Load of bull

beading
in a bull’s eyelashes
spring drizzle

Paul Chambers
from The Heron’s Nest 22.1 (2020)

I’m reading Field Notes from the Edge: Journeys through Britain’s secret wilderness by Paul Evans (Rider Publishing, 2015) and was pleased to be safe in my bed when reading this description of a tense bucolic encounter after the author allowed his attention to wander.

**

He may not have been the biggest bull but he seemed massive to me. A head the size of a washing machine, huge neck and shoulders, long back, all deep russet red and rounded muscle – a brick shithouse of a beast. I looked into his eye.

This eye was unlike the oxeye daisy, which is really a pastoral joke in which the ox is prettified and conforms to a bovine ideal of cud-chewing reverie and disinterested stare. He was also not the snorting, charging, angry bull of cartoons. He was watching me closely with his robin redbreast-coloured eye, perhaps with a flash of gold in it. The eye lay at the forward edge of a body that could flatten a wall, not with a furious charge but with a mindful harnessing of colossal weight and strength of will. He was considering what to do. This bull was dangerous.

He began to eat, ripping up hanks of grass with his tongue whilst walking slowly but never diverting his eye from me. This grazing was subterfuge, getting me to think he was not charging while slyly gaining ground. I had heard of bulls working out how to kill someone and this felt premeditated. Perhaps it was payment for some mistreatment he had experienced; perhaps his hormones were pumped by the cows and his blood was up; perhaps something had woken inside that boulder of a skull, some wild bullness was taking over from thousands of years of domestication. It was going to be existential for both of us.

***

The stand-off fortunately ends peacefully. The author, heart pounding, manages to assert the farmer’s ‘ancient claim’ to authority and sends the bull on his way.

spring fever
the farm gate swung wide
for the bull

Michele L. Harvey
from The Heron’s Nest 19.4 (2017)

This in-your-face haiku was written by Issa in 1812:

山吹にぶらりと牛のふぐり哉
yamabuki ni burari to ushi no fuguri kana

dangling
in the yellow roses
the bull’s balls

Translator David Lanoue says: “Here, as often in Issa, we find a startling juxtaposition. Fearlessly and without self-censorship, he presents what he sees. And also, as often is the case, after the initial shock of the image wears off, we find deeper connections to ponder. The bull’s testicles and the roses, after all, are sex organs.”

While researching for a forthcoming post, I discovered that in Japanese literature ‘yellow roses’ are understood to be yamabuki flowers (Kerria japonica), not a rose at all and without any thorns! (Which was worrying me a bit about the image above …)

vacation’s end
sunlight catches the ring
in a bull’s nostrils

Polona Oblak
from The Heron’s Nest 20.4 (2018)

‘Boy on Ox’ is a woodblock print by Ogata Gekko, made in about 1890-1910. Image: Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Estate of Dr Eleanor Z. Wallace

Like Paul Chambers’ haiku that opens this posting, American poet Richard Wright subverts the typical view of a bull as one of uber-masculinity.

Coming from the woods,
a bull has a lilac sprig
dangling from a horn

Richard Wright (1908-1960)

Japan holds regular bullfights (togyu), held in front of paying crowds, which are a recognised folk custom. Unlike Spain however, there are no matadors and picadors; the bulls simply lock horns with one another and push. The bouts are run along the lines of sumo wrestling matches and no animals are put to death as part of the spectacle. Indeed, it seems the bulls are fed well and treated better. Read more here. The Choju-giga scrolls, painted from the mid-12th century to the end of the 13th century, are the earliest record of bullfighting in Japan.

small country town
the bull’s rosette
in the butcher’s window

Pamela Brown
from another country: haiku poetry from Wales (Gomer, 2011)

noon sun
the bull
in a knife’s reflection

Mary Weiler
from Presence 55 (2016)

It’s in the detail

One of the most common remarks I make about a haiku I’ve particularly enjoyed is that it’s ‘well observed’ or ‘nicely observed’, meaning that I appreciate the detail that either makes me look afresh at something I know well or offers me something brand new to ‘see’ and think about.

Haiku are all about observation, switching on all of our senses, and yet … It’s easy to sketch out an idea but harder to be diligent with the editing process to try and realise the full potential of a poem. Just now I have six ideas and part-written haiku jotted on the back of a piece of a recycled paper – it’s not often I have this many haiku written in the space of a day or two so I need to get on while that part of my brain is working!

The haiku featured today have all arrested my reading when I’ve come across them recently. It’s in the detail ….

morning snow
the footsteps from a grave
size 4

Lew Watts
from Presence 66 (2020)

winter lamb
a little ma
in its baa

Francine Banwarth
from Frogpond 43.1 (2020)

What I love about Francine’s haiku is that it works delightfully just as it’s written, plus there’s a twist in that ‘ma’ is a Japanese word denoting white/negative space and is a technique used in haiku. I have seen the technique described by Alan Summers as: … not putting all of the information into the writing, and using space as a way to  suggest there is more to see, ‘look closer between the lines, and even between the words’.

a gentle tug
of the magician’s silks …
crocuses!

