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Sherry Chayat
Poet

 


Flotilla of ducks
Swimming toward Armory Square
Don't know summer's gone

I was standing on the banks of Onondaga Creek, at the Zen Center, watching a group of ducks. It was the end of summer. They were swimming along in a sort of military formation, quite intent on where they were going. I thought, Hmmm, they don’t know it’s called summer, or fall; they don’t follow a calendar, but they are intuitively aware. To them, it’s just a beautiful day. It’s warm, and they’re swimming, north, toward Armory Square.

Every haiku has to include a reference to the season, and has to have some kind of grounding in a specific place. So I wanted a humorous reference to the fact that fall was coming, yet here are these ducks swimming in formation toward the center of the city, going north.


Geese honking southward
Over Onondaga Creek—
Whirling dervish leaves

I was watching the geese flying south over the Zen Center. The leaves were being blown through the air by the wind. Onondaga Creek was flowing north, the geese were flying south. There was great commotion, visually and aurally. So I wanted words that captured the movement and the sound—wind, honking—and that also conveyed the feeling of a season coming to an end.

Fall’s bittersweet quality is one of a brief crescendo that then dies away. Leaves are falling from the trees, birds are migrating from the area—there’s a last flurry of excitement that takes place as fall deepens, before the stillness of winter.


Hurled from their branches
Golden leaves swirl everywhere
Onondaga wind

It was the fall of 2015, and I was walking with my beloved dog, Nikita, who passed away at the end of November 2018. As we meandered along Onondaga Creek, bordering the center of Syracuse, she sniffed assiduously at various animals’ scents, learning all about the creatures who had been burrowing, running, or grazing there. It was a dramatic day; each new gust of wind, golden leaves completely surrounded us. We went back so I could get ready for meditation, and I quickly jotted these words down.

Haiku often come to me while walking outdoors. Over the years, the basic principles of haiku-writing, numbers of syllables per line, season words, sharpness of encounter, each line’s integrity, have become second nature to me. I find joy in adhering to the discipline and experiencing the freedom within the form.

 

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