The touch of haiku

The sensation of touch – whether we’re touching something or someone or we’re being touched – is often an unrecorded sensation. We’re much more likely to respond strongly to taste or smell. But from the moment we’re born our vulnerable skin is wrapped in a textile or fibre, and we do that until we are dressed for the final time and our earthly remains commended to the elements.

Our skin is our largest organ and is constantly absorbing and classifying contact sensations. As I type this only my face and hands are exposed and I realise that I haven’t for a long time considered how my fingerpads feel the keyboard keys and what messages they’re sending to my brain. Given that I’ve been using typewriters and keyboards for more than 40 years, I might be forgiven for falling into non-observance but it’s a timely prod that I could well do to examine this facet of my haiku writing.

feet up
toes spread wide
I catch
8 tiny summer breezes

Anita Virgil
from Montage (The Haiku Foundation, 2010)

cat’s tongue
licks the Atlantic
from my damp skin

Doris Lynch
from Another Trip Around the Sun (Brooks Books, 2019)

summer morning
the riverbed stones warm
beneath my feet

John Barlow
from Stepping Stones: a way into haiku (BHS, 2007)

yu no nagori koyoi wa hada no samukara n

tonight my skin
will miss the hot spring
it seems colder

Basho, tr Jane Reichhold
from Basho: The complete haiku (Kodansha, 2008)

The translator’s note to this haiku, written in autumn 1689, is that the poet gave the haiku to Toyo, the son of the innkeeper, as he was leaving the hot springs resort at Yamanaka, near Kanazawa. In her introduction to this section of haiku, Reichhold notes that Basho had become ‘infatuated’ with the young man.

drafty temple –
only the buddha
not shivering

Stanford M Forrester
from Montage (The Haiku Foundation, 2010)

mother’s ashes
the mountain wind
on my hands

Meg Arnot
Morika International Haiku Contest, 2019

my thumbprint
on this thousand-year-old pot
fits hers

Ruth Yarrow
from Montage

haguki kayuku chikubi kamu ko ya hanagumori

gums itching
the baby bites my nipple –
spring’s hazy sky

Sugita Hisajo, tr Makoto Ueda
from Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women
(Columbia University Press, 2003)

summer haze
on the small of my back
the feel of his palm

Patricia Prime
from Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press, 2018)

Y & Z of Haiku

If you’re inspired to make your own haiku alphabet – and there are so many other poems I could have used, please share the link in the Comments section.

Y

canyon dawn:
a bat folding dark
into a crevice

Ruth Yarrow, Lit from Within (Red Moon Press, 2016)

 

sunflower

sunflowers
the tube of cadmium yellow
squeezed flat

D Claire Gallagher, Second place HPNC Contest, 2004

 

Z

 

zinnias . . .
why yes my favourite
was Harpo

Scott Mason, The Heron’s Nest 11.3, 2009

 

never younger
than now
i zest a lemon

Marilyn Appl Walker, The Heron’s Nest 16.1, 2014

 

The End!

V, W, X of Haiku

V

Valentine’s Day —
she reminds me
to fasten my seatbelt

Michael Dylan Welch, Haiku Society of America Newsletter 15.4 , 2000

 

removing
     the bullet-proof vest:
          the heat

Nick Virgilio (1928-89), Modern Haiku 14.3, 1983

 

W

that one kid
with the plastic whistle —
evening heat

Cherie Hunter Day, Modern Haiku 45.3, 2014

 

water-melon

watermelons
the weight of our grunts
breaks an axle

Chad Lee Robinson, The Deep End of the Sky (Turtle Light Press, 2015)

 

X

I send a fax
protesting the bombing
pages come out hot

Ruth Yarrow, from The Haiku Apprentice by Abigail Friedman (Stone Bridge Press, 2006)

 

          Listening …
After a while,
     I take up my axe again

Rod Willmot, Haiku (1969)