Thursday, October 28, 2021

Noun-Verb Continuum

28 October 2021

Another trespass

On tan cottage and red house

Set back from the road

Set backs define age

Our age, each age, death’s approach

Revving us to live

Was that the yogi

Or Heidegger? College kid?

Death obliges us

To do, else impasse

Make us immortal, like no

Thing we can see

Black sand beach, blue sea

I took some rocks and black sand

For friend’s widower

Whispered in Pele’s

Ear, deaf to the state sign's mouth

Ordering stasis

In name of tortoise

Walled off from crowd, happy I-

phones appropriate

Turquoise, white flayed fringe

Of wave, our last stop before

We left, she left ten

Days later, tidal pools

Some months past that private earth-

quake; he plans his beach death

Canoe to other

Side, myth and reality

Both, if not at once

We can choose to die

Makes us strong this letting go

Like fish nets released

To tide and random

(Or is it?) chance like a die

Oddly singular

For dice, its living

Noun, solid until you roll

It, evanesces

Then, abstract numbers

Asemic equations, la-

Va, meaning to go

As “she” or “he” go

Or wai, as the ocean does

Make each noun a verb

So harbor harbors

Us or bay bays at crescent

Sky afflicted moon

Like Lilith on leash

Unleashing instinct to hunt

Kalij scatter off.


Note: Noun-verb exercise based on a section of Robin Wall Kimmerer's _Braiding Sweetgrass_.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Wabi sabi

27 October 2021

“Might be image of

Nature and a tree,” flashes

Instagram, precise

Aloe leaf fresco

Shadows self-shadowing self

If you believe it

Capable of self-

Expression trees now migrate

North to escape heat

Underground railroad

Stacked with living trees, clacking

Past the barking dog

Past stuck commuters

Past what was the village green

Before this last drought

Made kindling of church

Steeples and the ghosts of elms

On what’s once main street

Love what’s most fragile

The fungal interstices

Like train tracks that dare

You to cross: Black man

In New Orleans said he’d been

Arrested for it; paused, jumped

Between cars, over--

Tacoma’s Black Lives Matter

Signs, white neighborhoods

Warning themselves. Death

Is like judgment, but is not

Is category

Driven to extremes

By precarity: wanted

Soul mate with stubborn

Sense of self, sturdy

Sentences forget para-

taxis for rigid

Grammars: after he

Died she fell apart, after

Dirt there’s always dust

When he said ashes

I broke open like walnut

Into hemispheres

My meat laid out on

A table I got put back

Like puzzle, like cup,

Red streaks mark boundaries

Between shards, where the pot re-

Accumulates, scarred.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Heard it through the grapevine


24 October 2021

Heard immunity

Apapane, wet droplets

Anti-vaxxer speaks

“Just get your shot,” I

Said, walking in parking lot

The big-eyed man laughs

Light is not the word

For this light, its morning

(Odd, gentle) cleaver

Invasive plant pet-

als, purple, fall on native

Hapu`u, photo

Clear the mind of all

But haikued pauses to look

Lilith sniffs and sniffs

Haiku: short long short

Look, retain, and write it down

Later, altered light

Write across quiet

Trespass in abandoned house:

Mouse trap, Bible, trash

Outcome lacks story

Story lacks characters, up-

side down couches stare

The absurd sadness

Abandonment yawns

Broken walls, toilet

Clever light, masked green

Striated shadow mirrors

I see it in me

Trade light for printed

Text, do not include words with

Your photo poems

Lilith ran away

Pheasant hunting, I stood, screamed

Her name, she came back

But that’s not story

Which is all inside the out-

side we call meaning

Like a dog hunting

Off Haunani and Maile

Roads: straight’s not the gate

Assign me gender

Slashes between my pronouns

I’ve not been anti-

The prozac seat-belt

Keeps me from suicide bomb

Younger self threatened

Was Dickinson’s shelf

Her self, teetering on edge

Where the meaning breaks

Break-down an old term

For bending like an old bow

Wood and thread consigned

To space, so loosely

Named, like they or them or I

Pronounce you, yourself

Blue sky, o`hi`a

Zigsaw, apapane bird,

No coqui this week.

