Ode To A Haiku


I can’t tell you the name of the bookstore or hers, as I wouldn’t wish for anyone to stalk me at the former, and I don’t know the latter. She was reading a book at the register — in the contented aura of her own attractiveness, it seemed — slowly masticating on something hard enough to be erotically heard from the aisles throughout which I wandered, until coming across the book I was to purchase, a little self-consciously, at said register; and somewhat, sadly, for a brief encounter with her. I handed her Moon Woke Me Up Nine Times (Knopf, 2013), a selection of haiku by Basho, and she handed it back. What happened in between — the debit of $17 dollars to my checking card — we’ll let rest as the American dream.

Come back with me to my condo, you can have half of my super burrito and meet my cat. I just opened a bottle of Malbec last night. Instead, I looked down in mild contempt for myself. The $17 dollars is cuckoo if you consider the book’s word count of less than 1,000 words. Of course, one does not apply economic theory to haiku, or zen in general. I guess I’m paying for the negative space both between the words and on the page. She wore a cute blouse lightly hung around her neck, ballet flats in the still dance of herself, legs crossed on a stool politely clasping off the world I would rather know, so I settled for the world of Basho. Immediately, still on the curb outside the bookstore, I randomly opened.

One insect
asleep on a leaf
can save your life

I scanned the spread of concrete grid for the next single tree, popping out embarrassedly like urban acne, and walked over to it like an absurd man who’d taken poetry too far. The narcissist thinks all art was made for him, which is only a compliment to the artist. I was convinced I’d see my personal insect, planted there by an empathetic and slightly guilt-ridden God. “Sorry about that,” he goes, in reference to the world at large. “Here’s a bug.” I would have gladly forgiven him.

Having been denied profundity, and feeling perversely entitled to it via my recent purchase, I continued my walk home thinking about each of my conspirators: the woman at the bookstore (c. 2013), Matsuo Bashō (c. 1680), God himself (c. 0000), and the mascot of all my muses: some insect hiding on the underside of a leaf, clinging desperately to its evasion. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, as the heart wouldn’t know what to do with it near. The secret to haiku may be the secret to life, and because that sounds pretentious and annoying, let me say I’m doing awful at the latter. A fish’s eyes brimming tears; a nun who lives alone; moon viewers given a rest when clouds pass; a butterfly licking salad dressing; your own tongue in your mouth, as a leaf. Basho reminds us that beauty is not a pristine and untouchable thing, but an ignored and boring one, lying on the ground next to your feet, starving for attention. I told myself this, repeating it with an irrational conviction verging on prayer, as I approached my home.

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