Bill Waters ~~ Haiku

Haiku + Tanka, Haibun, Rengay, Shahai, & More

Bill Waters ~~ NOT Haiku

Welcome to Bill Waters ~~ NOT Haiku! This is my blog-within-a-blog, a page where I can share some of my non-haiku-related writing — microfiction, freeverse, playlets, “found poetry”, and more. I hope you enjoy it!  :- )

Daniel Clayman’s Radiant Landscape (The Blue Panel)

Photo of Daniel Clayman's stained-glass installation called Radiant Landscape (The Blue Panel).

This sculptural installation was on display at Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, in 2017.

Daniel Clayman’s Radiant Landscape (The Blue Panel)

      It’s a net
that catches
every color

cobalt blue

      which slips
to become

      a pool
of aqua
on the floor


*    *    *    *

A Poem Without Words

I have no words
to express my exhilaration
when the early-morning sun awakens each object it touches —
a leaf, a bit of bark, a dew-damp stone, etched with perfection.

And sunset, when the lighting is low again, but this time reddish,
it picks out a petal, a pine cone, a feather on the lawn, and three blades of grass.
To express my love of nature at those moments
I have no words.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Village News (the monthly newsletter of The Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, Pa.), 8/28/19.

Jack Kerouac Says . . .

Out in Illinois lives a poet named Tricia Marcella Cimera Whitworth, and planted at the curb of her house is a tiny little venue for poems from around the world she calls The Fox Poetry Box.

On 3/30/19, she selected my found poem composed of snippets of Kerouac quotations to display for a few days.

The Fox Poetry Box: “poetry in public places” for the enjoyment of passersby, making life more interesting for her neighbors in the Fox Valley region. How cool is that?  :- D

Jack Kerouac Says...

Design and layout of the poem, plus this photograph, courtesy of Tricia Marcella Cimera Whitworth.

Jack Kerouac Says . . .

be in love with yr life. be
Crazy Dumbsaint of the mind.
write in recollection & amazement for yrself.
something that you feel will find its own form.
(wild, undisciplined, pure, crazier the better.)

remove literary, grammatical & syn-
tactical inhibition. scribbled secret notebooks
& wild typewritten pages for yr own joy.
no time for poetry but exactly what is.
you’re a Genius all the time.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion: A Book Spine Poem

The Last Full Measure of Devotion: A Book Spine Poem

*    *    *    *

Published in HUMAN/KIND JOURNAL (, 3/3/19.

That Awkward Age: A Cento Based Upon an Index of First Lines of Poems, Letter I

That Awkward Age: A Cento Based Upon an Index of First Lines of Poems, Letter I

*    *    *    *

Published in HUMAN/KIND JOURNAL (, 3/3/19.


Not fitting in because of it.
Being held to a different standard because of it.
Being “put on display” in elementary school because of it.
Being bullied in high school because of it.
Wanting to be someone else, sometimes, because of it.
Being told on the phone “you can’t date my daughter” because of it.
Surprising people by not being prejudiced toward others, despite it.
For one reason or another, always feeling uncomfortable with it.

*    *    *    *

Published in Miriam’s Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond (, 9/15/18.

Submit: A Found Poem


Submit, by Lorette C. Luzajic.

submit a poem
a story
a review

submit your resume
your timesheet
your resignation

submit an op-ed
an article
an obituary

submit with your photo ID
with your fingerprints
with your $10 fee

submit in Spanish
in Dutch
in duplicate

submit to gravity
to God
to Google

*    *    *    *

Source material: Google search results.

Published in The Ekphrastic Review (, 7/10/18.

La Muerte

La Muerte, by Lorette C. Luzajic

La Muerte, by Lorette C. Luzajic.

Mariposa, why do you flirt with Death?
You make a good couple, I freely admit it —
he with his yellow bones and steely scythe,
you dressed in yellow and orange and lots of
funereal black. Perpetual Día de Muertos!

But one day he’ll play the death card
on you, you know. Perhaps you should
worry a bit. Reconsider. Meanwhile, enjoy
your denim-and-polka-dot daydreams,
your blushing-pink and acid-green world.

Oh, what the hell! Do the danse macabre —
click your castanets while he rattles his bones!
The shadow of Death hangs over us all anyway.
Besides, even a skeleton has dignity.
Even a dead butterfly is still beautiful.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review (, 6/15/18.

On Robert D. Wilson’s Memoir/Novel The Wonderland Amusement Park

This book tells a compelling story that adds an unusual chapter to the literary legacy of the Vietnam War. Psychedelic with a touch of magic realism, The Wonderland Amusement Park is a gritty yet sympathetic “there and back again” story of an idealistic young man who joins the Navy and then escapes from it, only to find that his life, such as it was, had fallen apart while he was away. Authoritarianism at home and abroad are his enemy, the Viet Cong are a shadowy menace, and the Vietnamese people are his friends. As the chapters seesaw between the U.S. and Vietnam, the war zone and the home front merge into a single battlefield of the mind: a kaleidoscopic house of mirrors filled with disillusionment, loss, existential confusion, and a small glimmer of hope as the protagonist — a stand-in for the author himself — fights to make sense of his past and takes his first steps toward building a viable future.

