Clocking Out

First published in Woodnotes #31, Autumn 1997, pages 45–46. On 7 February 2017, I found the handwritten text for this review
on a yellow piece of lined notepaper folded into quarters, tucked into my copy of the book, dated “25 December 1996, Winnipeg, Manitoba.”

Carlos Colón, also known as Haiku Elvis, died unexpectedly in October of 2016. See also “Remembering Carlos Colón.” +

Clocking Out by Carlos Colón. Shreveport, Louisiana: Tragg Publications, 1996, 54 pages, 5½ by 8½ inches, paperback. $4.00 postpaid from the author at 185 Lynn Avenue, Shreveport, Louisiana 71105-3523 [address no longer correct]. A playful spirit pervades Carlos Colón’s Clocking Out. In between the serious moments are sparks of lightness, all keenly observed, playfully seen. About a dozen visual or “concrete” poems add whimsy to this collection where poems (mostly haiku) appear spaciously at one per page. Colón shows great stylistic range not only with visual creativity but with one-liners, three-liners, “compressed” poems such as “eyexambiguoushapes,” and one tanka. While the poet’s playfulness is enjoyable, the more conventional haiku and senryu particularly resonate with keen observation, wry irony, humour, and sharp images. One or two poems see too light (“the lovebirds / a gaggle / of giggles”), but most of Carlos Colón’s poems here are movingly serious without taking themselves too seriously.

toweling off—

the cold nose

of a kitten

emptying the classrooms a triple rainbow

The following selections, in the order they appear in Clocking Out, were not part of my 1996 review, but I include them here to show additional example poems, starting with the following concrete poem I first published in Woodnotes. I recall asking Carlos if the image might be reversed, to show the cat walking to the left instead of the right (I’m not sure why I suggested that). He said that such a change wouldn’t work, because then the shape of the cat’s tail wouldn’t match the shape of the question marks. He was completely right.


? ? /\ /\

? (cat)



a a a a

t t t t


on the Sgt.’s desk

a “Missing Person” report

zen concert—

an air guitar

slightly out of tune


across the rice paper

the teacher gently

guides my hand

(for Marian Poe)

taking over

the editors mailbox:


harder to read—

the faded paint

on his “Work for Food” sign

next day across town

white sheets marching

on the clothesline

new translation—

the farmer gestures

with a rutabaga

chained to the desk

the shell

of a ballpoint pen

Labor Day—

fixing the hole

in my hammock

sound of a penny

dropped on a church pew—

ripples in the walnut

six k places i at t once t this e new n

taking my glasses

the optician disappears

into the wallpaper


my way home

the starfish