There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night.

I learned this year that a haibun is a poetic form that originates in Japan and combines prose and haiku. This haibun from Aimee Nezhukumatathil and her fourth collection, Oceanic, took my breath away when I came across it last summer.


“Summer Haibun”

To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night. Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air

the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light


It is the history of the forest, she says

This strangely entrancing prose poem by Arlene Kim gave me pause this afternoon as I was reading her book, What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes, which is worth a read in its entirety.


“The Collecting”

Sister keeps collecting dead things. Bees and rag-winged dragonflies.
A frozen mouse, teeth bared like a prize. A crow, butterflied open. She
pleats them up in her apron and keeps walking. Why do they find
her at the last, the dead sparrows, the muskrats, the prairie dogs, the
red squirrels, the spent tatty-sail moths. Then, yesterday, a spatuletail?
It’s a long way from here to Peru, she thinks, carrying him home to
snap small portraits, make a cast of wing, snug chin feathers into an
embroidery circle, bury him primly in a box of gingerbread, his strange
tail tucked so. It is the history of the forest, she says, of ways we get lost;
I would like to say how it all happened; I would like to put it right.

It is all right with me to know that my life is only one life.

Mixing it up tonight with a prose poem from the incredible Ohio poet James Wright (1927-1980) and his collection To A Blossoming Pear Tree. 

“The Secret of Light”

I am sitting contented and alone in a little park near the Palazzo Scaligere in Verona, glimpsing the mists of early autumn as they shift and fade among the pines and city battlements on the hills above the river Adige.

The river has recovered from this morning’s rainfall. It is now restoring to its shapely body its own secret light, a color of faintly cloudy green and pearl.

Directly in front of my bench, perhaps thirty yards away from me, there is a startling woman. Her hair is black as the inmost secret of light in a perfectly cut diamond, a perilous black, a secret light that must have been studied for many years before the anxious and disciplined craftsman could achieve the necessary balance between courage and skill to stroke the strange stone and take the one chance he would ever have to bring that secret to light.

While I was trying to compose the preceding sentence, the woman rose from her park bench and walked away. I am afraid her secret might never come to light in my lifetime. But my lifetime is not the only one. I will never see her again. I hope she brings some other man’s secret face to light, as somebody brought mine. I am startled to discover that I am not afraid. I am free to give a blessing out of my silence into that woman’s black hair. I trust her to go on living. I believe in her black hair, her diamond that is still asleep. I would close my eyes to daydream about her. But those silent companions who watch over me from the insides of my eyelids are too brilliant for me to meet face to face.

The very emptiness of the park bench in front of mine is what makes me happy. Somewhere else in Verona at just this moment, a woman is sitting or walking or standing still upright. Surely two careful and accurate hands, total strangers to me, measure the invisible idea of the secret vein in her hair. They are waiting patiently until they know what they alone can ever know: that time when her life will pause in mid-flight for a split second. The hands will touch her black hair very gently. A wind off the river Adige will flutter past her. She will turn around, smile a welcome, and place a flawless and fully formed Italian daybreak into the hands.

I don’t have any idea what his face will look like. The light still hidden inside his body is no business of mine. I am happy enough to sit in this park alone now. I turn my own face toward the river Adige. A little wind flutters off the water and brushes past me and returns.

It is all right with me to know that my life is only one life. I feel like the light of the river Adige.

By this time, we are both an open secret.