Haiku in Amsterdam

by Glenn Lyvers


Between the Boathouse and Anne

Frank’s, I read a favorite haiku

over and again, until the words

have no meaning. I listen

to the sounds. I hear the poem

as though told by strangers,

and when I stop to think it

through, the haiku, about birds

riding southern autumn winds,

is like sipping a dry familiar wine,

over and again, its insistent

finish lingering on the palate—

the way bells resonate long after

they are struck by the hammers of monks.


In the Van Gogh Museum, I whisper

the haiku to the Starry Night,

and the stars become birds pressed

into swirling winds, and I become

the face of the North Wind, blowing

with puckered lips. When I whisper

to Sunflowers, its seeds become blown-

birds slowly exploding into a paper-sky—

a smearing yellow-orange blur

suspended in the creamy air—

possessing some intangible meaning

greater than the words themselves.


And long after I leave Amsterdam,

the haiku will remain on the wind.

It will be twirled by working windmills.

It will be the unseen passenger on trains

passing through blooming tulips fields.

It will be remembered by the red-light-

district-whore I bedded. It will undulate

forever with her pale body. It will be eaten

by café diners, and scrawled on bathroom walls

by mindless travelers who believe

they thought of it first.


And when I return, someday, to Amsterdam,

I will draw it from the river. I will roll it around

in my chops. I will chew on it, like a perfect fig,

eaten over and again, until it is consecrated

on my tongue—until it transfigures, forever

dissolving like a wafer in my mouth,

something placed there by a poet-priest

—a man immortalized by a haiku.



From the author’s website, by permission of the author.