*    *    *    *

To be published as the foreword in The Wonderland Amusement Park.

I Can’t Find the Right Words: A Mashup of Comments

. . . to describe how beautiful it was
at my favorite place on earth.
Romantic. Beautiful. Paradise.

Seems like a mirage!
I’m not going to write about
the Trip of a Lifetime —

picture-perfect in every way.
You’ll be happy to just be here;
lovely at any time of the day!

Exceeded expectations in all areas —
everything you need or want and more!
You can do it all here.

Feels like home!

I Can't Find the Right Words

The Fox Poetry Box, St. Charles, Illinois. Photo (c) Tricia Marcella Cimera Whitworth.

*    *    *    *

Displayed in The Fox Poetry Box for one week, beginning on 9/7/17.

One Viewer’s Response to Emily Carr’s Red Cedar

Red Cedar, by Emily Carr

Red Cedar, by Emily Carr.

That is one mighty leg
jutting out from beneath

her flouncy green skirt!
All sinew and ropy muscle,

it supports a woman of
lofty ambitions

— and heaven help the man
who stands in her way!

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 7/19/17, for the Review‘s “Surprise Poetry Challenge: Canadian Art”.

One Viewer’s Response to Jean-Paul Riopelle’ Composition

Composition, by Jean-Paul Riopelle

Composition, by Jean-Paul Riopelle.

a bomb
the scene
and everything
in it

people (the black)
and blood is splashed
all over them

white, blue, and green
flesh out this blast
of confetti carnage

as meaning is redefined
in a welter
of splin-
………and shards

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 7/1/17, for the Review‘s “Surprise Poetry Challenge: Canadian Art”.

From The Luzajic Variations:
Some Mistakes Take More Than Mere Regrets to Mend

Some Mistakes Take More Than Mere Regrets to Mend, by Lorette Luzajic

Some Mistakes Take More Than Mere Regrets to Mend, by Lorette Luzajic.

I created a world for myself
since you wouldn’t let me live
in yours.

Tell me another story.
Tell me a better story:
Once upon a second time . . .

Stumbling towards reality
out of the night that covers me
I hear you, I hear you, whispering

“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I want you back.”

I am not empty, I am open,
floating past the days
having these delicious thoughts.

Such gorgeous stories —
the beautiful goodbye,
the weight of the secret.

Everything wants to be water.
I just had to give you back
to the sea.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 6/5/16.

One Viewer’s Response to Antoni Tapies’ Blue with Four Red Bars

Blue with Four Red Bars, by Antoni Tapies

Blue with Four Red Bars, by Antoni Tapies.

A blue man walks into
four red bars (sequentially,

of course; not all at once).
“I’m blue,” he says. “Melancholy,

morose. What should I do? And
why are all the bars in this town red?”

“Drink this,” each barkeep would say.
“The bars have been red for a decade.

Where are you from, anyway?”
And so the night goes: a blue man

stumbling from red bar to red bar
till rosy-fingered dawn strikes fire

from the wine-dark sea.

The wanderer sets his course
for home.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 4/29/17.

One Viewer’s Response to Todd Klassy’s 4 Round Bales

4 Round Bales, by Todd Klassy

4 Round Bales, by Todd Klassy.

In a cloudless landscape
everything but the sky
looks small. Man-high bales
become rounds of cut timber,

and a snowy, furrowed field
becomes a white-sand beach
beside a sea so smooth and blue
that it merges with the sky —

no waves or boats,
no flashes of sun,
no horizon to separate
water from air.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 4/20/17.

One Viewer’s Response to J. Francis Criss’s Detroit, Waterfront

Detroit, Waterfront, by J Francis Criss

Detroit, Waterfront, by J. Francis Criss.

This is a city of shapes and colours:
in the distance a pink milk carton,
in the sky a peach-coloured “1”.

Cigarettes with blue filter tips
are there too, along with a
smoking brown cigar.

The streetlamp and freight crane
are children’s toys, and the sky
is a flannel bedsheet.

This is a dream-Detroit,
a Detroit of the imagination
in which urban blight has no part

and the only trace of the Rust Belt
is in the rusty red-orange box
of chocolates in the foreground.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 3/29/17.

Jenny in Rome: An Ode

look now, Jenny:
Rome under sun!
new stone, old stone,
sun on domes, urns,
on fort, on tree, down well —
flow of now, poured pure
to flow round pure stones.

sun sunk down
new routes for stone
— uneven, murky —
down, down, down.
stones under stone:
red stone, end-of-world stone.

to ken Rome, well up —
up to more stone
over new flow routes:
up slender tree, over round dome!
do you see, Jenny?

one Rome of stone
— new, old —
down under, up over,
turned round . . . Now

do you see?
up, over, round, under:
you see, you know,

you feel Rome now
— your Rome, our Rome —


*    *    *    *

Algorithmic approach: phonewords for 867-5309 (from the famous / notorious Tommy Tutone song “Jenny”).  Remixed work: chapter 1 of the 1911 novel Jenny, by Sigrid Undset

Published in Poetry WTF?! (, 2/3/17.