Friday, October 22, 2021

At the volcano


22 October 2021

She said “he’s a bit

Of a Marxist,” at look-out;

Lava waterfalls

As dawn light filled up

Halema`uma`u’s cup

With a neutral tone

“Everyone’s son should

Be a bit Marxist,” I said,

As women walked out

To put haku lei

On rocks; hard to tell if they

Were practitioners

Or tourists, if their

Lei were authentic, or junk:

Western turn on awe-

Struck eyes, ritual as

Imitation of making

Pele offerings

“That was the old park-

ing lot,” he said of fallen

Shelf at crater’s left

Flank: product riven

From process, undoing to


Earth, and us, and fire

Starting where we end, tourists

Of immaterial

Being between us

And actual generation

“I won’t live so long.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Testimony to the Board of Regents against PIG (sic)


Dear Chair Moore and Members of the BOR:

I write as a recently retired Professor of English. I taught at UHM for 31 years. When I started my job in 1990, there were, as I recall, over 80 tenured and tenure track professors; by the time I left this past June, there were fewer than 30. Especially since the financial crisis of 2008, job hires have often been frozen, meaning that when professors retired, they were replaced by adjunct labor. These adjuncts, many of them with Ph.D.s from reputable institutions, teach more students, make less money, and have no job security. This in a state where the median cost for a single-family home is now over a million dollars. The high cost of living means that even a tenure-track professor cannot afford to buy a house on O`ahu, let alone an adjunct instructor. To make it onto tenure track depends on publications and conference papers; to be an adjunct means you don't have time, energy, or resources to make that happen.

Why am I writing about precarious, adjunct labor? Because a loss of tenure means a loss of job security, and a decent wage, secure health insurance, and all the rights of employment that now qualify as "perks." I propose that the problem is not that too many faculty/researchers in the UH system have tenure, but that too many do not. You'd do better to spend time figuring out how to expand job security in the system, not how to render it more fragile. And who are we kidding? Take tenure from researchers and full-time instructional faculty are next. Not only will you lose yet more faculty to opportunities elsewhere, either in academe or elsewhere, but you will also see even higher levels of mental health distress than you have now (and they're high).

What I loved about teaching in the English department was that my classes were small and I had the ability to become an editor, a publisher, and to write. All of these aspects of my job fed into the others. I won two teaching awards (LLL and Chancellor's) on the strength of the synthesis of my roles. The tenure system permitted me that freedom. You chisel away at it at your peril, and that of our immensely talented student body.

Yours truly,

Susan M. Schultz
Professor of English (retired)
University of Hawai`i-Mānoa
Founding Editor, Tinfish Press

_I Want to Write an Honest Sentence_ (2019)

to bor.testimony,

Monday, October 18, 2021


18 October 2021

Sad instrument of

Empire, watering his lawn

I waved--he waved back.

Haiku clarinet in road

Small branch laced with holes, no one

To play it but tires.

Haiku goes walking

A mud-puddle’s clarity

Japanese school house

Red wood reflected

Palimpsest of hapu`u

Lilith bends to drink

Haiku’s in or out

Of parentheses: bent wire

On fence comforts web.

Tap dance rain drops plunk

Can’t make the same rhythm twice

The cymbal’s a splat

SPLAT: graffiti on

Flashing traffic sign. Robots

In Japan look real-

ish. So much depends

On ish-ness, hour’s isthmus

Or a minute’s mask.

My friend writes she hides

Inside her death, when I asked

To know the weather.

Whether or not is

Also weather: cloud breaks then

Gathers like glass fog.

Beneath hapu`u

Fern a broken mirror blinks

Eye detective—spy--

Pretty as a wood-

pecker and always busy

Do you favor caps?

How a mushroom is

Like a poem, emerging

Roof first, then a leg

We like Ginsberg’s ver-

sion best, where Basho's frog jumps,

Makes the sound KERPLUNK.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Pulu in fern crook


15 October 2021

Baseball and yoga

To watch and then to witness

Adrenaline: breath.

I do hate constraints

The “do” for syllable’s sake

Pulu in fern crook.

Somewhere between mist

And convulsive rain, jazz

Drummer on our roof.

Guess my password, I’ll

Guess yours; privacy inspires

Unpeeling, like skin.

One manager fired

“Philosophical difference

s," no kiss ass he.

Angel trumpet win-

dow, bee at its poisoned lip,

Buzzed out of lens’ reach.

Haiku fill up quick

With words like “filibuster”

Buster taught him Zen.

Sometimes practice is

So quick the mortgage on your

Enlightenment’s up!

The rain forest is

Not drum or saxophone, is

Self-erasing tears.

At 3 a.m. I

Want to cry, but Prozac says

There’s a happy drought.

Lilith pooped three times

I placed a leaf over one

Left the rest to rain.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Heavy metrics


14 October 2021

Epic in haiku.

Ganesha’s trunk a bent twig.

It’s commutative.

No image in words.

I read blind, just seeing print.

Buddha’s lichen ear.

Lilith loves to think

Of pheasants dead by her bite.

Ginger’s their refuge.

Take refuge in words.

Like duck blinds intended to

Protect the hunter.

Hunter protected

From prey, like an abuser

Behind pink curtains.

Wayne Shorter cd

Shorter than I’d hoped; it ends

Before weed whacker.

Hancock says music

Is math; Basho counted, too.

I do hate constraints.