Claire Everitt
from Presence 66 (2020)

calendar page
     a tiny November
          in the corner of December 

Laurie D. Morrissey
from Modern Haiku 50.3 (2019)

stars at dawn:
the clatter of small change
on the coffee shop counter

Chad Lee Robinson
from his e-book Rope Marks (Snapshot Press, 2012)

higgs boson
my eyelids
feel so heavy

Gregory Piko
from NOON 16 (2020)

The big, wide world

New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2 on May 14, which gives us more freedoms – shops and cafes can open, we can socialise in groups of up to 10, etc – but it’s still restrictive. I suppose the fear is that if we move to ‘normal’ too quickly a second wave of coronavirus will break over us and we’ll have to go back to our self-isolating bubbles, which might be hard to do once they’re fully popped.

Our political leadership has been exemplary over this period – decisive and clear – but  chaos is creeping in as we move into the lower Alert Levels. Too many people were out and about last weekend, despite Level 3 restrictions not being that different from those of Level 4. People queuing for junk food/coffee too close together, hundreds of people exercising/strolling on public footpaths. Sad and aggravating at the same time.

So not quite freedom, not yet. And now that I’m used to being at home all day and every day I’m finding it hard to get my head into the space beyond my own front gate!

Here are some haiku that celebrate the world outside that gate.

what would it hurt
to open the door
windflowers

Mimi Ahern
from Windflowers (Red Moon Press, 2020)

bobbing up the riverbank
the dust of a rabbit
skipping stones

Marion Moxham
from number eight wire (Piwakawaka Press, 2019)

the night sky
away from the campfire
our small words

paul m
from Another Trip Around the Sun (Brooks Books, 2019)

lakeside geese –
my map takes off
in the wind

Martha Magenta
from Presence 63 (2019)

Since I chose this haiku of Martha’s to use, I’ve heard of her death from cancer. Hopefully, she’s flying free now too.

field of dandelions
thousands of wishes
go unused

Adelaide B Shaw
from The Wonder Code (Girasole Press, 2017)

herd of deer
my road through
their togetherness

Mary Stevens
from The Heron’s Nest 22.1 (2020)

beach innings
three driftwood stumps
and a dog at mid on

Tony Beyer
from number eight wire

morning glory –
gently the postman
opens the gate

Robert Gilliland
from Another Trip Around the Sun

prairie canola
a hitchhiker cradles the name
of a far port

LeRoy Gorman
from Presence 66 (2020)

Confinement

I sent out a ‘how are you’ email to friends around the world, have heard back from most of them, but haven’t yet replied to anyone as I feel there’s nothing to say. The story remains the same – Alert Level 3 seems very much like Alert Level 4, except there’s more online shopping to be had and the possibility of purchasing hot food. There’s another jigsaw puzzle on the table … did more gardening … did the housework (again) … played cards with the other two members of the household (again) … watched some stuff on TV/DVD (again) …

It feels as if my internal battery is running low and nothing is giving me much joy. Six weeks of being largely confined to my own property (city section) is wearing thin.  Hopefully, this week we may know when the ‘remain in your bubble’ directive will be lifted but gatherings, including clubs, may still be restricted.

I have a friend who’s keen on astrology and regularly makes decisions large and small based on what she ‘reads’ from her charts. She warned me at the end of last year that 2020 was going to be difficult. All year. Then watch out for 2024!

Searching out haiku to feature always improves my mood, so let’s do it! This selection speaks to me of confinement, so just to prove I’m not losing the plot, the next posting will be haiku that somehow say ‘freedom’.

windswept beach
my father’s voice at the other end
of a tin-can phone

Lucy Whitehead
from Windflowers anthology (Red Moon Press, 2020)

longest night
in the self-checkout lane
just me and this machine

Victor Ortiz
from Windflowers anthology (Red Moon Press, 2020)

shorter kisses
longer quarrels –
winter solstice

Eric Ammann
from A Haiku Mind (Shambhala, 2008)

dusting
her little vases
this is my devotion

Owen Bullock
from number eight wire (Piwakawaka Press, 2019)

glowing embers
I tell her a story
she already knows

Rick Tarquinio
from The Wonder Code (Girasole Press, 2017)

to-do list
the pear
ripens

Patsy Turner
from number eight wire (Piwakawaka Press, 2019)

april showers …
weeding
the bookcase

Julie Warther
from Another Trip Around the Sun anthology (Brooks Books, 2019)

music box winding down
waiting
for 
the
last
.

Catherine Moxham
from number eight wire (Piwakawaka Press, 2019)