Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


Geoffrey Wilson (Swan Lake, Mississippi)
100 Mississippi Delta Blues Haiku

This collection of haiku explores the similarity of life in the Mississippi Delta, even the Blues, and everything Southern, to the agrarian life which spawned Japanese haiku. They are similar not only in their depiction of a way of life, and their sad nostalgia for a simpler, more rural lifestyle, but in surprisingly many of the motifs, backgrounds, images, and specific wildlife ; the cormorants, rice farming, cotton production, willows, shacks in the moonlight by water, cherry blossom trees, and other abundant flora and fauna, all set against a backround of daily life that is sad, funny, fulfilling, and somehow spiritual all at the same time. Like the Blues. Please send notes and comments to geoffw@lcc.net
If you find this collection of haiku interesting, you may want to consider taking a look at the author's new novel A Perfect Child
as well. Thanks.

A field of cotton-
as if the moon
had flowered.

Matsuo Basho

- On Visiting Sonny Boy Williamson's Grave
(Delta bluesman and renowned harmonica player.)

Warm breeze. Tributes of
Lilies, coins, harps.
Hear him playing?


Juke joint's blue light
Drifts across the bayou.
Moonshine laughter.


Tornado warning?
You mean that's not the
3 o'clock express?

- upon my father-in-law's death

My son's Easter shoes
Ruined in gumbo.
The old man's gone.

The cotton is up,
But Wall Street's down;
So much for futures!

Drought. March Futures killed him.
And I thought men were only
Killed by their pasts.

They don't see the cotton
Choppers with their hoes;
Proud weeds.


Black Cats at night;
Cherry bombs and blossoms
Ripple bayou.


Full moon.
My ramshackle shotgun shack
Is what it is.


The kudzu
Is everywhere
This year.


I saw prisoners
Sowing wildflowers
By the road today.


The irrigators march
In giant circles;
Lazy river!


Limousine in the cotton patch
Since dawn -

How long can that
Old rock star sit
In Muddy Water's ruined shack?


Rain. My Arthritis
Acting up. Will I need a shovel
This spring?


Crack dealers
On the edge of town;
Bored in the autumn wind.


Vernal Equinox
My ass! Those expensive
Rhododendrons. Frozen!


- On vacation in Biloxi

Skinny dipping at
Night. The moon; the tide.
Where are our clothes!


Dawn at Faulkner's grave -
Busted whiskey bottle and


I'm not sure they even
Wear underwear these days.


Exciting at first,
Then sad. Watching men
Chop cotton.


Cotton delegation from Kyoto.
Not so formal after sake
And bourbon.


Honey, wake up! Is
That a cat in heat? or is
The baby crying?


Teens in gowns and
Tuxes drive by fast.
What a pale moon!


Smoke in the
Pine trees. My Father's
Wild muscadine wine.


Even cicadas stop singing
To hear a gospel choir
In the country.


Standing on the crossroads
In the dark. It's warm; but
I have goosebumps.


Standing at the crossroads
In the dark. At dawn, which road
Shall my feet take?


On Parchman's farm at night.
The moans of prisoners?
Or ghosts?


Time to seine the
Pond. Watch for moccasins
Among the catfish.


The river flooded
Ponds last year. Wild catfish
Ruined stock.


Shot gun blasts at
Dawn. Those mallards
Had better get up.


The old man with
The strawberry stand.
Haven't seen him this year.


Delta moon obscured by clouds.
Dogs stop howling;
I can return to sleep.


Only wisps of cotton
Float aimlessly around the gin now.
Plants stripped bare.


Thanksgiving rains early
This year. White cotton in
Dark mud.


The county agent
Has a sixty year old cotton tree;
No blossoms.


Summer night.
So many insects searching
For a windshield.


A glow in the swamp.
St. Elmo's fire? or


The wild geese
Arrived at Delta Haven yesterday;
Uncountable as stars.


Yellow cropduster
Pirrouettes. Trail
of clouds.


Hey, lightning bugs!
Make love
In the dark.


Lightning. Old man
Answers party line. Sees God
Before hearing thunder.


Town square. Empty
Except for pigeon droppings
On Robert E. Lee.


Raized for lumber,
The old forest still has
one cypress left.


Thieves stole the old
Yellow outhouse last night.
I guess weathered pine is valuable.


Road gang break -
Mounted guard's idle rifle.
How cool that water must taste!


Bright moon night.
Crows in the sycamores
Watch the rice come up.


Cold dawn. I don't
Hear the old cook
Shuffling this morning.


Say hello to heaven
For me.


Glass roads. No telephones.
I've walked around the frozen pond
Five times today.


The scarecrow
Riddled with bullets
Is dead.


The deer with
Her foal reads the
"No Hunting" sign.


I feel empty
Tonight. The dogs are barking
At the dark. Nothing.


A new suit
When you die.
What a waste!


How can a pink blossom
Become white cotton?
Oh, miracle!


Poor little
Boll weevil. Get the


The cotton is high;
I wish my tractor cab
Was air conditioned.


Two trails; my son
And I pick one where
Boogie man's not.


A row of giant cotton pickers,
Busy once a year,
Silently await fall.


They must be burning weeds
Behind the cripple's hut.
Have you seen his wife?


That artist from New York
Admired the juke joint's
Sign last night. Where is it?


Black hand, white cotton;
Sometimes we grow weary of
Each other.


Duck season already?
Get ready for drunken city folks
In costumes


Skinny children.
Weeds. Learn how to be


It's dry. Baby
Loses rattle, finds
Mimosa pod.


That dogwood.
Always first to welcome Spring.
So exuberantly.


