When the fog began to clear off, I noticed that the reflection of a tree in the smooth water of an overflowed bank, six hundred yards away, was stronger and blacker than the ghostly tree itself.
faint spectral trees
through the shredding fog
found haibun from Life on the Mississippi (1883) by Mark Twain, Chapter 51: “Reminiscences”
I don’t know what it is about long-legged waders that inspires me to write odd haibun, but here’s “The Cattle Egret” appearing in the ‘Animals in the City’ issue of qarrtsiluni.
Even cooler is sharing the day with Deb Scott and her beautiful work, and be sure to check out this one by Joseph Harker. Hell, just read the whole issue.
If you like egret haibun thing, I had another one published in qarrtsiluni back in 2011 and there’s one here too.
Thanks, Sherry and David for including this.
Evening Star Rain Lilies (Cooperia drummondii)
It actually rained here last week. Free water fell from the sky. Now, these starlike beauties have appeared everywhere. I stopped on my bike ride to photograph a few to ID, and was pleasantly surprised to discover their starry name.
evening-star rain lilies
along the trailside
for a few more
Along a southeast Texas highway, alone in a field, a missile points into a blue sky from behind a screen of trees, their lower trunks blackened in a perfect line by Hurricane Ike’s saltwater surge. The missile’s joints are rusted and whatever markings may once have identified it and warned away godless commies and damned Yankees are long faded leaving behind a tattered egret-white coat of peeling paint. No identifying information lurks at the base unless it’s been swallowed by the grasses of the coastal plain, which in a less droughty spring would now be alive with the ten thousand shades of a wildflower revolution.
a rusted missile
aimed toward the springtime sky
windblown prairie grass
We communicated in images. Flickering moments on dueling monitors. Shoes on cobbled pavement. Clothes rustle in the wind. Wind? We both understand this thing, wind. The colors are suddenly blinding. I can’t even name them. The view of open parkland and a blue pond widens to almost 360 degrees. My stomach drops as the ground falls away, earth tumbling into a pit of sky, images bleeding off the monitors now. We’re flying again. It’s all she thinks about, the only thing she’ll show. I rip the cables from my temples. She flaps them from her wings. We stare at one another across the sterile distance of the research lab. Going nowhere. Again. A white feather floats on the air-conditioned current. We’re as alien and far apart as ever. Three feet away yet separated by species and the awkwardness of the now-severed connection with its illusion of understanding and love. Can she feel it too? She doesn’t blink, her avian eyes as incomprehensible as the machines humming in this lab. I glance at the security cameras and lean in. Please, I whisper, please. Don’t make me leave. I’ll show you everything. Outside, I hear engines and the wind of ten thousand wings beginning to flap.
A flight of egrets
glides toward the setting sun—
the moon rises.
This is for Big Tent Poetry’s challenge to write a haibun about travel and an encounter with an imaginary creature. I love haibun, though my approach has been intentionally nontraditional. I’d like to learn more, but I also like the notion of feeling my way into something new and playing with it a little bit like the way I’ll fiddle with a new instrument before attempting to learn how to play it.
I suppose this is why my haibun tend to read more like prose poems. Most of them actually start with the haiku, which tend to be pretty straightforward and traditional. I then write a prose poem piece that goes in a completely different direction. I often think of the prose piece as fictional process notes.
Sometimes I think I might just revise the haiku out completely and let the prose stand alone, but for now I like the way the haiku contrasts with the prose and grounds the charge, bringing things back to Earth. This Earth anyway.
There’s a swagger in the way the cattle egret walks across the fields of this fenced frontier, wingtips looped into his belt buckle. He won’t talk much at first, but if you get him going he’ll spin stories like country songs—beer drinkin’, cloaca kickin’ and trains beyond the horizon. He’ll tell of blue northers ripping down the plains and the time he lit a fire under a mule that hadn’t moved in two days. He waits while you imagine what a burning mule would smell like and then tells how the mule just moved over a couple feet from the fire and stayed put another two days before movin’ on. Usually, though, he just stares out past the longhorns, dreaming lonely dreams from another time. Maybe he even writes a song or two about the rough and tumble old birds of the past. In the evening, after a long day picking bugs off the backs of settled cows, he sends demos to Nashville and Austin hoping he’ll make it big someday.
the cattle egrets fly off
into the sunset
I ask the egret what makes him great. He smiles his bird smile and tells me of forbidden passion and how he loved and lost a snowy egret once. Held great roosts on the other side of the pond, invited all the shorebirds, hoping—just hoping—she’d maybe wade up his shore. At night he stood one-legged in a tree, ignoring the herons all around, while he studied the faint light reflected in the rippling water across the pond—I stop him there, tell him it sounds like he’s cribbing this story from Fitzgerald. Yes, he says, returning to the present, it’s true, it’s true, but there is no copyright for the heart, and besides… she was so beautiful and it was spring and the stars were bright and we were fledglings in the days of love.
ripple the still pond
Every tree along the trail to the pond wears its own cardinal, each claiming territory and attracting mates, filling the air with song. Gnatcatchers and kinglets hop through the branches with the chickadees. Blue Jays build a nest by the pond where the ducks had been until yesterday when they got the migration call and departed for points north. With all the birds alive and calling attention to themselves, the deer skeleton was quite a shock.
on a bed of leaves,
a deer skeleton picked clean,
save one furry hoof
When you grow up with the Navy, you get used to certain things, particularly salty air and the cries of gulls. Things not easily come by during a typical day in central Texas. Thank goodness for the Ring-billed Gulls, then, that come to the lake near our house every winter.
My gull fix is only a short bike ride away, even if I drove the other day.
I ignored the other birds, ignored everything, focused on the mass of white specks floating on the sparkling water.
flash of white
against the blue
plunges into cold
I can watch gulls for hours. I love the way they fly, so graceful. Lazy one minute, and diving for a meal the next.
Watching gulls is watching wind come alive.
wind takes form
a gull streaks across
Cold air riders come to spend another central Texas inland winter, they bob on the surface, cry and take flight.
The wind pushes them around a bit, but it’s all for show.
They are in control.
a cry, a soaring gull
comes up with lunch
i come back for more