Magazine | August 13, 2012, Issue

Flash of Light

During Jack Kerouac’s lifetime, haiku went from being a countercultural affectation to a staple of high-school literary magazines. Kerouac wrote good ones, partly because he loosened the 5-7-5 syllable corset, keeping only the three lines (when there weren’t two or four). More important to him was the shape of the thought, a moment’s focus that he identified with Buddhism. I’m no Buddhist, but even gaijin goyim can have their moments.

By Independence Day

  I notice the days

growing shorter.

The only thing moving

  in the heat

Snake on a branch with a nest.

Taking a breather

  by the stone wall

Copperhead sliding along.

Topless sports bars and

  Orthodox summer camps

all need paint jobs.

The only blue flower is

  chicory, and it only

grows in roadside gravel.

When all these leaves

  are dead and gone

I’ll see my neighbor.

When all these leaves

  are dead and gone

I’ll see bird nests.

Crash on the thruway

  People get out

of their cars and stretch.

The farmer mows

  the grass, the earth

turns toward winter.


  Class of 2012

Now get out of here.

90 yr old woman

  born in Lomontville

died in Hurley.

Little flags

  at old graves

Brother, remember.

#page#Fireworks in town

  Firing at the gun club

Fireflies over the lawn.

All along the thruway

  the same rest-stops.

Cross, flower

  and a balloon

mark the crash site.

It’s so dry, nothing

  trickles in the stream pool


Cough, burp,


Frog oratory.

Spinout tiremark


was drinking.

Woman swimming in her

  pool, frogs

sit motionless in theirs.

Catbird newscast

  Every little thing he’s heard

All day.

Coyote yowled right

  across the lawn.

That was close.

The frog’s eyes

  are big

as the Dalai Lama’s.

When it snows

  I’ll know who you are

and where you’ve been.

Spring peepers

  God is with us,

we will not die.

Bean stalk winds round

  tomato planter, then back

to garden fence. Bye now!

Bean stalk really thinks

  it can go any damn where

it pleases.

#page#Midnight wind

  in February, howling

like Nietzsche.

College kids wearing

  their parents’


It’s so hot, I

  think I can’t


Looking at a hummingbird

  through binoculars

It came right at me.

Possum played chicken

  with a car

Not playing dead now.

Possum played chicken

  with a car

Not a good look.

Took a dead possum

  out of a trap

Away he ran.

Every bird I saw

  when I first moved here

has died.

Creeper vines

  in pine trees

Larry, Moe, Curly.

Creeper vines

  in pine trees

They fight silently.


  in the autumn field

say “I am, I am.”

Freed the nuthatch from

  my screen-deck. Saved

by the merit of my father.

Freed the nuthatch from

  my screen-deck. I

escaped the monster.

Richard Brookhiser — Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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