Around the loop from

Saijo’s place, I too watch clouds,

Bent hapu`u ferns.

Why words? he asks me.

Because I didn’t see then--

Thought meaning was sound.

Herd immunity:

Genocide’s fancy shield for

Those who got their shots.

How to break a block

But by counting syllables

In anarchist wind.

Monday, October 11, 2021

When Herbie met Miles

11 October 2021

The web resembles an octopus, torn linen nested between beam and roof line. The hole at the top would be mouth, a flap at the bottom’s a flag fluttering in air (the breeze moves higher up in the `ohi`a). Screen of bird song, bass notes banging where I can’t see man or hammer. The difference between being one’s vocation and being: Herbie Hancock. “It sounds like a liver thing,” our tenant’s girlfriend says on the phone. I hear a brush move through hair. When Herbie ruined the show by playing the wrong chord, Miles carried on as if it were right. The Buddha Lilith and I visit is covered by vegetation; on his head a moss crew cut; in the ears, lichen; on the face a beard of green. Buddha also fades into forest, facing in from the road behind a fern screen. Historical smeared over geological time like vegemite. Miles’s voice was always over-heard. “Don’t play the butter notes,” he advised, in which “butter” meant “fat” or “obvious.” So Herbie played all the notes but those he usually rested on. Improvisation avoids whatever completes a phrase. She left, talking about jobs and an RV in California. Now a saw cuts bird song into slices, like bread. Morning gathers itself in time without asking any favors. Offers improvisation, and morning takes it up like a synthesizer or a dog tangled on her leash, bark raspy as Miles’s voice. Hers is not a call for help, exactly, but a comment on the failures of geometry. Her diagram of complaints was a dense squiggle of lines that appeared twice in her book. In the other book, book speaks, as does the boy inside the book. A twice told tale goes on a fugue. When asked what she remembered of her goal in overtime, my daughter said she remembered nothing. Her teammate’s dad watched it 40 times.

--details from Herbie Hancock's 2014 Norton Lectures on Poetry at Harvard

Friday, October 8, 2021

Lilith and the official looking man

I opened Lilith's crate at the Hilo airport and put her on her leash. As I walked toward the curb, carrying my bags, her crate, and the leash, I was confronted by a man who looked somehow official. He started to yell at me: THIS IS NOT A PARK; YOU CAN'T JUST LET YOUR DOG RUN AROUND; NOT A SERVICE DOG!! Finding myself in the manager position of a fight with an umpire (chin to chin, mask to mask), I asked him why he was yelling at me. I CAN'T TALK WELL THROUGH THIS MASK. CAN YOU? Then back to THIS IS NOT A PARK, even as I pointed out that she was on a leash. I reluctantly started to put her back in her crate (making her something heavy to carry, in addition to everything else). DID I TELL YOU YOU HAD TO PUT HER BACK IN HER CRATE? he said through his white mustache. YES, i THINK YOU DID, said I. I DID NOT SAY YOU HAD TO PUT HER BACK IN HER CRATE, he replied. Just then, a tall woman leaned into our scrum and asked if I needed help carrying the crate. She gave him something of a look, as I said I could carry the crate (more easily now that HE HAD NOT SAID I HAD TO PUT HER IN THE CRATE). The man said, OK, GO STAND BY THE CURB FOR YOUR RIDE, which I had indicated was coming for me. 
I walked Lilith and the bags and the crate to the curb and called Bryant; he was on his way. I knew Lilith needed a pee break and there were green areas nearby, but I did not take her, as THIS WAS NOT A PARK. I turned hesitantly to look back at the official man, and he walked toward us again. "What's his name?" he asked. "She's Lilith," I said. "I like her coloration," he said, looking kindly at her. He said he had six dogs at home, two old ones, 14 years, who are Lab/Rottweiler mixes, and a couple newer ones who are chihuahua/terriers mixes. No grandchildren yet, he said with a sigh. Waiting on his son. How old is he? I asked. 37. His wife wonders where the grandchildren are, but he doesn't want to go there. I agreed that pressuring him is not a good idea. 
And there was the old gray Nissan Versa at the curb. Lilith pulled on her leash toward the back door. "She knows her ride is here," said the official man. I wished him a good day, got in the car, and off we all went, stopping by the post office to pee.


Friday, October 1, 2021

Death comes on Friday


1 October 2021

Lilith and I failed to scare a chicken beside the sidewalk. It was young, but bigger than a chick; it didn’t move on its large greenish feet. Its back feathers were down, eyes closed. Was that blood on its throat, or simply a streak of red? Lilith was curious, but not eager. When finally I poked the chicken gently, its head turned, but nothing else stirred. A rooster crowed nearby. After we walked down the hill a few steps, I turned to look, and the chicken was still there. Dying on a Friday morning on a patch of brown dirt in the humid air.