Pat Nolan

                A HISTORY OF HAIKAI
                    Three Dokugin Kasen
         in memory of Keith Kumasen Abbott


                The rushing stream
I join in swiftness toward that
                instant of existence
                                              —after Saigyo

big bamboo bows beneath
the weight of tiny drops

                the pile of books
at bedside grown taller
                winter evenings

in the visual cortex
resides the voyeur

                full moon reminds me
having traveled far and wide
                the hole in my sock

shimmer of a puddle’s surface
reflects a break in the clouds

                play now pay later
he should have had that
                tattooed on his knuckles

separated by time
even the neighbors are distant

                looking at the old
photos I realize now
                I can’t trust the mirror

just a scruffy literary type
wild hair wild eyed wild heart

                alone tonight
after the first glass
                the bottle pours itself

skeletal remains catch a breeze
hung from the window’s edge

                late afternoon sun
shadow carves a new face on
                the abandoned pumpkin

full moon’s midnight glow
on the porch railing

                emerging from sleep
dreams clothe themselves
                in a waking reality

relive the past
preparing for the future

                new blossoms flutter
in the rainy wind protesting
                too soon too soon

a smear of blue
edged by majestic billows

                sneeze tremor extends
to hand holding coffee cup
                café au lait tsunami

tragedy for the asking
day in and day out

                wild onion flowers
gather what remains of light
                frog chirp evening

seated too long I rise
a cricket at every joint

                newspapers pile up
paint peels gray porch sagging
                a yellow weed lawn

among the wild thorn bushes
a single bearded iris

                hard rain pouring down
room lighted by one candle
                —poetry weather

with each longer day
yesterday's further away

                old spider web
stillness at dawn
                a robin cocks its head

sawhorse left out in the rain
another delay

                moon’s crooked smile
as I go from room to room
                turning out the lights

choose without thinking
from moment to moment

                wet winter
do the little entryway
                rug two step

large fuzzy cloud comma
punctuates afternoon blue

                a knock at the door
cord of wood neatly stacked
                payment on demand

I raise my cup what I owe
can never be collected

                late winter the pink
almond blossoms invite
                a fine white rain

caught up in one day
turtle pace of a passing year


                Sounds as if water’s
cracking on this icy night
                I lie wide awake
                               —after Basho

cat a furry ensō asleep
before the gas fireplace

                shorter frosty days
last leaves cling as
                old dingy brown rags

mist slips from the ridge top
a pale orange skyline

                so then Issa wrote
“Guard the door leafy shadows
                I’ve gone to the moon”

light showers after storm
green hills run with mustard

                gingko leaf afloat
in the old watering can
                overflowing rain

coffee cup keeps hiding by
being where it always is

                young bird perched on
the shadow of a branch cast
                across the asphalt

clouds have seized the light
and returned a wintry sky

                pretentious foo dogs at
the new neighbor’s gate tagged
                by real dogs’ comments

through the trees the flag
a breeze brings to life

in front of the bus shelter
                the largest puddle

evening star poised to
drop into the cup of moon

                off to work early
headlights rake
                the old gray fence

rhododendron leaves large
dragonflies glazed with dew

                white rain complements
the pink of blossoms and
                paler shades of green

black birds leapfrog
in the dry yellow grass

                the young widow just
about to give birth the long
                shadows of late day

driven to distraction
no need for a road map

                at twilight a small
white dog follows scents
                the tall summer weeds

hot afternoon’s silky breeze
lapped at my drowsy edges

                get wives with kids
mistresses with poetry
                thus immortality

the ghost of the bedroom
closes the door on its own

                the clouds let go
a blessing or a curse caught
                without an umbrella

shorter days lengthened
with a tall bottle

                I wasn't so lonely
last autumn at this time
                just a candle and me

from bank robber to reverend
difference a shaved head makes

                if there was a moon
it shanked behind the pine like
                a big old golf ball

how quickly puddles become
still the fleeting shower

                past the empty beach
an armada of mallards float
                on velvet waters

a cup of tea a warm book
static of steady light rain

                a barking dog
the darkening bog
                opens a mystery

even in an overcoat
the scarecrow looks cold

                cloud marbled blue sky
a strong wind picks up
                pink blossoms fly by

gusts bow the tall reeds over
and over the withered moor


                After a brief shower
sunset leaves its signature
                on standing water

rain attends the flanks of firs
time to drain the bank account

                autumn evening
questions posed answered perhaps
                weighty old memories

