Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Winter 2008, vol 6 no 4


Wisteria Journal
Jim Kacian


These seventeen haibun are intended as a single work, to which there are attached an Introduction and a Dedication. Since you will be reading these only one at a time, however, it seems more appropriate that this apparatus follow the final installment, and this is where you will find them. My thanks to Simply Haiku for offering these in their entirety.

Jim Kacian

three hundred miles by train to arrive in the gloaming of Tazawako     the place we seek, Tsurunoyu, lies yet further on, to the north and into the mountains     a tattooed cabbie quotes a price     his breathstream plumes white into the cooling air as we converse, agree, and bid him take us there

the valley road is two lanes wide, straight and smooth all the way to the Pacific Coast     we follow it for several minutes, then turn north onto a narrower road aimed straight at Mt. Iwate     the dusklight has now faded, and no moon has risen     the mountains crowding round are discernible only as a greater blackness against the blackness of the sky     the snow which skirts the road deepens as we rapidly rise

we turn again, onto a road even more ragged and narrow     we cannot see around the switchbacks the road makes to accommodate this steep climb     the headlights illumine only the wall of snow which now surrounds us     the shapes of the roadside trees, mere shadows hurrying past, are mixed, then become all pine, then disappear altogether     when at last we crest, the road turns to gravel, and we careen down into an unlit valley, snaking along a river whose rush we can hear above the rattle of the cab, but cannot see

we grow accustomed to the dimness, but there is nothing out there for our eyes to hold, merely the apparitions of snow and landscape     in some other manner then we slowly become aware of a looming presence, the blackness which presides here     

as we have plunged down, a mountain has risen up before us, whose dimensions we cannot take in with a single pass: it is the genius of the place     its arms extend around and behind us—there is no other place to go but into its embrace     the cab, fishtailing in the mud and ruts, slows and finally stops     we remain seated before the presence, silent in the darkness.

only then, and slowly, do we make out the dim light of kerosene lamps strung out before an ancient building     we have arrived

     into the dark of an unknown country beginning to see


Jim Kacian Jim Kacian is a past editor of Frogpond (the international membership journal of the Haiku Society of America, and the largest haiku magazine outside of Japan), is past president of the Haiku Society of America and was a co-founder of the World Haiku Association. He has had over 1000 haiku published in English-language journals and magazines in more than 20 countries and was winner most recently of the prestigious James Hackett Award (2002). He has published 7 books, all of which have won major awards. He is author of How to Haiku, a primer for English-speaking poets, as well as numerous articles on haiku form and praxis. He owns and operates Red Moon Press, the largest publishing house dedicated to haiku in the world.