rules (and breaking them)

Offered here, a series of haiku or possibly senryu, inspired by reflections on growing up (mostly) country in the 1970s and bouncing back and forth between small-town New England in the summers, and rapidly developing suburban Colorado during the school year. When I wrote this the only poetry rule I knew was that haiku follows a three line, 5-7-5 syllable (or sound) count. I had never even heard of senryu. Recently I learned that haiku is supposed to be written in present tense, the speaker should not be in the poem, it is traditionally an observation of nature, and a season is implied. Senryu tends to be more about the human experience, perhaps highlighting our humorous frailties. A quick search of Japanese haiku masters reveals that the “Four Greats” regularly took some liberty with the rules. And modern haiku (and quite possibly senryu) are not necessarily held to that standard anyway. Ugh. Still, mostly ignorant, I now know just enough to understand that this is likely a butchering of the art form’s original intent. Or, for the optimist, a wobbly attempt at participation in the continued evolution of interaction between humans and words.

wind chimes are the song
of sweet summers at Tay-Gwen
my grandparents’ farm

rural western Mass.
green rivers, backyard ponies
eighty days a year

the other nine months
roaming elk herds and highways
seven thousand feet

Ponderosa pine
suburban Colorado
dusty, arid, blue

the world was modern
everything faster, and new
me: just not, not quite

just not belonging
the other kids were cool, smart
I was naive, raw

nineteen seventies
striped shirts, bare feet, cut-off jeans
two brown messy braids

tree-climbing tom boy
chucking apples from stone walls
the youngest of three

my two big brothers
always faster and stronger
me: not keeping up

crashed my bike one day
no hands on the handlebars
me: wrecked in the dirt

one was lost in work
one was lost in the bottle
no one else saw it

bloodied chin and palms
bike chain dragging behind me
embarrassed, mostly

oh, but summertime
when New England called us back
life made sense again

untethered we ran
before seat belts and helmets
dusk was our curfew