Diptych/Triptych [archived]

[Archive note: These poems are the result of a short-lived but intense experiment in daily writing I undertook in the autumn of 2020. I decided to use the haiku and tanka forms for their concision and deceptive simplicity. As you’ll see, some of these pieces are much better than others. I decided, out of some strange perversity, to arrange these poems into thematically-related diptychs or triptychs after writing them. I don’t remember why I made that decision, or whether each individual poem was written with the other(s) in its diptych/triptych in mind, but it must have made sense at the time. Overall, I’m not unhappy with the results.

I wrote these poems quickly – and without much editing – on index cards. The idea was to take nervous energy and give it a way out through bursts of crystallized effort. My life was not in a particularly stable place when I wrote these. I thought that the traditional themes of haiku, including natural or pastoral imagery and a sense of longing or emptiness, fit nicely with how I felt at the time. I wanted some stability and permanence at a time when things were very much up in the air.

A note on the index cards. I kept all of them, like I keep all of my drafts and notes. The cards themselves came from a pack of multi-colored index cards I absconded with from the school I used to work at. They’re a hideous neon pink, which I find satisfying for some reason. They also smell bad, mysteriously. God knows how long they languished in the work room before I snagged them. Since ending the daily writing project I’ve been mulling over something visual involving the cards. I’ve landed on the tentative title, “used poems.” Maybe Mnemosyne will strike me this winter and I’ll do something with them.]

  • diptych (tanka)
    Throw it away, now
    that you've drifted across. 
    Do you still need it?
    But how could you discard such
    a precious tool? Sure seems rude. 
    When did I think that 
    simply knowing was enough?
    Was I deluded?
    Form is emptiness. Likewise, 
    emptiness is form. You know?
  • diptych
    When the first cold wind 
    finds it way to your bones,
    welcome your old friend.

    Has there ever been
    a better time for poems
    than winter’s holding?
  • diptych
    What have I “expressed”
    if my words only stay long
    enough to use me?

    If “I” speak, why that’s
    news to me. I always thought
    it was just the wind.
  • tanka
    Auspicious, to watch
    as a single yellow leaf
    crashes to the Earth. 
    It happens all the time, but 
    only when you aren't watching. 

  • diptych (tanka)
    Emerald luster
    fades as each new year passes.
    Will it shine again?
    I look out as dawn reveals
    the trees, and I'm not so sure. 
    The moon is always 
    there, concealed by the sun's light. 
    More patient than me. 
    What else might we find, patient,
    waiting for the light to dim? 

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