I turn to heat my back
humming to myself alone

                the old wicker gate
held up by its latch
                the winter moon
                               —after Kikaku

every star in its place
too cold to linger and count

                dish towel draped
over my shoulder long after
                the dishes have been done

swatting a fly the price
I’ll pay in eternity

                on the street below
cat pauses listening maybe
                he heard me thinking

cash receipt marks a page
in the book I return

                not much different
from a single electron
                that stubborn recluse

with so much wretchedness
guilt at my moment of joy

                I couldn’t hear
the wind blew the words away
                the shape of her mouth

up until now nothing but
nonsense the moon tonight

                kept inside by the storm
kids in their rain-gear
                impatient for showers

when the car finally pulls up
I can find worry free sleep

                pounding head
crick in neck I blame
                the cherry blossoms
                               —after Buson

I don’t need the bright lights
dew strung on gossamer just fine

                I can no longer hear
the high pitched whine
                of evening’s hunters

in charge of its destiny
the last melon on the vine

                in a ragged coat
stop to view a majestic presence
                mist in the tree tops

“I should stop by but it’s been
so long what could I say”

                fast asleep
the taste of blowfish repeating
                may be a mantra
                               —after Basho

satisfied in a dream
I can put those desires to bed

                impatient blue sky
at the edge of a cloud burst
                wetter than winter

raking petals into a pile
the bare earth’s turn

                if I returned as
a moth I would sadly expect
                the same treatment

“I know all that” hollow
words fly back in my face

                a chill comes with
the rain easing up
                immaculate moon

has this dust always
covered everything

                wild chamomile anemic
along the cracked sidewalk
                about to keel over
                               —after Shiki

“who I am today more than
yesterday less than tomorrow”

                it must be very cold
the actors speak their lines
                with visible breath

even in the shadows
snow remains snow

                after random cherry
blossom beauty order
                imposed by the broom

the young bamboo races up
to its supple green height

Pat Nolan writes: "Keith Kumasen Abbott and I became interested in the idea of haikai no renga (linked verse collaboration) around the same time thanks to the publication of Basho’s The Monkey’s Raincoat, translated by Maeda Cana (Grossman, 1973). We were already well practiced in collaborative writing using the Surrealist model adapted by the New York School of Poets. By the mid-seventies we had made forays into linked verse, writing with little more understanding of this haiku based verse form than that the stanzas alternated three lines and two lines. Syllabic count, season specific stanzas, and the rudiments of linking were not yet considerations. Alerting by Keith to the publication of Earl Miner’s Japanese Linked Poetry (Princeton, 1979), I started my education in the intricacies of linking verse. Miner’s second volume, The Monkey’s Straw Raincoat (Princeton, 1981), added to our collective knowledge and obsession with what we now referred to as haikai no renga or renku. Thirty years later we were still writing haikai, giving it our own contemporary spin, and had roped a few of our poet friends into the practice as well, dubbing ourselves The Miner School of Haikai Poets. We published a number of our collaborations in haiku magazines, anthologies, and limited edition chapbooks. In 2015, I published a selection of three decades worth of Miner School linking titled Poetry For Sale (Nualláin House, Publishers). Now with Keith’s passing this last August, a vital link to the enjoyment of this practice is no longer available. I composed these three solo haikai (dokugin) of thirty six stanzas (kasen) in his memory, employing shifts and leaps in the linking that I imagine he would have enjoyed."
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