Poetry Issue 14

   Issue # 14 : January - June 2011

John Labella

Durga by the Tower
Definitions of Hokku

Durga by the Tower

            The sun fey,
    sky tin, and
            low sea dun.

            But not sad?
    Not sad: mad,
            sun ate sea.

            And sky, too?
    Mad but shy,
            sky ate sky.

            Can you say
    how? Ask him,
            ask the mad.

            Did she eat?
    May sun and
            she eat you.

    Mad you are,
            not sun not
    sky, but you.

    And why not
            you red eye?
    you tin ear?

            Sun and caw
    are one ‘mid
            all the sea

    but you—Who?
            You and you
    are not one.

Definitions of Hokku

    Hokku or haiku are a secretive bunch
    but do what they like in the open.

    As three lines cost a penny a thought,
    pay in monostich for a better deal.

    If watching a heron is outmoded hokku,
    what of the haiku inside your toys?

    To contend with one is to have or be:
    if in a pond haiku should fall, drop the if.

    Rooms with hokku are anything but.
    In hokku hour—there is nowhere to run!

    Beyond Nihonbashi, hipsters write haiku
    at the dawn of Chinese globalization:

    each day ends like the last workshop—
    too many hokku, and so little time.


    After Lazaro was wrapped,
    rock sealed shut,
    and blind men pressed

    hard against the real,
    bruising the effect, crushing,
    what in place of

    words repaired
    a sown limb, a mule, another
    Lazaro on a cart?

    “Ohren auf dem baum,”
    sang an Orpheus,
    arms scattered in the weeds.

    The rest is known
    but hard to read this late:

    “Revolu,” smearing
    a wall in Salvador, 1980;

    shard chosen
    when other big nouns failed
    beside “o Muerto.”

    A bearded man, limbs
    slack, weeping
    beside the rubble of a horse.

    Faint breath:
    “Even the dead are unsafe.”
    Too much

    of everything that survived
    gleams like apocrypha.