Civil War buffs
Recreate every detail
But the dying.


That Civil War historian -
An acknowledged expert
On Bourbon.


It's not like anything
You know;
The Delta.


My slow finger;
A pair of kids on four wheelers
Spook my deer.


Beavers dammed up
Delta Haven again.
Can't they relax?


Empty mansion
Looks across fields of beans
And families in shacks.


Russel's antiques;
Where are houses big enough
To fit these beds?


Deer carcass
In the shop drips into an old
Grease bucket.


Gospel radio;
I am dizzy with the fumes of gasoline
And blood of Jesus.


Love in the air.
Chiggers on my backside? Screw


Wrong number? Hell
I thought the sky
was falling.


Oh, the old days!
When billy goat butted
Granny underneath the house.


Paw paw's Cadillac,
In the middle in the road,
Out of gas.


Shimmering heat;
Across rows of dirt.
Are those clouds empty?


Too hot to make love.
Where did all those
Children come from?


The moon so brilliant!
The locomotive's cry -
Paw paw never felt a thing.


Cocktails at the Harvard Club.
How can I bear Mississippi
They all ask.


Who could be unmoved?
The cry of whipporwill
And locomotive's moan.


Another year gone:
The callouses on my hand;
The grass still green, cotton white.


Dew on the grass.
Where do all these dirt roads


Swan Lake, Mississippi;
All I see is
Stubble in the fields.


That barn once held
120 men. 40 mules.
What a smell!


The old barn
Collapsed. No one inside.
Scent of honeysuckle.


The Presbyterian minister
Pauses to watch cherry blossoms
Before church.


The rice fields are
Drained. Now it only
Combs the mud.


Just for fun -
Throw Rex's tennis ball
In green apple orchard.


What excess;
That dogwood is always
First to welcome Spring.


Fields of clover;
All I smell is
Wild onion.


The widow keeps
Her roses.
Fields of hay.


Poor magnolia -
So long lived, such lovely blossoms.
No fragrance.


Fatuous technology -
Changing genes, making cotton leaves
Less tasty to worms.


Scarecrow in Chevy with hood up
On the catfish pond keeps
Cormorants away.


Rich children with
Pool, swimming in


Summer silence;
suddenly an insect's
blue electrocution.


Bourbon on the back porch.
Had I had a gun, I could kill
That curious deer.


Wild Honesuckle this late?
Must be incense from Chinese grocery
In Swan Lake.


This arrowhead -
Who left it in the middle
Of a cotton field?


Grandaddy's old orchard.
200 trees and no pecans.
Why won't he clear it?


Bored with wheelchair,
Grandaddy's hands strap him on Big Black
To ride above cornstalks.


Whoever heard
Of catfish eating grain
Like cattle?


The old forest.
An angry, shot-up bear still lives
In there somewhere.


Summer vacation
In Sydney. Where's my
damned winter coat.


Snow falling;
black panther in the glade
beyond the pond.


Hot as Hell! Mother's paddle fan -
Incumbent sheriff on one side,
Jesus on the other.


Whose ancient grave is this?
So neatly mown
In field of weeds.


Paw Paw's knife collection
In a drawer.
Hands use fists.


Clouds like cotton
'til you work the compress.
500 lb bales!


Delta blues are six boys;
A girl -
The Seventh Son.


Wild cotton in a rainbow
Of reds, greens, ohcres, tans;
God's little joke. No blues.


In the cat-aquarium,
Catfish lips look blue
In ice. Eyes sparkle.


Autumn light through dirty panes -
Country store sells spiders,
Paper angels, dust.


I don't know about the people,
But the cotton rows
Are straight.


Nuns in Swan Lake Thursdays -
People come to clinic
Even when not sick.


Swirls of water, mustaches
And all. Catfish eating grain
Like cattle.


That road goes nowhere
Except for
Yoknapatawpha County.


From the top of Choctaw Ridge
I can see as far as
Resurrection Cemetary.


Japanese Teahouse in
Drew, Mississippi?
I've got the Osaka Blues.


Red fox in the orchard!
Dogs stand up - sit down.
Too hot to be fooled again.


Yarrow and flax -
As if the field had spun
Its own Autumn blanket.


Wide treeless field -
Lone gravestone etched with
'Woodsmen of The World - 1883 '.


Cigarette paper?
From weeds? Who'd grow that stuff
In this alluvial soil?


Heat of summer;
Bruised Magnolia petals swept downstream,
My shadow remains with me.


Winter. Nothing to do
But wander the fields
Pretending to hunt.


Hot and dusty day.
From Tallahatchie bridge.

Tallahatchie County.
Two county seats. That's one way
To settle an argument.


- On visiting Tennessee William's childhood home

Statue of Tennessee
In empty lot
Where childhood bully lived.


The cotton is high;
I just wish my tractor cab
Was air conditioned.


Upon my Mother-in law's death -

Church bells on the bayou.
This dawn, too, shall pass,
And resurrected sun rise.


Keys locked in hearse;
What they always said came true -
Late to her own funeral.


Roses in winter.
I am heart-sick and expectant
Toward Spring.


Home visitation;
How did baby dolls get
In Grandma's coffin?


These headstones must be
Lay-a-way, lacking just
A final date.


Corn silk dust;
My new black pickup
Waiting for graffitti.


Kids in the front yard
Eating grass;
Children in back.


Looking out the window,
Standing on bathroom scales -

Moon Pie;
Fried chicken, Dr. Pepper,
Cornbread, watermelon.


Doorman at the Peabody
With a ducktail,
Must be Elvis weekend.