Haiku in the Day Shelter for the Homeless by Bonnie Naradzay

Haiku in the Day Shelter for the Homeless

This morning we read haikus.
Not just Basho, whose name
means “plantain tree,” and Issa,
whose name means “cup of tea,”
but also Richard Wright,
born in Mississippi, who later moved
to France and wrote thousands
of haikus in his final years.
When I said Wright followed
the strict syllable count,
Leon asked, “What are syllables?”
I began to count the sounds
on my fingers: The crow flew so fast/
that he left his lonely caw
Two people liked this one by Issa –
“Once in the box
every one of them is equal –
the chess pieces.”
Eugenia wrote about three women,
regulars here, who died from drugs
in the past few weeks.
“Now in a box,” she wrote,
naming each of them in her poem.
Alessandro, responding to Basho,
wrote about constellations of stars.
And for the first time this year
Robert, tattooed up and down his arms,
was awake and sublimely alert.
He liked Issa’s The distant mountains/
are reflected in the eye/of the dragonfly.
In his eyes I saw myself reflected too,
and over the lonely fields, the crow.


Bonnie Naradzay’s poems have appeared in New Letters, AGNI, EPOCH, RHINO, American Journal of Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, Florida Review Online, Tampa Review, Tar River Review, The Guardian, and others. For years, she has led poetry salons at a homeless day shelter and a retirement center in Washington, DC.