Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai’s (1760-1849) 1831 woodcut
haiku, poetry

The Great Wave

So many eyes have seen this sea, they’re blind.

one of thirty-six
fishermen brave the high sea —
mighty fuji’s seen

meditate on where
oh, place the kento1 with care —
every part is spare

the sea’s our lover
her lovers brave her fury  —
lapis lazuli 2

my love’s a dragon 
Edo3 sees the fickle sea — 
push the brush away

So many eyes have seen this sea, they're blind.

@ rlbusséll 2021 - All rights reserved.
Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai’s (1760-1849) 1831 woodcut

Panorama of Edo from Atagoyama by Felice Beato (1865 or 1866)
Panorama of Edo from Atagoyama by Felice Beato (1865 or 1866)



  1. The Japanese printing “registration” system. Registration is a method printers use to guarantee that each print in a series is aligned the same way.
  2. a bright blue metamorphic rock consisting largely of lazurite,
    a bright blue pigment formerly made by crushing, being the original ultramarine.
  3. Edo = Tokyo
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haiku, poetry, saiku, sonnet

M. Caravaggio

Painter. Profligate.
Michelangelo, the fool. —
Cardsharps in Kahn’s hall.

Was there a time when demons conquered, stayed;
when Anthony’s tormentors shied away?
Why roam through Rome your bravado displayed;
why take your eye from your vision to stray?
Your meanest tableaus set my mind aflame;
Your work has worked itself into myself;
Your brush became my only brush with fame.
Uffizi’s Medusa’s upon my shelf.
Blesséd Matthew, gripped by passion and flame,
is taught by an angel’s breathless whisper.
Then there is your telling of our night’s shame
when, in the dark, Light was framed with silver.
Do you still lie amid the labyrinthine
streets of your Caesars’ stony concubine?

The echoing step
Moves us through history’s halls —
Saint Matthew’s burning.

My name still flies amid cent’ries’ darkness
and like an ever circling bird, rises.
My demons still roam my Rome in darkness
looking for young flesh and tender prizes;
Time’s elusive progress is circling ’round.
Night required I prick with sharpened sword
and sharpened tongue my enemies to hound;
they were circling ‘round my girls to hoard
their beauty and so keep my fame at bay.
Have you seen my Fillide? Does she still live
within Peter’s shadowy cabaret?
I need to know if our flame will outlive
my canvas, my sword, my haughty bluster.
Do her lips still call men to her chamber?

Tiber flows swiftly.
A starving tern yearns for food —
Pleasures at coin’s cost!

Fillide did what she had to do to live
and at the dawn of her womanhood, she
plied her flesh and soul to live; the attractive
are often forced, in poverty, to flee
morality, and thus all the devils win.
Fillide did die so many years ago
that time has almost forgotten her sin.
It must be pain entire to hit so low.
I’m sure your Fillide’s flame is still burning;
for her will did will herself in a frame.
She died remembering you without spurning.
She left us while petitioning our Dame.
I pray Mary heard you at your last breath
that all your darkness did not mark your death.

Mortar frames her bed.
We all seem to hold our breath —
The nightingale sings.

I can’t recall the cutlass’ cut ’n’ flash.
My flesh was torn too soon to notice much.
I recall the slow gasp, the bloody slash,
the eyes so filled with knowing. And no touch
can bring my blood to flowing. And no word
can now make sinew move my dusty bones.
All was darkness, there was a footfall heard,
(the mute sound of leather on hardened stones)
and then a challenge I could ne’er refuse.
My rage ’twas like on Malta’s rock. I burned.
I flared. “I’ll not have you my name ill-use.
I am Caravaggio! You’re ill-learned.
Honor you’ll show me or you’ll die tonight”,
then came the end to me who once was knight.

Gilding frames his head.
Now we speak of light and dark —
Salomé dances.


© rl busséll 2021 – All rights reserved

The Taking of Christ by M. Caravaggio (oil on canvas, detail) c. 1602
“The Taking of Christ” by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) (oil on canvas, detail) c. 1602

Postscript

M. Caravaggio is, in part, a response to my reading Andrew Graham-Dixon’s wonderful biography, “Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

Since childhood, I’ve had a powerful reaction to any image created by Caravaggio and I wanted to express my deep love for his work and my heartache at his untimely passing. When childhood heroes are hoisted on their own petard, some part of the edifice of childhood crumbles and this poem is a reaction to his falling façade.

M. Caravaggio is told, in what Michael O’Siadhail (Pronounced mee-hawl o’sheel) calls a “saiku” in his brilliant work The Five Quintets.” The haiku before and after each sonnet act as a kind of time machine or a means to comment on what is to follow or what has just past.

