December 15: The Past is a Different Country

There is always something new to learn about yourself, I’ve found — in particular, there are always things you’ve forgotten about yourself that when you remember them, or are reminded of them, you are astounded by. In my case, I was astounded the other day when, rummaging around in an old filing cabinet, I pulled out a small sheaf of paper torn from a 2003 page-a-day diary and discovered that apparently at least once before in my life — in the first week of 2003 — I attempted to write a haiku every day for a year.

I only made it a week, so I guess it’s not surprising that this venture didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I guess it’s also not surprising that all these haiku are 5-7-5 and that none of them are much good, although a few of them are not completely terrible either. What does surprise me is that when I started writing haiku (again) back in May, I honestly thought it was the first time I’d ever seriously considered taking up the form. I mean I knew I’d written the odd haiku in the past because that’s just the kind of odd thing I’m always doing, but I’d had no idea that I’d once spent an entire cold week fixated on them.

I’m glad I didn’t remember, in a way. If I had, I might have been discouraged — “Oh, haiku. Tried that once. Didn’t work out.” It just goes to show that you never know exactly what’s changed in you and in what way you might catch fire next.

I know you’re dying to read some of these. I’ve reproduced them below exactly as I wrote them, punctuation and capitalization and similes and incredibly embarrassing diction and all.


January first
Christmas trees like bad habits
discarded at curbs

January cold:
even the seed pods shiver.
Hand me a sweater.


This winter landscape
everything is different
except the stone wall

Down by the duck pond
we trace letters in the snow:
“Please don’t feed the ducks.”


low sun in my eyes
I walk holding my head down
shy until spring comes


a fir tree sideways
beneath the lilac bush —
the corpse of Christmas




(I also must share an entertaining piece of commentary from this notebook: “I really wanted to write a haiku about how the garbage men turn the garbage cans upside down after they collect the garbage, but it turns out that’s a really difficult thing to write a haiku about.”

I’m (pretty) sure that was meant to be deadpan humor …)

7 thoughts on “December 15: The Past is a Different Country

  1. bwahahahahahahahaha. cool. it’s extremely interesting to me that even in that week you were attracted to personal ku. yeah, and some quite cool ku there too.

    in my way of thinking… this week of yours was planting the seed. it laid a foundation that needed to percolate and get some kind of root system going – and that took 7 years. which is cool. because my years – and i do mean years – of writing 575 ku – are much more embarrassing if i start at the beginning. …altho i do think they improved some so there is a difference between the first 575 ku and the last of that rigid adherence to the count ku (i actually do occasionally come up with a 575 ku now – but it’s only because it works that way). and… just so you know… my first – determined-to-write ku attempt, took me a week to write. yeah. it was hard for me. which is probably why it took 12-14 years before i got loose from 575s.

    …and no, i dont think i’ll post some of those first ku. …there are plenty of examples of my later 575s floating around the web. and may be some of the first ones too. i’m just not going to point them out…

    garbage men and the upside down turning of garbage cans – is a very complex moment to convey in a couple of images. if i remember right i attempted something along those lines with raccoons and garbage cans. …altho i dont think the raccoons left the garbage cans quite as neatly upside down on the curb as the garbage… wait. that’s… refuse and recycling collectors now, isnt it?

    upside down can
    the garbage truck moves on

    • Love the “planting the seed” analogy. It is amazing how things can lie dormant for so long and then suddenly come to life — like those thousands-of-years-old seeds they’ve found and gotten to sprout. And some seeds grow into themselves almost overnight and some take hundreds of years …

      People learn and grow in just about as many ways. (You don’t really want to get me started on this, I have whole books of educational theory written in my head.) There’s nothing predictable or orderly about it at all, which is why schools tend to work so badly — they have all these ideas about what kids are supposed to know and when and what order they’re supposed to learn them in and how and it. just. doesn’t. work. that. way.

      Case in point: My 16-year-old son, who has no learning or developmental disabilities, barely wrote a sentence before last year. It was really, really difficult for him to write — mentally, physically, every way — and he hated it. I worried about it a lot but, against all professional advice, I didn’t make him write, because I could see that, for him, that would just make it worse. He did read a lot. (Although he didn’t learn to do that until after a lot of professional educators thought he should, either.)

      He just voluntarily wrote a 55,000-word novel in less than 4 weeks, by getting up (again, voluntarily) at 5:30 every morning and writing for several hours before breakfast. He loved doing it, and it’s an incredibly smart and funny and literate novel. I don’t know what seed that was. Probably a whole bunch of them, germinating all at once, after a hard rain or something.

      I don’t believe anything anyone says anymore about how people learn or develop. They do it the way they do it. And it never stops. Who knows what you or I will be doing in ten years? Our brains are still growing, and brains are strange things. To say the least.

      Okay, that was way more of a sermon than I meant it to be. I love your ku here. It actually says what I’m trying to say, except shorter and better. 🙂

  2. Sometimes, when visiting that country, I’m surprised to find how much the same I was/am!

    Anyhow, I dig these. They’re good examples of “what they are.” I don’t at all know what I’m doing but I nearly, almost, miss the days of having no knowledge of haiku save for 5-7-5 and “put something about nature in it.”

    I’d even stick more with that approach but I get exceptionally tired of the rhythm.

    anyhow – I can’t improve on Wrick’s but . . .

    Street Crawl

    Trash Can as Shot Glass
    Hoist it up. Prost! Down the hatch!
    Leave it upside down.

    (note the gleeful use of exclamation marks!)

    • bwahahahaha Steve, garbage can as shot glass. … got me grinning, way funny. bang! leave it upside down. – i like that line “leave it upside down” …so…

      garbage pick up
      bang! leave it upside down
      tequila slammers

    • In some ways I’m completely different, in some ways I’m exactly the same. Hmmm. Just like everyone else, I guess …

      “no knowledge of haiku save for 5-7-5 and ‘put something about nature in it.’ ” — ha! yeah, that’s about it. I still can’t figure out for the life of me where I got this idea to write haiku back then or why or how I knew anything about it (well, obviously, I didn’t …).

      Trash Can as Shot Glass. Man. You have made my day. 🙂

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