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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 3, September 2012

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Jeffrey Harpeng
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


The Words Went Out
for John Knight

on father’s shoulders
he looked across the bay
the late starter
with the scuffed shoes
now mourns his father

For a new ceremony we are invited to each tear a page from the dictionary. The words are for the poet, to be a bed or blanket in the grave. The page I choose is headed hindsight. On the back of his book of haiku it says, “This is a tender collection of graceful haiku ever hopeful in their sadness and their joy.”

reading his haiku
at the funeral—my voice
is not quite mine
& in the gaps between each
a breathless silence

holding the coffin . . .
for a moment I heard
your voice

as the hearse leaves
one white crane
rising

reaching land’s end
the rising moon's track
for my journey

I cast hindsight into the grave with rose petals.

the words he borrowed
a strange flock that roosts
upon the page
as text they are rook-black
there's colour when they chorus

His life as a potlatch left us all in debt, that creaky shanty that leaks whenever it rains.

red soil, red clay
his coffin rests on planks
yellow clay below:
illite—used as a topical
it relieves cradle cap

One of the poet's sisters dons the role of priestess. Something druidic. She draws a silver cord across the coffin. A son on either side of the grave holds it taut. When it comes to cutting, the first and second snips only crimp the thread. It reminds me of what he said, ever hopeful, in the hospice, “I’m just sitting here trying not to die.” A third snip severs the thread.

the silver cord
cut—a dragonfly darts away
over the mourners—
carries off conversations—
then a breeze sighs and we say . . .


Author’s Note: The included haiku are from Big Man Catching a Small Wave by John Knight (Post Pressed 2006).

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