HAIKU (AND OTHER POEMS)
ON BEACH PEBBLES (AND OTHER TOPICS)

We were going in opposite directions, Koa and I.
From the Dark Cloud of Unknowing she came, into
the sunlit world of words and gathering images,
delighting in the naming of things and the forming of
self, traumatized, intoxicated by the world's strange,
sensual music - that same music from which I fled,
that same world I had abandoned, sensing its betrayal,
in search of that primordial, nameless Ground - her
former home - in a convulsion of colored canvases,
so that we met, my one year old granddaughter and I,
in a moment of terrestrial bliss, before passing one
another along our paths.

There is a place in a Haiku where a word or thought arises, cutting across the image
of the poem, in such a way that what lies before and after are cast by one another in a
new and special light: for me, Koa created such a "cut," brightening my fatalistic
course, balancing my past and my future.  Her need to live - to choose and to grow, to
master her self and her world, renewed in me a lost respect for economy and
restraint, and rejuvenated my enthusiasm for the games and masks of art.

Thus these little poems, on the topic of beach pebbles, whose subtleties have
charmed me since my own earliest years, while stubbornly eluding adequate
expression in poetry, music  and art - until now?  Until the summer of Koa's visit to the
beach along whose sandy shores I walk each morning, unconsciously forming my
thoughts into lines of five, seven and five syllables - and not only on the beach but
everywhere I go, not only in solitude but in spontaneous cooperative discourse, as, for
example, when the girl at the farm stand inquires, "What would you like, sir?" to which
I reply, after rapid calculation, "One dozen...corn on the cob," and follow up (before
she can speak again, in order to guarantee the correctness of the metre, but lacking
inspiration) with, "Oh, yummy, yummy!"

Well, she's gone now - Koa I mean, off to Arizona, and by the time our paths cross
again she'll seem a new person, with no remembrance of the time we shared, while
I...who knows?  And maybe that's the lesson she's taught me: the impossibility of
achieving a transcendent vantage from which to view my life, the futility of imposing
on my work a closed form, the acceptance of the likelihood, even the emergence of
the fond hope, that I will die some day "happy and confused, in the midst of some
work I find engaging, perplexing, enriching..."






Salt air and honeysuckle,
Sunlight on the dunes;
Purple-grape the wave surge,
Crying of the loons.

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When the tide pulled back
We found a small, white pebble
Patiently waiting.

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The whistling sea-breeze
Slowed in the afternoon heat,
Tangled in the reeds.

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Little stone, in your intricate, mindless design,
We encounter the infinite,
Glimpse the divine.

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Beneath the cherry tree,
Bright among the fallen leaves:
September's flower.

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Plum-colored stone!
Ripe, raspberry plum!
Iced apricot-raspberry pebble!

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From the labyrinth
Of the tiny beach-pebble
There is no return.

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A painter is making a lily
That's making a painter.

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Pebbles are like monks,
Quiescent, thoughtless,
Enigmatic;
Monks are like pebbles.

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A soft, confused polyphony
Of churning pebbles
Arises in the murmuring surf.

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A pebble told me:
Chance is beauty's father,
Death her mother.

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Words come too late for us and for the world;
The winds of memory die on life's still sea.
We live and row unknowing with sails furled,
Adrift 'twixt origin and destiny.

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Eternal prison:
A sliver of green algae
Trapped in a white stone.

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White butterflies
Tremulous in the sea-breeze

White sails
Nimble on the waves

White swans
Drifting at twilight

White pebbles
Under the night's bright stars.

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A green grasshopper
Sunning himself on a stone -
The wreath of the hours.

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September sunset,
An old poet on the beach
Makes one last haiku.

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The rain falls lightly
Upon the gray cedar steps:
Soft music at dawn.

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Do you remember
Broken rainbows in the sand? -
Beach-glass we gathered.


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Distant friend,
In the garden of time
Memory ripens.

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This poem,
The least offensive part of me,
I leave.


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Pico Rivera:
Along the littered roadside -
Koa in daisies.



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Morning's empty beach:
A breeze is soon to cover -
Unicorn footprints.