Tag Archives: Haiku

First Market Haiku



The dramatic statue holding sway over the campo dei fiori (field of flowers) in Rome is that of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). He was an Italian Dominican monk who fell afoul of the inquisition about 15 years before Galileo did. Bruno held that the stars were suns like our own, that there could be many habitable worlds, and that the universe was infinite with no one body at its center. He also questioned transubstantiation, Mary’s virginity, and the divinity of Jesus, which really got him into trouble. He was burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in the year 1600. Today the plaza is a thriving market, and one of my favorite places (I took this photo about three years ago). The statue is still a matter of controversy, as some conservatives object to honoring a heretic in this way. He is, however, a hero to progressives.

Giordano Bruno

brooding over first market

tasting bitter fruit

linked to carpe diem haiku kai

Sacred Rope (Shimenawa)




On carpe diem haiku kai, one of the recent prompts for creating a haiku is the Sacred Rope, or shimenawa in Japanese.  This is one of my favorite symbols in Shinto, and it always warmed my heart when I passed one–in a shrine or even in the countryside.  It is a twisted rope used to denote the sacred energy of a place–such as Mount Fuji:

shimenawa fuji

It is often seen circling a tree both to honor the soul of that tree and to call attention to its unusual life force:

shimenawa tree

The zigzag strips of paper are called Shide, and are often used in purifying ceremonies, attached to a wand (e.g. a gohei) and waved over anything from a building to a new car.

One of the most famous Shimenawa in Japan is pictured by Chèvrefeuille  on his website:

near wedded rocks

These are the Wedded Rocks, or the Married Couple Rocks, found near the Grand Shrine of Ise. The rocks symbolize the Shinto version of the Creator Deities, as told in the 8th century chronicle, Kojiki.   The story goes that the kami Izanagi and his wife Izanami (She Who Invites) were tasked with creating the Japanese islands.  They were given a heavenly spear, and standing on the floating bridge of Heaven, they swirled the waters of the sea.  As drops fell from their spear, the islands of japan were formed. The story continues with the death of Izanami, but their wonderful creative relationship is commemorated at this lovely spot, and sanctified with the shimenawa:


I will use the following photo for inspiration.  The young woman is called a Miko, a Shrine Maiden who in the olden days was regarded as a shaman.  Today they are young girls who help at the shrine and sometimes perform the sacred dance called the kagura.

Great Shiminawa

a lovely miko.

sheltering shimenawa–

no dogma, just dance

Violets Troiku

On Carpe Diem Haiku Kai, the play for the day is to create a Troiku.  This, as the host explains, is “a kind of creativity with haiku … in short you have to use every line of the haiku (three in total) as the starting line for a new haiku. The Troiku is created as you have written three new haiku. I love to challenge you, but remember it’s not an obligation, to turn the given haiku by Richard Wright into a Troiku.”  Here is the original haiku of Richard Wright:


I give permission

For this slow spring rain to soak

The violet beds.

and here is my contribution:

I give permission

to the stirrings of my heart

to pour into life

for this slow Spring rain to soak

into Gaia’s melting heart

nascent flowers wait

the violet beds

heralds of early morning

nature’s reveille

Parsing the Paradise Haiku


don’t dare to listen

a snake whispers in the trees

mocking paradise

Two readers of Love of Wisdom caught the ironic intention of this haiku.  The first is a good friend in Japan named John Dougill whose blog http://www.greenshinto.com is a treasure trove of insight and information on Japanese culture, especially Shinto and its relationship to the western pagan traditions.  John wrote:

“Here in Japan snakes are worshiped as an ancient symbol of regeneration.  The mocking snake above is a biblical allusion, but is the snake acting as a symbol of truth or the deceptive evil creature as demonized in Christianity?  The word ‘dare’ in the first line prompts a pagan reading of the verse…”

And Jen Rosenberry, one of my very favorite haiku poets who writes on blogitorloseit.com. wrote:

“I was busy flip-flopping this haiku, too–don’t dare listen to whom? is the snake doing the mocking–or is a false version of “paradise” doing the mocking?  Very interesting.  Very, very interesting.”

