Global Haiku • Spring 2010
Dr. Randy Brooks

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Susie Wirthlin

hopping over the cracks

Susie Wirthlin

for Maria, Kevin, Lexi, Bobby, Nona, Vic
…and especially little Lina

This year, haiku has become an integral part of my life. I find myself writing them daily at the most random moments—eating lunch, walking to class, practicing ballet. As an acting major, I try to observe the world around me for myself and my work, and haiku has only heightened this awareness that I have. These haiku and haibun I have chosen to present are of a wide array—many are autobiographical, but many are also my own musings and imagination. I’ll leave it up to you to interpret and discover which haiku you connect to me and to yourself, and which ones allow you to breathe in a new world you’ve never experienced. For me, that is what haiku is: a breath of life that illuminates one’s own experiences and memories to bring new understanding and feeling to our existence. My haiku are written in the traditional three line style, but the subject matter of them is vast.

The haibun are mostly from my memory and experiences with one notable exception. In all my haiku, I try to encompass the scene and sensory details I felt or imagined in order to illicit feeling and emotion in my reader: I hope the haiku take you to a new place and help you see the world around you in a different way.

The title comes from my favorite haiku. I wrote it while I was home for spring break, waiting for my mom trying to get ready. I was outside, just watching, and saw the most incredible brown finch working its way through the world. I never would have noticed this tiny, insignificant creature earlier in my life, but I saw it that day, and I can still see him now. He put a smile on my face and new appreciation in my heart. I hope my collection does the same for you. —Susie Wirthlin

Reader's Introduciton

Susie Wirthlin’s style of haiku is beautiful and unique, never failing to take my breath away.  She has a wide variety of subjects in her collection, ranging from childhood memories to universal experiences that anyone can relate to.  The language used in each poem paints a vivid picture for the reader to savor, feeling each moment with all of their senses.  My particular favorite haiku by Susie is:

hot grass
my sun soaked face sings
with freckles              

With this poem, I can feel the hot grass beneath me and the warmth of the sun bathing my face.  The word “sings” personifies the freckles, making them seem joyous about the weather that is permitting their appearance.  With each haiku, Susie tells of a brief moment in life with such strong language that the reader can actually feel they are experiencing it.  For this reason, Susie is one of my favorite haiku poets. —Jade Anderson


new blooms
my little sister romps
in my old playhouse

running for the swings

old oak tree
her fingers stretch out
a tiny ant

at the zoo
the petting zoo goat

rickety train
small children chip
the red paint

two little monkeys
screaming on the bed

bath time
making sure
she doesn’t drown

Saint Patty’s Parade
grabbing beads
for Lina

pushing the stroller
the wind lifts my eyes
ghost moon


I am a small child. This has happened many times many times during a single week, I feel like I have a second home. And, I do. My Nona’s house is warm while mine is cold and boring on these snowy days. My cousins and aunts and uncles feel the same way. We all migrate towards the old, three-story brick house on Pershing Avenue, right in the heart of the city. The surrounding houses are new and beautiful, but my Nona’s house in beautiful in a different way. It has a life, a past. I especially love the blankets inside. They all are hand-knit from yarn, a little scratchy, but very warm. My cousins and my sister and I always fight over who gets to snuggle under the blankets. Our parents in the other rooms drink coffee and laugh as smells of food waft from the kitchen. My mother tries to get me to eat, but I am too cozy under the wool to even consider it.Today, us kids are playing hide and seek. I take the quilt with me in my hiding place, and when I’m found, everyone crowds under the blanket with me. We pretend we’re in a fort. The light filters through the rainbow of wool and illuminates our faces with the same quality of stained glass. I hear my mother calling, and soon the other adults are calling my cousins. We giggle and stay hidden as we hear them stomping up and down, looking for us. The game is bigger now, and more fun! Suddenly, my giant of an uncle rips the blanket off us all, revealing us quivering with laughter and glee. He good-naturedly yells at us for worrying them all, and soon we are collected by our respective guardians. I go home, and me and my sister try to get the same effect as the blankets at Nona’s house with our covers. It is warm, but not the same. Then our mother joins us. Now we are warm and happy, we laugh, and watch the snow cover the ground as we sip hot cocoa.

                                  snowed in at Nona’s
                                  old three-story brick house
                                  the heart of the city

                                                                    bundled up
                                                                    wobbling towards the hill
                                                                    “Here we go!”

                                                                                                      cousins crawl under
                                                                                                      Nona’s hand-knit blanket
                                                                                                      a little scratchy

getting coffee
the man who taught me music
taps my shoulder

sunny sidewalk
hopping over the cracks
the brown finch

summer storm
Dad lights a cigarette
wet smoke

hot grass
my sun soaked face sings
with freckles

steeping tea
the steam fogs up
my fingernails


The old cottage sits on a grassy sand dune. Tall pine and oak trees shelter the roof from the strong, northern sun. The knotty wood deck soaks up the rays through a small window in the trees. From the outside eye, a mediocre summer home. A pale, faded blue wash with white trim, slightly chipped. The olive green door draws my eye as I lug my suitcase through the sand and brambles. The key slides into the antique lock, and the door swings open. The basement is dark, the carpet sandy. The room smells like seaweed. Walking through, I see seashells, starfish, and a stuffed gull that eyes me with suspicion. The stairs are narrow, and my suitcase bounces between the dark wooden slats. A picture frame dangles perilously from it’s hook; gravity rights itself as I step into the landing. Upstairs, the glass doors let in summer light, bathing the house in a warm glow. The house smells like the ocean. I sit on a blue sofa, rest my feet on the sea-foam green coffee table, and breath it in.

