In recent weeks, I’ve been reading haiku journals online and have discovered that the rest of the world has stopped counting syllables. So, in writing my daily haiku, I’ve decided to stop too. It’s hard, putting your fingers away after years of use, but I look more carefully at what, apart from form and convention, haiku are.
The beat poet Allen Ginsberg said he never understood haiku and preferred his own “American Sentences.” He still counted—the sentences were supposed to be 17 syllables—but mostly he focused on the immediacy of a single observation. In my journal, I’ve been experimenting with un-metered notions, jotting down thoughts I’d consider poetic instead of prosaic.
I’ve offered 15 prose poem-lets below, each with its own title. They are hardly polished or condensed—Mr. Ginsberg would disapprove—but I sometimes wonder what I sacrifice in editing. Shortening them to 17 syllables might make them something else…
1. A THOUGHT BEFORE REALLY WAKING
The blackbird’s song holds a hole of night open and then squeezes it shut.
2. UNDER SCRUTINY
All the doors watch me, smug knowing where I’ve been.
3. THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE SUMMER SO FAR
By ten, we sweat coffee… but still can’t steer the air’s torpor.
The shadow of your chair: a creature tangled in mixed intentions.
5. MOMENTARY STATE OF ANXIETY
Words escaped from billboards gather outside town to shout us to silence.
6. WAITING FOR SOMEONE AT A PARK BENCH
Trees as ants see them—every road promises heaven, then splits and dwindles and splits and dwindles until it reaches an impossible shore of sky.
7. WAITING FOR SOMEONE AT A PARK BENCH (FIVE MINUTES LATER)
Maybe the trip down is better, merging until you enter the earth together and on one path.
8. STALLED CONVERSATION
You say you’ve had enough. I can’t think of anything I’ve had enough of.
9. A. D. D.
A bird flying by a window reminds me how little I see.
10. RELIGIOUS THINKING ON THE L
Every train a little ark, all the world you might know.
11. DOZING ON THE L
As I neared sleep, I saw some graffiti-ed light inside my eyelids and thought, “Hey, who put that there?”
12. WISDOM AS A BODY
Everything has an elbow, something you can’t get near enough to know.
13. WATCHING A NATURE DOCUMENTARY ON THE SEA FLOOR
The rising puddles of air—maybe the dead are down there, hoping their voices will one day surface.
14. SUBJECTIVE OBSERVATION
Bells swing their hems, showing their asses, sounding the same note the same way to a world they assume adores them.
15. TROUBLE GETTING TO SLEEP
Why did you slip and say “Goodbye” instead of “Goodnight”?