M. Caravaggio contains four sonnets: in the first and third I ask some questions and in the second and fourth Caravaggio replies.

M. Caravaggio may become the first of a series of biographical poems of artists — a kind of retelling of Giorgio Vasari’s “The Lives of the Artists” in poetic form.

Poetic license was taken in the manner of Caravaggio’s death. No one truly knows how he met his end.


I have stayed away from posting for about a year — twenty-nineteen’s “haiku year” took a toll. I have not been idle though. As I hope this poem will attest. I pray this year will be your banner year and all good will be showered upon you and yours.

Chalk portrait of Caravaggio by Ottavio Leoni, circa 1621
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poetry

In the Daze of Dust

In the days of grapes, in the daze of dust,
In the days of empty poverty, they moved.
From Nebraska to Citrus Sun, from turning
Dirt to turning pipe, pot, and plate.
There they set to set family in sun’s soil.
There they worked to work-up from poverty’s spoils.
There they played with sons three and
There they wept for the son lost to fire’s flame.
Among the citrus and the clay, among the turning sands,
Among the boards of pew and steeple,
Among their song’s brightest pleadings,
They lie, side by side, on a quiet mountainside
And wait for the weight of sin to rise.

© rl busséll 2019 – All rights reserved.

Photo by Tonya Kumpula on Pexels.com
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The Blind Leading the Blind Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte [Public domain]
poetry

Press My Ear

I’ll listen to the rumbling sound.
Press ear to the hardened ground.
Shake my sleepy head.
Stir my rumpled bed.

There is no need to wonder why:
there’s that plank in my bleed’n eye,
blind man leading blind along the ditch,
the retching earth about to pitch,
the lukewarm bile in chests of gold,
and my refusal to grow old.

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved.


Image: Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Dutch painter and print maker during what has became known as Dutch and Flemish Renaissance)  (1568), The Blind Leading the Blind

Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte [Public domain]

The image was produced  before 1924 and is in the public domain in the U.S.

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poetry, sonnet

In the Silence

In the silence, amid the incense and the light slide,
stone falls on stone; a grinding mill scratches and calls.
Thus it’s ever been, amid the silent beating heart, beside
the whispering nave, knave and brave, brave the squalls.
And the stones answer when the lambs lie dumb ‘n’ mute.
Thus it’s ever been, amid the windowed calls for right,
amid the cobbled walls, cobbled floor, and hobbled foot;
Thus it’s ever been, amid the storied skies held loft by light,
amid the storied limbs can be heard the silent whispers;
Thus it’s ever been, amid the once chiseled and shape’ed stone
amid the storied floors that hear half-prayers and muddied vespers;
Thus it’s ever been, amid lullaby, amid cradle, amid birthing groan,
amid the pounding silent foam, amid Euphrates’ flowing;
Thus it’s ever been, when men keep selves from knowing.

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved

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Ecce Homo "Behold the Man" by Antonio Ciseri (oil on canvas)
poetry

Ecce Homo

The crowd stood in crowded masses.
The crowd crowned their rebel din.
Then the diadem informed them,
“Behold the man.”1

The crowd, every one of them,
demanded relief from the mirror
held to them.

“Throw this one in the drink.
Don’t drink his poison pen.
Go ahead and keep your diadem.
We have no use for other kings:
Kings of heaven and lofty things.
Things of earth hold all our dreams.”

So the little crown
bowed to the noisome crowd
and laid thorny crown
upon a silent brow.

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved

  1. Ecce Homo

Image: Ecce Homo “Behold the Man” by Antonio Ciseri (Swiss Italian painter and university professor 1821-1891) oil on canvas, between circa 1860 and circa 1880. Public domain.

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poetry

Pomegranate Bells

I can hear the pomegranate bells,
bells, yellow loud with striking tells.

Strike upon the sound.
Light upon the sound.

Listen, to hear the waving
sound shade my burning lips.
Coals of fire heal.

The winds of time shake me.
Kings have come to brake me.
In the light of night,
in the fiery arrow’s blight,
they’ve come and cursed my plight.

I know the true.
I know nations fall with loud
and quiet sound,
with whispered calls,
and pandering pleas.
I know the true.

I must hear the pomegranate bells
amid the smoke and smells,
amid the wails and quiet tells,
amid the shade of whispered thunder.

Let me tell the true to tell.

One day a year,
One man, alone,
enters to atone.
One man carries twelve heavy stone.
One man steps up to heaven’s gold throne.
One man draped in pomegranate bells,
sounds for his people to hear,
sounds for the lamb’s blood to pay,
sounds for the goat to off-stray.

No silent footsteps.
No silent lips.
One day we’re heard.

