Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2008, vol 6 no 3


Wisteria Journal
Jim Kacian


These seventeen haibun are intended as a single work, to which there are attached an Introduction and a Dedication. Since you will be reading these only one at a time, however, it seems more appropriate that this apparatus follow the final installment, and this is where you will find them. My thanks to Simply Haiku for offering these in their entirety.

Jim Kacian

walking for hours the misty grounds of O-jima, largest and nearest island in Matsushima Bay     an ancient isle of the dead, replete with elaborate shrines, massive pines, and poetry stones, the symbols of eternal life     we must imagine, because of the fog, the other eight hundred islands scattered across the waters here, whose beauty reduced the poet (reputedly Bashô) to near wordlessness in his praise—

in my irreverence i think it like Maine, and imagine paddling my kayak through mild currents to rocky shores     there’s no one on the water here, though a fleet of fishing boats sits at anchor picturesque in the fog tatters an insipid yellow glow stands in for the sun

our guides—old Kenzo, spritely Saito—tell us it’s not a day specified for fishing, and when i ask why one must wait for a specified day they change the subject rather than accommodate my ignorance     they shift attention back to the shrouded bay, pointing out the ancient beauty spots we might see if only the gods would permit it     it’s a cold day, and the raw wind cuts through us     after a time sufficient to our imaginings we gratefully adjourn to the tiny unlit shack that serves as guide’s headquarters     weak but pleasingly hot coffee warms us back to loquacity

the usual conversation ensues—where are we from, how do we like Japan— and we take turns satisfying their interests in America, becoming guides to their vicarious visits     before long we fall silent together     we can barely make each other out in the chiaroscuro

     gathering dusk we are only voices in the dark

breaking a long pause, Kenzo apologizes, and even in the gloom i see his slight bow     Saito, he tells us, was a last-minute substitute for the regular guide     we protest, and insist that Saito was expert and we are very pleased, but he bows again     “the man whom Saito replaced,” he goes on to say, “died suddenly this morning, about one o’clock”     we don’t know what to say and keep the cups to our lips

but there is more     slowly he lifts a clenched fist to his chest     “heart attack?” we ask, and he nods

“he was an old man, as old as I,” he says and lapses again into a far-eyed silence

it’s nearly time for our train     we repeat our assurances that we have been well met, and add our condolences     we gather gloves and hats and take a last warm pull at the coffee

quietly, after the sound of our last goodbyes has died, he adds “he was my best friend”

     O-jima—beneath the century pines a sapling


Jim Kacian Jim Kacian is a past editor of Frogpond (the international membership journal of the Haiku Society of America, and the largest haiku magazine outside of Japan), is past president of the Haiku Society of America and was a co-founder of the World Haiku Association. He has had over 1000 haiku published in English-language journals and magazines in more than 20 countries and was winner most recently of the prestigious James Hackett Award (2002). He has published 7 books, all of which have won major awards. He is author of How to Haiku, a primer for English-speaking poets, as well as numerous articles on haiku form and praxis. He owns and operates Red Moon Press, the largest publishing house dedicated to haiku in the world.