko Tokutomi     +

                (died 25 December 2002)



                                                                                a wrenching in my chest—

                                                                                the white peony

                                                                                pulled from the garden

                                                                                                For Keiko Imaoka     +

                                                                                                (died April 2002)



words do not come

for you

on your passing

till the first warm day

     the blossoming plum

                For Pat Shelley

                (died 28 December 1996)



                                                                                scattered ashes . . .

                                                                                how still each reed

                                                                                and its shadow

                                                                                                For John Wills

                                                                                                (died 24 September 1993)