                                  water limbs
                                  lying in a sandy bed
                                  I hear the waves


“Hurry up!” Sisters scamper ahead of mother. She is laden down with bulging bags of sunscreen, snacks, and towels. Her sunglasses dangerously dangle on the tip of her nose. “Not so fast!” No need. My uncle swooping in and scooping us up, our sunburnt bottoms slapping against his tanned forearms. We scream and wriggle out, our feet hitting the fine sand, wallowing in it like sugar. Waiting, impatient for mom. She finally lays down the towels, sets up the umbrella, and motions for us. The cold sunscreen melts down our skin and we wait and squirm, blowing on it to dry faster. Waves crashing, teasing. The sun glimmering. The sunscreen starts to sweat off. Gulls cry and our cousins laugh. We wait. Finally, the magic word from the boss: “Okay.” We take off from the starting block with our pails and shovels, determined to finish our city’s ground plan before lunchtime. I’m in charge of the moat, my sister of the buildings - no wonder she went on to become an architect. I lug sand back and forth from the tide, digging a trench that no hermit crab can cross. The tide comes in. An hour has passed. My moat is filled with foamy brine, and a tower collapses! My cousins swim out to the sandbar, and my sister joins them while I try to salvage the castle. I slap wet mounds of sand on the moat over and over. Sand crusts under my fingernails and rubs my palms raw. My eyes sting from the grit. My mom calls “Snack time!” I reluctantly go and scarf down a sandwich, and then return. The castle is in ruins. Sigh. I turn around and grab my goggles. Time for a swim.

                                  atop the ruined sandcastle
                                  a gull sunbathes
                                  staring contest

                                                                                          tangerine sun
                                                                                          sisters drafting
                                                                                          sandy spires

Preservation Hall

The cobblestone street in the French Quarter gleams and glistens with electric light, sparkling eyeshadow, and spilled liquor. The air is heavy like molten gold, and on every corner, a voodoo man is trying to sell you a look into the future. I hand my money to the bodyguard at the door of the venue: he whisks me to a room so dark and dank. “Oh what did I do to be so black and blue?” The singer’s red sequins flash, beams of light shoot at the old wooden walls and make her eyes twinkle. The floorboard’s groan as the crowd sways. Eyes closed, arms up, the moist bodies move as one. The air hangs thick like spanish moss on an old oak, and the streetcar vibrates the floor as it flies two blocks down. The gleaming gold sax teases the trumpet, and the clarinet breaks up the brawl. Then, harmony. For a single moment, the improvisation becomes one, something soft and pure that is so sought out on Bourbon Street. The old man in the corner claps his hands off-beat, and his cracked palms break the moment. And here we are again, swaying to the blues.

                                  camellia tree
                                  the clarinet sings
                                  of love lost

                                                                                          banjo twang
                                                                                          the hurricane breathing
                                                                                          port of call

Ghost Shirt

Wind comes in. Hot, dusty air clogs my throat and stings my eyes, even through my helmet. I can hear the shots, feel the bullets, and taste the blood. I look around at the rocky hills, the sun beating down on me like a mallet. I tremble: they’re gonna eat me alive. My hands sweat inside the gloves, my torso expands inside of the thick bullet proof vest. The gun feels heavy in my suddenly clumsy hands, and my feet feel like leaden blocks on the ends of my stumpy shins. I feel rough, like a ball of clay smushed by a child and thrown into the kiln, meant for nothing but destruction. No glaze, just armor haphazardly thrown on as I clank towards the battlefield. A helmet lies in the weeds, dusty with age, an exotic flower growing from a bullet hole. The shadow stretches into the horizon, beyond everything I have known and everything I have left behind. I clench my teeth and breath. My eyes overflow. The air whizzes with bullets, and my heart stops.

                                  metal helmet
                                  riddled with holes
                                  missing its head

bamboo cutting board
slicing red peppers and
my finger

hand-built porch
I see my old hide-out
from above

against the blue sky
and the bare branches
tinkling bells

cool spring
through the sycamore window
swaying lace

sandlewood bookmark
she inhales and smells

subway rush
stepping out from the tunnel
ground zero

last thoughts
taking the long walk
of a short pier

steamy kitchen
dumping all of her salt
in my soup

pink bedroom
he turns the teddy bear’s face
to the wall

glittering night sky
fairy tale kiss

study session
he lets her
paint his toenails

darkened bedroom
he delicately caresses
her scars

© 2010 Susie Wirthlin, Millikin University, Decatur IL
All rights returned to authors upon publication.