Haiku

I have never been adept at haiku,

                                              but I keep returning to this one.

 

It would be easy to dismiss my frustration with a joke:

 

                                                           It demands haiku,

                                                     bee within chrysanthemum,

                                                         Damn. I got nothing.

 

But that quits the moment

            and the moment is too much a moment to quit –

 

a honeybee dormant in a luxurious flower

                        on a cold March morning,

             the sun barely touching the petals,

                                                       my wife and I walking along just then.

 

And there’s the insect

            vulnerable and asleep

                          where it chose to hide itself when the cold came on,

            and it knew there was no way back to the hive in time.

 

And the flower, cradling the bee,

            the instrument of its own propagation,

                        in the shapes and scent it used to bring it there.

The bee in the flower looks exotic,

            like a clownfish in an anemone,

                      but there it is, by the sidewalk,

                                        in a neighbour’s garden in the ordinary light.

 

Is that what haiku is?

                                                     a bee noticed in a flower?

 

Basho said yes,

            and my favourite haiku is still his:

 

                                                                         A bee

                                                                      staggers out

                                                                      of the peony.

 

Maybe it’s in the verb.

            Maybe I’m looking for a word

                        that does for sleep what staggers does for walk.

 

The bee snoozes?

 

                                                dozes?

 

                                                                                    dreams?

 

 

But if I am,

            then am I not just trying to be Basho? –

                                                        and what’s the point of that?

 

You learn and try, then you unlearn and do.

 

It isn’t about the flower or the bee.

It isn’t about haiku,

or the prose poem,

a little story that goes nowhere

except, if you’re lucky, to aha!

 

It’s about the one thing you notice,

                               and then the why: yes, a bee, thumbed into a flower

             by the cold of a night still unburned away by the morning sun.

 

A man walking with his wife,

            but not walking with her in his mind, instead looking away

and down, taking things in with his eyes.

 

Perhaps he is thinking;

            perhaps he has just said something, and he’s waiting for her

                        to say something back.

 

She is holding his hand,

            but he has let go of the thought of holding hers,

                                                and something has got his attention,

 

something connected to what’s happened before he saw it

                                 in a way he could not speak of at the time.

 

And now he’s writing,

                                    connecting before and after through now.

 

Experience is to a poem what a belly button is to a mammal.

 

Bees sleep in flowers all the time.

 

Dormant in a million darkened books,

                                                poems wait for someone to lift their caps.

            The man knows that everything he writes

                                    will eventually become patient like them

            as if he never wrote what he writes now:

 

                                                               At last the man sees

                                                          the poem is the woman’s hand

                                                                resting in his own.

 


from On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood (Wolsak and Wynn, 2016), © Richard Harrison 2016, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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