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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A haiku journey

I've been writing haiku since my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Smith, introduced them to me. I generally follow conventions: three lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and a final 5 syllables. Usually there's a seasonal reference, and often I try to make connections between up to three distinct images. But sometimes I break with convention.

Last week, I drove from Castle Rock to Saint Paul and back for a memorial service of one of my best friends, Bill Johnston, who died of cancer at 64. The memorial, the loving labor of his wife, Claudia, and 150 of Bill's many friends (he not only never lost a friend, he never even fell out of touch) happened a few days after what would have been his 65th birthday. 

These poems don't really talk about that. Instead, they were about just being open to the rolling vignettes along national highways. But Bill was also a poet, and a fine one. So this is my tribute to him. It's also worth noting that I left amid dire predictions of Siberian snowstorms, and returned to their aftermath, without ever experiencing anything but cold.


at Kansas truck stop
such intense concentration
on weather channel


white windmills on ridge
snowless late winter wheat field
and scattered cattle


horizon at dusk:
from shadow-stippled clouds drop 
weaving lines of ducks


midwest river land:
empty farmhouses wail with
February wind


cloud crosses jet trail:
a loose sketch of phoenix on 
western horizon


God said here you go:
an infinite canvas and
single drop of ink


snow, steam and sun stretch
into broad canvas of sky:
backlit stand of oak


bare branches over
the Winnebago River's
careless white ribbon


silos and smokestacks:
crossing state border from north
on this winter day


spinning windmill farm - 
the three or four that have stopped
seem thoughtful


I-35 sign
for Manly / Forest City:
home of Robin Hood?


billboard announces:
"we're cooking up something new:"
a Spam Museum


across Nebraska
I drive this late afternoon's
highway into sun


see trees, find water:
tangled cottonwoods border
the North Platte River


beside the highway:
my eye is drawn from dry fields
to orange plastic fence


approaching Denver
the day after big snowstorms:
steam on highway's edge

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