Tree & Pond [Haibun]

Beside a pond, a tree reaches, its branches stretched wide and skyward, blocking the harsh cloud-penetrating rays. Locals sit on the lush grass, their backsides wet, their backs resting on the rough and slanting trunk. They watch ripples echo outward from the mouth tips of feeding fish, those concentric rings etched into in the mirrored waters - and yet moving. In time, watchers will become ripple mesmerized, and will experience the stiff twitch and head nods of an impending nap.


sitting pondside,
ripples from feeding fish
lull my mind 

Vertigo Green [Haibun]

Life overtakes all. Moss coats stone; vines smother shrubs; trees straddle walls. All growing in splotched patterns of green -- a million shapes of leaf in a million subtly different shades. My world is awash in green. My mind is soothed by deep greens, and fired by the bright light-greens of fresh growth. My periphery swirls and blurs with green.


a mossy stone 
becomes my focal point,
the fringe blurs

The Tree of Now [Haibun]

One tree stands in the temple yard, slanting but stable, its bare limbs lazily spiral skyward. Its trunk is gnarled and its branches are twisted and it makes the old ruins around it look modern by comparison. The trunk radiates hardness, a strength from deformation, like the sinewy limbs of a laborer whose muscles are held in constant tension, until they can no longer know suppleness. Seekers of shade and enlightenment once sought its shadow, but now it can only offer a good example. 

leafless tree --
sitting in the temple yard,
luring Buddhas

Falling Leaf [Haibun]

A leaf falls, spinning as it drifts downward. Then, for an instant, it seems to pause in the air before continuing to drop, twist, and flutter. I question whether the leaf stopped, my mind stopped, or the universe stopped. Probably, nothing stopped -- a mere momentary balance of updraft and gravitational pull, an unstable and ephemeral equilibrium, like a spontaneous retention of breath -- usually missed before it can be noticed, but just this one time, I was witness.


a falling leaf
seems to pause in air,
and I am there 

Spring Yellow [Haibun]

The pond that was mirror clear in March is obscured by a thousand April flowers. Tiny yellow flowers standing on stiff stalks. The crisscross bands that stabilize the base of each flower somehow make the water look more viscous -- like clear syrup or polished glass. These pale proto-leaves, more root than leaf, float just below the surface. Somehow, these unstable structures hold tightly -- testament to the pond's tranquility.


yellow flowers
bloom from a clear pond
as if from glass 

Ghost Army [Haibun]

Thick clouds scrape over the ridge. In the foreground, sun-fired sands shine brightly, but the mountain behind has fallen dark, as if it's being marched over by the waves of a ghost army -- formless battalions that block the light. When that marching army reaches the nearer mountain, it will neither stop nor slow, but will crawl overland, coming ever nearer.


the fore mountain shines,
even as a ghost army
closes from behind

Double Rainbow [Haibun]

Subsequent ridges fade into shapes, darker and less distinct. The farther down the lake one looks, the lower the clouds hang, until they obscure all trace of the apparent infinity of ridges. In front of the one sun-warmed wall of mountain, two rainbows arch skyward, disappearing into the clouds. One is a weak echo of the other. My Irish mind imagines the arc-segments are full semi-circles -- pot-o-gold, and all that. But the weak one seems to quit before it even reaches the cloud, and thus makes me wonder if rainbows are real, and - if they are - is the weak one as real as the bright one.


double rainbow
arches up from the lake,
stoking pondering

Labyrinthine Lake [Haibun]

Patches of grassy land stand above the water. They lop up the lake into a labyrinth of passageways. Even in a shallow draft canoe, one can often see past the phumdi grass, but still one must know the tiny isles or be trapped among them.

a narrow boat
silently glides between
floating islands   

Paddy Shacks [Haibun]

Near Khonoma, Nagaland
In a quiet valley, terraced rice paddies lie flooded but unsprouted, their glassy surfaces vaguely mirror the sky above. More than the narrow dykes, it's the mere inches of elevational difference that gives each irregular patch of water a distinct appearance. Each one is hit by light from the same distant source, and though they are as close to equidistant from that source as imaginable, each tells its own story in hue and glint. Amid the paddies, squat supply shacks pose as an inhospitable village -- all moat, no yard, and unneighborly distances between them. And yet there is something quaintly soothing about this fiction of a village.


squat shacks stand,
islands amid paddies --
a faux village 

Tea Swarm [Haibun]

The cone-hatted ladies converge on the plantation, a spreading swarm, picking the fresh green leaves, tossing them over the shoulder into a backpacked wicker basket, leaving behind a flattop trimmed tea shrub. The mid-day rains drive away the pickers for a short time, but they'll be back, squeezing between dripping tea trees, their skirts saturated with the cold morning rain that will steam off into a muggy afternoon.

tea pickers
head back to the fields
after mid-day rains