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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Haiku: the Centipede Saga

Awhile back, I wrote a haiku about a centipede. It went like this:

towering cloud
dominates evening sky
and centipede

It happens that I'm part of a haiku email list with a couple of close friends, Sharon and Jeff. Sharon was tickled by it.

I was driving up to Windsor one day, which took a long time. Along the way, I turned on the radio, and NPR was doing a fundraising drive. So I got this idea. We should write 100 centipede haiku. It was kind of a matching haiku program. I imagined the call: "Send in ONE haiku, and we'll put another one right up against it!"

And because there wasn't much to listen to, I cranked out a bunch of them:

journey begins with
a single step - but which one?
centipede quandary


martial melody:
rhythm of centipede feet
drumming on window


for haiku chorale
just 96 centipedes
to go


first take a deep breath -
the centipede's ambition
to climb Mt. Evans


when centipedes sing
they have to stop walking and
hold perfectly still


stopping is just wrong
it takes so long to get it
all going again


wind rippling through grain
centipede whirring along
the edge of wet field


if for every foot
someone gave him a penny
he'd have a dollar

OR
if someone gave him
a penny for every foot
he'd have a dollar


master machinist
needed to build centipede's
tiny bicycle


what is the sound
of fifty handsclapping
one centipede



So then Jeff came back with a couple of his own:

In the moonlight
flowing like silk
centipede



How does one know
when a centipede
is bored?


Then a few more:


applause
at the centipede opera
sound of thunder


PBS special
about the viking ships
centipede favorite


how many
centipedes does it take
to change a light bulb?


centipedes gather
to watch the truck pull in
piano movers


pale centipede
organs of Tömösvary
night touch


sightless
the old centipede still knows
she's got legs


then even more:

sign at the
centipede foot massage
sticker shock!


no broken legs
in the centipede
emergency room


how to hold hands
on the first date
centipede angst


no market for
roll-on centipede
deodorant


at the stadium
centipedes take too long
to do the wave



Now the interesting thing is that centipedes rarely, in fact, have 100 legs. According to Wikipedia, though, "Centipedes have an odd number of pairs of legs, e.g. 15 or 17 pairs of legs (30 or 34 legs) but never 16 pairs (32 legs)." So you have to ask: is 100 poems right?

This just in: Sharon writes,

centipedes
dosey do
among the clover

(and an alternate:)
Centipedes
Dosey do in the clover
Allamande for luck



And now I'm thinking:


centipede
marching band
only one horn


and


crack the whip:
one centipede
at the roller rink


So this is my frank call to the universe. This may be your ONLY chance to contribute to a haiku centipede saga. Remember, poets are standing by.

---
Later. More from Sharon:


Please keep off the grass
Sign on justice center lawn
Savvy centipedes

Squirming blades of grass
Catches robin's searching glaze
Centipede for lunch

Centipede hand jive
Too complicated for
Curious worms

Centipede searches
Through the field of clover
Any with four leaves?


--
And another one from Jeff:

do centipedes
ever dare to ask
for handouts?

4 comments:

Jeff said...

sidewalk cracks
every centipede's mother
has a broken back

centipede
looks over his shoulders
millipede!

centipede
tightrope walker
small crowd

Jeff said...

the centipedes
are playing Pattycake
a deaf man laughs

Jamie said...

This one comes from my English cousin, Hamish. You don't find many engineers who write poetry, so this is even more delightful.

Engineers make metal
centipede
Many hands
make light
work of it

Which I would slightly rework to:

engineers
make metal centipede -
many hands make light

Jamie said...

and from New Orleans:

ya girl dat's right I
pity dem crawdad cripples -
Cajun centipede