I am so pleased that these two comments captured the spirit in which I wrote the poem.  I have long preferred the oriental view of the molting snake (or in Maine, the molting lobster) as a positive symbol of transformation and rebirth, and as John notes, it takes great courage–great daring– to heed the promptings toward growth and change in one’s own heart.

It seems to me that the snake in the garden of Eden was urging Adam and Eve to grow up. Their “sin” after all was eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This means that before eating this fruit, they did not know the difference between  good and evil or right and wrong–which is the essence of innocence and also the legal definition of insanity.  Without this moral sense, they were reduced to simply following a command,  like a dog being told not to mess on the carpet.  How odd to think that becoming a moral agent would create a rift between the divine and the human.  I would think it would be just the opposite.

In the movie “Oh God” George Burns (God) was asked by some serious theologians if Adam and Eve had really sinned.  “Heck, no,” he answered.  “They were only kids, and kids can’t sin.”  Thus, the Eden myth seems to me to infantilize Adam and Eve, and to cast the soul’s longing, as voiced by the snake, for mature autonomy and responsibility as sinful. I therefore agree here with John that we must dare to heed the call for transformation in our own hearts, and to cherish whatever symbol embraces that ideal.  For millions of people, it is the snake.

The Eden myth also seems to reduce the notion of paradise to a hedonistic utopia (which literally means “nowhere”).  The notion of paradise originally referred to a walled garden, and the word  is not used in the Hebrew version of the Garden of Eden.  But the Vulgate Latin version (4th Century C.E.) not only uses the word paradise, but calls it a paradise of pleasure.  Here is a literal translation of the two relevant verses from Genesis 2:

Therefore God made man from the slime of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man was made a living soul.  And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning, into which He placed the man he had formed.

A paradise of pleasure.  By the 13th century, this version had become the official view of the Catholic Church, and had been applied both to the state of innocence before the Fall, and to the eternal  bliss awaiting the righteous in Heaven (the same translation sees Jesus promising one of the thieves on the cross that “today you will be with me in Paradise..”)

So I will go with one side of Jen’s options: I believe that a vapid notion of paradise deserves to be mocked, and that the snake was doing us a favor.  Just as Mary Oliver reminds us that we “don’t have to be perfect, ” I find the idea that a perfect human life should be free of challenge and pain and growth and loss to be unattractive and boring.  The Garden of Eden must have been rather uneventful, to say the least, and even as a child, I found the pictures of Heaven not at all compelling. Hell, on the other hand, was a vivid and exciting place, albeit one to avoid.   A care-free, growth-free existence seems an unworthy one to which to aspire. Stay innocent, follow the rules, and you will be rewarded by an eternity of bliss–or negatively, stay innocent, follow the rules, and you will not be damned to eternal punishment.  I believe that whatever Divinity there is , she wishes much more for us than that.  And so:

Dare to heed the call

A snake whispers in your heart

why are you not you?

Haiku–A Departed Soul

Today’s prompt on carpediemhaikukai is to write a classic haiku on “A departed soul.”  This seems most appropriate as we approach el dia de los muertos in Hispanic countries.  Since I am now in Seville, Spain, immersed in the poetry of Garcia Lorca, Raphael Alberti, and Gerardo Diego, I am going to take a crack at writing this haiku in Spanish:

en mi ventana

una cierne colibri

querido padre

at my window

a hummingbird hovers

my beloved father.


In a small park in central Seville, the city has placed a series of stone carvings to honor the poets of Andalucia.  This photo honors a poet I had not known, Gerardo Diego, who lived from 1896-1987.  The inscribed poem seems to be a beautiful rendition of the romance of yin and yang.  I hope you enjoy his song, forgiving my unpolished translation:

You are teaching me to love.

I did not know.

Night and Day.

NIght loves the day, clear light

loves the darkness.

Such love, so perfect and so rare!

You are my happiness.

Day draws near to night, kisses

only for an instant.

Night promises a lover’s kiss

to Day-white.

You are teaching me to love.

I did not know.

To love is not to ask, but to give.

My soul empties out.