Now.
Now, I’ve been touched with the coal
now, I’ll be sent.
Now, I’ll, with words, do the rent.
I’ll rent father from son and all;
nation will, with words, do the fall.
Men will be flayed
opened and bared;
with bare teeth they will stare,
with dagger’d eyes they’ll kill
and still will I stammer and still.
Still will I mumble and quip,
for I’ve been touched with the coal;
I’ve been touched by the quick.

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved.

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haiku, poetry

U Haiku

upper-class under
unhurried ultramarines —
umbrellas undulate

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved.


Alphabet Haiku Challenge
– Every word in the haiku must begin with the same letter
– When written in English, it generally follows the syllabic pattern 5-7-5
– Haiku/Senryu Poetry – Here is an in-depth description of Haiku/Senryu Poem (also called human haiku) is an unrhymed Japanese verse consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables (5, 7, 5) or 17 syllables in all. Senryu is usually written in the present tense and only references to some aspect of human nature or emotions. They possess no references to the natural world and thus stand out from nature/seasonal haiku.

Oil on canvas 1877 location: Art Institute of Chicago Height: 2,122 mm (83.54 in); Width: 2,762 mm (108.74 in)

Gustave Caillebotte “Paris Street Rainy Day” | Oil on canvas 1877 Location: Art Institute of Chicago Height: 2,122 mm (83.54 in); Width: 2,762 mm (108.74 in)

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haiku, poetry

T Haiku

Tyger-terrible,
twist, thunder, tear, tower tall —
tell t’all times time’s tale.

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved.


Alphabet Haiku Challenge

  • Every word in the haiku must begin with the same letter

When written in English, it generally follows the syllabic pattern 5-7-5

  • Haiku/Senryu Poetry – Here is an in-depth description of Haiku/Senryu Poem (also called human haiku) is an unrhymed Japanese verse consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables (5, 7, 5) or 17 syllables in all. Senryu is usually written in the present tense and only references to some aspect of human nature or emotions. They possess no references to the natural world and thus stand out from nature/seasonal haiku.
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haiku, poetry

S Haiku

season: summer sun,
setting: silken sabbath seat —
solid sinai slabs

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved


Alphabet Haiku Challenge

  • Every word in the haiku must begin with the same letter

When written in English, it generally follows the syllabic pattern 5-7-5

  • Haiku/Senryu Poetry – Here is an in-depth description of Haiku/Senryu Poem (also called human haiku) is an unrhymed Japanese verse consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables (5, 7, 5) or 17 syllables in all. Senryu is usually written in the present tense and only references to some aspect of human nature or emotions. They possess no references to the natural world and thus stand out from nature/seasonal haiku.
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haiku, poetry

R Haiku

Rhine river races,
runs, rivers ‘round Rotterdam —
rain rivulets, reign.

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved


Alphabet Haiku Challenge

  • Every word in the haiku must begin with the same letter

When written in English, it generally follows the syllabic pattern 5-7-5

  • Haiku/Senryu Poetry – Here is an in-depth description of Haiku/Senryu Poem (also called human haiku) is an unrhymed Japanese verse consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables (5, 7, 5) or 17 syllables in all. Senryu is usually written in the present tense and only references to some aspect of human nature or emotions. They possess no references to the natural world and thus stand out from nature/seasonal haiku.

 

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poetry, sonnet

My Shibboleth

Hang it all, let it melt into my season.
Season it all with spice and let it rest.
This is not the summer to emblazon
crimson slashes across my quiet nest.
Now it’s time to rest, to take a breath,
purse my crimson lips and kiss my only.
I’ll make sure I make love my shibboleth.
For there will be time enough for lonely
days when my eye can see no lover,
when the light of summer fades and my
hardened bones feel nothing but harsh hiver.
I’ll take residence in the now, making sure
that I save not my joy and sorrow
for another time, another one, another morrow.

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved.

 

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Letter Q from fifteenth century French woodcut from and edition of Vergil printed by Lambillion
haiku, poetry

Q Haiku

Quixotic questing
queen— quaking, quivering —
quaffed — quad-Quentão.

© rl busséll 2018 – All rights reserved.


Alphabet Haiku Challenge

  • Every word in the haiku must begin with the same letter
  • When written in English, it generally follows the syllabic pattern 5-7-5
  • Haiku/Senryu Poetry – Here is an in-depth description of Haiku/Senryu Poem (also called human haiku) is an unrhymed Japanese verse consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables (5, 7, 5) or 17 syllables in all. Senryu is usually written in the present tense and only references to some aspect of human nature or emotions. They possess no references to the natural world and thus stand out from nature/seasonal haiku.

Letter Q from fifteenth century French woodcut from and edition of Vergil printed by Lambillion

The Letter Q fifteenth century French woodcut from an edition of Vergil printed by Lambillion

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