Hunting Dogs Heard in the Mist

(A new haibun: prose with haiku poems)


scraps of someone’s life interview

pass on the breeze

and thistledown too

Emperor Wu asked who he was (“Who the hell do you think you are?” perhaps, after their first unsatisfactory exchange) and Bodhidharma answered, “I don’t know,” which probably did little to improve the atmosphere.


footsteps approach –

the sound of bootscraping

a door clicking closed

What he did know, we all know, is that he was one of a few thousand generations of upright-walking beasts that grow, eat, shit, fuck and die.


the sheep are in bliss

and high overhead the vast

cool minds of red kite

But beyond that? My personality, for example, is measured medium on an Extroversion/Introversion scale, medium for Conscientiousness, “soft-minded” on the Psychoticism scale and low on the Agreeableness scale (that does not mean that I am disagreeable! No! Just that I’m not foolishly indulgent like most of you). I have some fixed habits and strong opinions, excellent artistic taste, the usual values, and I admit that I’m rather proud of my modest achievements. I have a life narrative from a loveless childhood to love (though my mother would not agree). I want to help my family, and perhaps some other people too. But I’m afraid you can’t actually see any of these things because they are in my imagination, whatever that is, or my mind, whatever that is, and can’t be verified. Bodhidharma is entitled to think that none of these sorts of qualities actually have any substance at all. If he were in a browned off mood, or, let’s say, disengaged, he might go further and assert that the whole personality is a rickety construction of flimflam, fantasy, out of date junk stories about the past and puffed up ego nonsense.


woodland full of song

and here’s a fallen nest

with empty shells


We are going to do a thought experiment now. Just suppose  – indulge me, please – that you agreed with Bodhidharma-in-a-huff and you decided to pitch the whole of your so-called personality into the bin. Before you turn the page, make two guesses. Ready?
Question One: What would happen to the world? Question Two: Who would you be?

Don’t read on until you have had a go!




Question One: The world would be perfect! There, you did not guess that, did you? Any logical process would lead you to think that in order for the world to become perfect all those anxious fools, hamfisted inadequates, strutting bigheads, crackpots with half-baked ideologies and criminals with violent reactions ought to empty their personalities into the bin. But no, oddly enough it is me and you that have to do it.


in the arms

of the old silver birch

its fallen neighbour

Question Two: You would be one of a few thousand generations of upright-walking beasts that grow, eat, shit, fuck and die. And build nests. How far does that take us into, “Who the hell do you think you are?”


Tomorrow I’ll give you a test on the meaning of the moon. Toodlepip.


coming to gaps

between trees

the moon

low in the sky

faint in the haze

a big pink moon






Handed to her brief

to the usher to the clerk

to the judge – her scrap of plea

Brilliant strand

a man and a woman

bury stones

Closing in

from everywhere

faintly glowing mist

My enemy’s lawyer

with ginger cat fur

on his suit

In a dull voice

he explains the Chinese concept


My new friend

as the day darkens

is his face young or old?

Flying with Orion

over Novosibirsk –

lights in the wilderness

The dead together

wavering in crowds

– autumn grasses

Watching a cat

decide not to jump –

little gust of grief

The foul-mouthed loner

each dawn he sees Jesus

ablaze in the East

Mice have had half the pear

while I dreamed of my parents

caught in the blitz

Stone cloister

devil and saint

softened by time

To her funeral

in the same crowded train

with the same brimming heart


bridging the needles

of rosemary

Missed it

the moment

to join in the laugh

Thin ridge-lines float

on glowing cloud –

the barking of dogs

Not a breath of breeze

crisp iced mud

and a crow caw

Farmyard flints

through the soles of my shoes

the Milky Way

Fleecy lamb

eaten away at the chest

full of rain

My big head:

the hills, the clouds

the winter sun

For the unloved

an immense night sky

creamy with stars

Beginningless kalpas of time perhaps

to the Big Bang

of this ripe nectarine

In the rose garden

a man I don’t much like

enjoying the sunshine

Summer’s end nears

now the slow bee allows

stroking of fur

stars fill the hatchway


to the smell of melon