Malagasy Haiku

/ April 2023

inspired by Yosa Buson and the unforgettable island of Madagascar


Do you see what you are seeing?
Do you hear what you are hearing?
Do you feel what you are feeling?
Nothing more.


Drifting tropicbird
Between blue sky and blue sea
Belongs to neither.

The late-summer frog
Wonders how long to sit on
Its leaf. Then it hops.

We are lost along
Our path in the chanting trees,
The holy jungle.


Lemurs leap away
Not for fear nor for anger–
They have much to do.

With the sun above
And sea below, fishing boats
Head out to wander.

Dry grass bends in wind.
There’s no shortcut through the field.
I begin to walk.

A wasp drags its fat
Spider, as the ant drags its
Beetle, towards home.

A big blue koa
Lands expectantly, but hides
Its disappointment.

The roads are destroyed.
In the end, they arrive, though
The going is slow.


After many waves,
The rock is pushed but slightly
Sideways on the beach.

I thought I heard the
Water shimmer, but when I
Look back, it is still.

The chameleon
In night’s stillness does not move
As I shine my light.

The baobab has
Never moved, nor wanted to.
It’s where it belongs.

Roadside vegetables
Waiting calmly to be sold
Are baptized in smog.


The sun overhead
Brings an afternoon stillness,
So I take a nap.

Boiling rice water
Tells us it’s time to rest, and
Helps with digestion.

The sun falls behind
Sandstone mountains as lemurs
Climb up cliffs to sleep.


Far off, blue water
Splits the sky. Closer, daylight,
A song which must end.

Each shell strung along
Between stones on the necklace
Once contained a life.

Away and over
Yesterday and tomorrow
I fear will not come.

Were the priest to chant
Enough, he hopes the sun would
Raise itself again.


Stars! If they had more
To say, they would have said it–
But they are silent.

On the cloud-white sand
Coral skeletons have much
To tell, though wordless.


Under the warm rain,
Little leaves bounce up and down,
First one, then the next.

The flooded rice field
Covered in water lilies
In the summer rain.

Hiding from the rain
In a small thatched-roof shelter
Around a warm fire.

We drive straight through the
Muddy river because the
Bridge was washed away.


Baobabs in no
Rush, each happy with its own
Fruitful decisions.

It is hot outside.
The fruit’s sweetness tastes colder
Than the fruit itself.

Suspended spider
Against the sky is hungry
For bugs. Then it eats.


The kiln’s smoke rises–
It is making bricks to build
Houses, and more kilns.

Bicycling uphill
With heavy sacks of charcoal
To reach the market.

Teenagers with sticks
Block the highway with zebu
Going to market.

Chanting to keep time,
Men in unison shovel
Dirt into the truck.

The driver was late
Because his car broke down in
The blazing noon heat.


Children on the beach
Sell necklaces and carvings
To afford to eat.

Between opening
Their hands as cars pass, the kids
Fill potholes with dirt.

Children on the road
Dying of thirst, point to their
Mouths as the cars pass.


Why are the strange tides
So close? I wonder if the
Moon has other plans.

Baobabs do not
Think about which direction
To grow. They just grow.

Even the bugs are
Awed by the infinite stars
Of the cool desert.

Epilogue: Betweenness

Why is he so still?–
to listen to what is
between the sounds
that he hears.

But when asked
what he has heard,
he is silent–
What can he say?
He does not believe
in the past, and but
the impressions

Listening to that
which is not there,
he expands himself
into the spaces
left unsaid.
And there
between the peaks
lie the passes

And the one
who was still
finds themself
along their way.