Ryan Mecum's Zombie Journal Haiku
by Sam Reisman
"To whoever might find this, my name is Chris Lynch, and I'm pretty sure I'm dying. In fact, if you're reading this, then I'm probably dead" (Mecum, 2008). This is the first line in Ryan Mecum's fictional journal, Zombie Haiku, punblished in 2008. Outside of the writing of this book Ryan Mecum is a youth pastor at a Presbyterian church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has also written haiku on other topics such as vampires, other zombie books, and circus poems.
Mecum writes his haiku following a 5-7-5 syllable model, however all of his haiku interrelate telling one continuous story that seems like a haibun renga. As the story progresses the design of the pages and the formatting changes as well to fit the progression of the narrator into zombie-hood. Since the character is becoming worse and worse, the font changes to fit and goes from neat to messy and with pages covered in blood and gore. Throughout the story there are also photographs meant to be taken from a polaroid camera with tiny captions.
The story is about the narrator, Chris Lynch, and how he becomes a zombie. At the start of the story he is just concerned with getting to work and then realizes a co-worker sitting in her car, eating spaghetti with no utensils. This makes him wonder and as soon as he taps on the window she breaks through it and attacks him leading into the zombie attack. Soon after he is bitten and starts transforming into a zombie. This journal acts as a window into his mind as he transgresses deeper and deeper into losing himself. At the end of the book he considers killing himself, realizing that he would only come back to life since he is already undead and ends with a letter for his wife which doubles as an apology for being a bad husband and the desire to eat her brains. I chose a variety of haiku from throughout his book to showcase his transgression and his thought process.
I grab a quick meal
while skimming through the paper.
Death, death, death, comics.
Mecum, Zombie Haiku, 7
This first haiku comes from the start of the book prior to the realization that anything is amiss. The narrator is foreshadowing the rest of the book though without realizing it through the words he uses. He starts with "I grab a quick meal" and ends with "Death, death, death, comics" (Mecum, 2008), soon after this page the narrator becomes a zombie and focuses only on killing people relating to the final line and eating them relating back to the first. In the last line it is also a quip at the news and how the biggest headlines are often about death and those are what most articles are about.
I tap on the glass.
Beth smashes her face through it.
I call 911
Mecum, ZH, 12
This haiku presents the moment the narrator realizes what is happening. Prior to this haiku the narrator just thinks that Beth is sitting in her car eating spaghetti, without utensils, which he realizes as odd behavior but doesn't think twice about. He then goes up to her car to see why she is still in her car and not in the office and she attacks him. This is the turning point of the book because this is when the concept of the zombies comes into play. It also turns itself into a larger conflict in the coming haiku as he attempts to escape from zombie Beth and then other zombies who come to aid her.
After I was bit,
I knew I was in trouble
When I bit me, too.
Mecum, ZH, 29
This haiku records the point when the narrator starts to change into a zombie, which sets the perspective for the rest of the book. It also comes as a bit of a shock to the reader. Up until this point you think the book is going to be haiku about a man trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse and then he gets bitten and starts biting himself. After this haiku the tone changes and the text style to fit his transgression into a zombie and changes from a book of survival to one of finding food.
One thing on my mind,
Only one thing on my mind.
I'm going to eat you.
Mecum, ZH, 32
This haiku discusses the change of consciousness in the narrator once he becomes a zombie. He has only one goal and that is to satiate his hunger by eating people. He no longer cares about anything other than achieving his one goal and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. This is exemplified in later examples in the book, but this is the one that sets his motivation for the rest of the book.
I can remember
good food that Mom used to make.
I bet Mom tastes good.
Mecum, ZH, 35
This haiku is interesting since it takes place shortly after the narrator becomes a zombie. Since he is so recent to the change he still has some brain function and is able to remember that his mom used to make good food and then decides to eat his mother. However since he has changed he is unable to fully remember how to get to her house. I like this haiku in the way that it takes how his mom made good food to that she will probably taste good as well since she cooks well.
She is still begging,
but no longer for my help.
She wants her nose back.
Mecum, ZH 61
This haiku is towards the middle of the book when the narrator is fully a zombie and is attacking random people for food. I chose this to be included because in a prior haiku this woman is begging him for help thinking that he is still normal and then suddenly it changes, but her goal of begging for something doesn't. It's a simple, yet effective change that starts for asking for help and then for her nose back.
Bodies pile up.
It seems bullets can stop us,
not that it stops us.
Mecum, ZH, 84
Nothing hurts me now.
Normally, the screwdriver
wouldn't have gone there.
Mecum, ZH, 91
Consdier these haiku which appear a few pages apart. The first haiku discusses how the humans are finding that bullets can stop the zombies, but they aren't since there are so many of them. The second discusses how he no longer feels pain from ordinary things that once would have caused him pain. I paired these two haiku together because they both deal with the concept of dealing pain to the zombies and their loss of mortality. Prior to these haiku these zombies would feel pain and die from natural causes and now that they have changed they have reached an immortal state that they nearly can't be killed.
I know he can't see
because the room is pitch black
and I have his eyes.
Mecum, ZH, 92
I enjoyed the double negative of not being able to see in this haiku. It starts out with a sort of cocky remark about knowing that this man can't see. It then leads to share how he knows that in the fact that the room is pitch black, and he also has no eyes. The stealing of the eyes is unnecessary though because the room is already pitch black so it's just unnecessary torture to a man about to die anyhow. I liked this poem because I thought that was a funny concept that he needed to mention the pitch black and the eyes and not just start off with the stolen eyes, it leads to a possibility of redemption and safety and then crushes it.
Surprised he came out
most pause as he runs by them,
but not me: I'm smart.
Mecum, ZH, 137
This haiku shows the cocky nature of the narrator. At this point in the story the zombies have trapped a couple in an airport gift shop leaving them with the choices of dying in there or making a run for it and dying out there to the zombies. The woman dies inside and the man makes a run for it and catches most of the zombies off guard except for the narrator because as he says "I'm smart" (Mecum, 2008). He holds himself on a pedestal higher than the rest of the zombies and gives no reason throughout the book past this haiku to defend what or how makes him smarter than the others.
Tell her I LOVED her
And THAT I want TO EAT HER
AND SWALLOW HER BRAINS!
Mecum. ZH, 139
This is the final haiku in the book. It takes place in an epilogue letter being written in the story to anyone who finds the journal. This part of the letter is an apology to his wife for being a terrible husband, but as it progresses the zombie side starts to take over more and more until the point where all he can focus on is his desire to "EAT HER AND SWALLOW HER BRAINS" (Mecum, 2008).
Throughout the book this character has tried to defend himself and prove that he is better than the other zombies and put a humanity side to it, but this final line is the point where he loses it. Like I stated in with the haiku above where he claimed "I'm smart" (Mecum, 2008) and tried to place himself higher than the other zombies, this is a great counter-example to where he isn't any better than the rest of them. This haiku also works a nice balance between all caps and regular text utilizing the all caps words to signify that it is the zombie in him writing those parts.
Overall Ryan Mecum is a very fun and interesting writer. The way that he works with the text and the formatting of the pages to signify the changes is so interesting that it keeps the reader engaged since it doesn't just all look the same. I really liked the way that all of his haiku in this book told one story. The story it told was interesting as well since—it didn't just go the way one would normally expect a zombie story to be told. Very often they are told from a survivor aspect and most zombies are looked at as the giant horde whereas Mecum takes the role of a man turned into a zombie and shares how he feels as he goes through the change and what it's like to be a zombie.
Mecum, R. (2008). Zombie Haiku. (A. Schell, Ed.) Cincinatti: HOW Books.