Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms
November-December 2004, Volume 2, Number 6

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Tanka: William J. Higginson


Journal Entry Begun over the International Dateline Northwest of Alaska, 28/29 November 2002

endless crimson
the far horizon’s edge
these hours
floating over the dark
sea of arctic clouds

The pilot said we’d be flying over Russia. I had assumed he meant the east coast of Kamchatka, the huge peninsula extending southwest from the eastern end of Siberia, as routes across the Pacific often do.

in dark Chechnya
the rebels make plans
frosty clouds
reflect the sunlight
not reaching Siberia

Instead, we flew north, over Canada’s Northwest Territories, skirted the polar side of the Alaskan coast, and then came down over the eastern end of Siberia, the old Soviet Far East, miles inland from the Bering Sea, heading for the northern end of the Sea of Okhotsk.

in growing light
I read old waka
of autumn dusk
the plane six miles
over freezing Siberia

we cross the coastline
where vertical
frozen cliffs become
this frozen sea

a daily dream
this geography of my youth
the Sea of Okhotsk
I never thought to see
so many shades of ice

The planes and ships that plied this space those years ago—all in my mind. The Soviet fighter pilots who called out cheery “Merry Christmas” messages to whomever might be out there listening in the dark.

no fractals
formed here—instead
endless floes
frozen into one
Sea of Okhotsk

cloud bands
form thin elongated
across the icy depths
Sea of Okhotsk

William J. Higginson is known worldwide for his scholarship and fine translations of Japanese poetry. His many books have become standards in their fields.