January 4 (Willow Buds)

willow buds
chewing aspirin
for my heart


There’s nothing wrong with my heart, in case any of you are worriedly picking out “Get Well” cards to send me. This haiku is imaginary. Well, I do frequently take chewable aspirin, but only for pain and hypochondria. Otherwise, I made it all up.

A lot of my haiku are made up. I know some people think this is a no-no in haiku and you should only be writing from authentic personal experience or some such. Those people can do whatever they want, but I like my imagination and I don’t want to leave it languishing all alone while I sit around writing the scrupulously observed literal truth all day.

So what often happens when I’m writing haiku is, I’ll take some tiny little real part of my life — like my crunching on those bitter little orange tablets when I’m feeling anxious about some vague pain in my head that might be a brain tumor — and start to riff on it, hmmm, aspirin, chewing aspirin, bitter aspirin, chewable aspirin, aspirin for your heart, acetylsalicyclic acid, willow bark, willow trees, willow buds…

It’s all in my head (sort of like the imaginary tumor). I’m not looking at a damn thing except the computer screen and the pictures that scroll across my brain all day long. Pictures of stuff I’ve already seen in my life, things I’ve already done, or seen other people do, or read about. All the things that I know about in the world.

So … it’s not autobiographical. But it’s not fake, either. Imaginary things aren’t necessarily fake, just like stories aren’t necessarily lies. I like stories a lot too, especially the ones that are full of truth, which are not necessarily the ones that are most factual. I’m hoping that you agree with me that haiku drawn from the imagination can be just as full of truth as those that draw on what I like to think of as “mere reality.”

This is a completely separate issue from whether this particular haiku is any good, of course. So don’t make your decision based solely on your opinion of it. Here, for example, are some of my other haiku that are mostly not real. Maybe you’ll like some of them better. Or not.

The Only Noise

From the Branches

Blue Moon

Thanks. Giving.



May 29: 1-2: The Technique of the Riddle

(See this post for an explanation of what’s going on here.)


“[T]his is probably one of the very oldest poetical techniques. It has been guessed that early spiritual knowledge was secretly preserved and passed along through riddles….

“One can ask: ‘what is still to be seen’

on all four sides

of the long gone shack

The answer is:
calla lilies

“Or another one would be:

spirit bodies

waving from cacti

plastic bags

“…The more intriguing the ‘set-up’ and the bigger surprise the answer is, the better the haiku seems to work. … keep it true, keep it simple and keep it accurate and make it weird.

“Oh, the old masters favorite trick with riddles was the one of: is that a flower falling or is it a butterfly? … if you wish to experiment (the ku may or may not be a keeper) you can ask yourself the question: if I saw snow on a branch, what else could it be? Or seeing a butterfly going by you ask yourself what else besides a butterfly could that be?”

– Jane Reichhold, Haiku Techniques


chewing the stale crumbs
of my future
fortune cookie

new leaves stained with
gouts of fresh blood
first strawberries