haiku japanese zen poetry




Poems & Songs

The sea remains the same

the coast is different wherever you go
the beach is different wherever you go
but the sea remains the same

to me the beach is bright sun, sparkling sand
warm water and swimming twice a day
bare feet and no shirt
boats and tractors and cicadas as you walk back to the house

I visited a place where it meant a cool respite from the mid-summer heat
away from the city and into the fog
cold winds and surfers in wetsuits
then you drive back into the heat of the city

I saw a film where it meant a wild and swirling tide
with seaweed and rocks and dark water
and a brief swim for the hardy
then up a steep path to a cottage

so when we talk to each other and say beach
our common language fails us and we smile and nod in agreement
not realising how different our concepts are
and I start to wonder how many of our words are like this

the coast is different wherever you go
the beach is different wherever you go
but the sea remains the same

After writing this I started to thinking that we have in common anything on 
a scale big enough to be god, but the rest we struggle to communicate.


We used to be good friends once

I went to visit an old friend
to ask a small favour for someone I knew and just to say hello.
He said, "We used to be good friends once." and
Why have you really come?"
We used to talk into the night
about Buddhism and such.


Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that uses natural images and is normally 
based on a 3 phrase form (5-7-5 syllables) two phrases of which are linked, 
and another (either the 1st or 3rd) which requires the reader to make a leap.
Having discussed haiku with a few people who write themI noticed they mostly
focus on the immediate impact, but a lot can be packed into 17 syllables, and 
a good Haiku can have layers that are not immediately obvious.

breaking ocean wave
upsetting all the sea life
quiet reflection

Was written walking along the beach, after an argument.

wave following wave
where are those that went before?
boy walks with old man

Was written about the cycle of living and dying, the fact that we will all die, and what happens after death

Is it a brown thrush
or a juvenile blackbird
old man's eyes are best

Was written after sitting on the porch with a retired friend, whose eyesight was failing, but who knew from experience much better than I did what it really was that we were looking at. So it's about the value of experience and quiet understanding.

Shining silver fish
smiling as it swims
bright summer has come at last

Nothing more to this than an instinctive celebration of summer where I live, after seeing the sprats glistening in the water as they swam at speed on the first hot day of summer.


The alien (early 1990’s)

            [Musical notation to be included]

The alien longs for home
The alien does not belong here
Don’t learn the ways of this foreign land too well
Don’t become a son of the house
Don’t forget
You are a stranger
Lest all be lost

A song based on the Gnostic “Hymn of the Pearl

Every day (early 1990’s)

            [Musical notation to be included]

Every day, the Sun will rise
The Earth will turn and the Sun will rise

Every day the Earth provides
and you and I receive thankfully what the Earth provides
Every day the Earth provides

The birds and plants, bees spiders and ants
All working together to order their parts of the Universe
Every day the Earth provides

And mankind too, has work to do
So why do we loiter lazily when there’s work to do
Every day the Earth provides

A song inspired by the writings of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Twin towns (1987) (if you can't read it, right click and 'view image')






© 2006, 2007 Jim Kelly