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Haikus Through the Years

Haiku is a short Japanese poem. Traditional Japanese haiku is about nature; it’s unrhymed consisting of 17 syllables arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. But modern haiku can also be about anything – love, death, relationship, pain, commitment, social awareness, family, etc.

It was the late Fr. James J. O’Brien, SJ, who taught our high school class at the Ateneo de Naga how to write haikus.

Since I am not a poet, longer poems are difficult for me to write. So, over the years, I would occasionally write haikus so that I could express what I was feeling in just a few words. Writing a haiku forces me to choose the most appropriate words to transform my feelings at the moment into words.

As Koichi Hasegawa, a Japanese sociology professor puts it, “Likewise, haiku refrains from too many words and phrases; thus, it is considered important to leave subtle overtones of the haiku to the reader’s own interpretation.”

So, for a change, instead of writing an opinion piece this week, I would like to share through my Bicol Mail column 20 selected haikus that I have written over the years. My intent is to impart the idea that we can always communicate what is significantly important to us in the fewest number of words.

Ah, cold as it was

I walked toward Bulusan

With pale frozen face.

Breathless in my dream

Sweet soothing voice lifts my soul

Of birds flapping wings.

Like the bright sunlight

Family’s love does not fade

No peeping shadow.

Born to sacrifice

Mother, daughter cringe in pain

Flowers are in bloom.

Red wine to a friend

Awake through the dark winter

Priceless forever.

Teachers, friends, colleagues,

Workmates, playmates, classmates – You

Yes, we all matter.

Justice and peace thrive

When acts of courage, like rain,

Sweep the dusty grave.

Intense, so gently,

Comrades shower me with love

Days turn into spring.

Fields and factories

Knowledge and experiences

Shelter life from pain.

Glances of sadness

We have exchanged – tears flowing

Singing freedom songs.

Swiftly blowing wind

Silenced the sounds of gunfire

People have spoken.

Born with dignity

A light flashing in darkness

Known to be a friend.

O’er the blue heavens

Comes a soul in thanksgiving

Full jubilation.

Best in many ways

Climbing the rugged foothills

Win or lose, stood still.

Dove flying away

Comes not with sorrow but hope

Till we meet again.

Your sterling goodness

Stirs the calmness of the sea

True man for others.

Love touches the heart

Birds soar in jubilation

Tweeting songs of joy.

You light darkened rooms

With care never before seen

Grateful to the end.

No storm with vengeance

Can take my true love away

You will always be.

Now more than ever

Gazing at the horizon

Penned is destiny.


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