Rodney Dangerfield Meets Oscar Wilde: A Mashup in (Sort-Of) Triolet Form

Look out for number one

and try not to step in number two.

Only the shallow know themselves.

Look out for number one.

Nothing that actually occurs

is of the smallest importance.

Look out for number one

and try not to step in number two.

*    *    *    *

Quotations from Rodney Dangerfield: lines 1, 2, 4, 7, 8
Quotations from Oscar Wilde: lines 3, 5, 6

Published in Poetry WTF?! (, 1/27/17.

From The Luzajic Variations:
The Now and the Not Yet

The Now and the Not Yet, by Lorette Luzajic

The Now and the Not Yet, by Lorette Luzajic.

fifty words for rain . . .
the coming storm
sudden with summer

the leaves fall by the hundreds —
the reflecting pool
bursting, combustive

downtown —
crystalline icicles
arresting the flight of light

sunrise surprise:
white, luminous

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 12/1/16.

From The Luzajic Variations:
Corrections and Epiphanies

Corrections and Epiphanies, by Lorette Luzajic

Corrections and Epiphanies, by Lorette Luzajic.

I am giving you up now.
I am through taking leftovers.

You said I was easy to tame —
green and carefree, hopelessly lost.

You don’t know what I am.
Fifty shades of grace

stumbling towards reality,
floating past the days,

arresting the flight of light —
I have not kept these things from you.

Our distance was the darkest room,
my own private Alcatraz.

At last, my lonely days are over.
I’m going to live as if I have a fate to fulfill:

far from ordinary, sudden with summer,
the black night, the birth of the stars.

I will leave my heart wide open.
I will love and have no fear.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 12/1/16.

The Luzajic Variations

Lorette C. Luzajic is, among other things, an accomplished multimedia artist. Earlier this year, the writer in me became enthralled by the titles of her paintings — one glorious non sequitur after another — and I decided to mash some of them up into found poetry. The result? Eleven poems that Lorette liked so much that we teamed up to create a small, limited-edition chapbook: The Luzajic Variations.

Thirty-two parts to the musical composition known as The Goldberg Variations. Thirty-two copies of The Luzajic Variations. Going, going, . . .

The Luzajic Variations

The Luzajic Variations, a chapbook of paintings and found poetry.

*    *    *    *

For more information about The Luzajic Variations, including a sample poem and how to purchase the chapbook:

For more information about Lorette C. Luzajic: and

Reading Between the Lines of
A Tale of Two Cities:
Imperial Germany, 1918

Imperial Germany, 1918

Bacopa Literary Review 2016, published by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville.

 *    *    *    *
Published in the Bacopa Literary Review, October 2016.

Gravity and Potential

A scale model of A scale model of The Left Pillar in the Porch of the Temple, 1978, by Boaz Vaadia

A scale model of The Left Pillar in the Porch of the Temple, 1978, by Boaz Vaadia.

It wouldn’t take much to make a pancake
out of anyone standing in the shadow
of this massive slab of stone.
“Stay right here while I call someone

to cut the cords,” it might say. “Don’t go away.
Gravity wants to tell you something.”
All that potential energy — poised and waiting
for the worst moment to let loose. Or

is it a symbol of grace? The ropes might murmur
“We’ll hold you up when you can’t support yourself.
Don’t give up — in the name of God, don’t give up.”
At the end of your rope, who would expect such hope?

Between a rock and a hard place
there’s plenty of room
for gravity and potential.

*    *    *    *

For three years running, the renowned art park Grounds For Sculpture has run a contest to gather a bookful of poems that are reactions to works of art on display. This poem, along with “Koko-loco”, below, won a place in a commemorative book called The Visual in Verse: An Ekphrastic Poets’ Invitational. In addition, we poets whose pieces are in the book were given an opportunity to read them to an appreciative crowd on 8/28/16. Good times!  :- D


Kokoloco, by Boaz Vaadia

Untitled, 1976 (wood, stone, leather, human hair, fur, and bone), by Boaz Vaadia.

I want to play it
like some crazy flute
and get possessed by
its ancient spirit.

I’d grab it
from its altar
and aim it
at the stars!

I’d play it
in my head
’cuz it has no holes,
no hollow tube,

no mouthpiece.
I’d make the rocks ring
and the hank of hair
swing in the air!

*    *    *    *

This sculpture put me in mind of a flute that might be played by Kokopelli, the trickster god of certain Native American cultures. Do you see a flute too?…  ;- )

Published by Grounds For Sculpture in a commemorative book called The Visual in Verse: An Ekphrastic Poets’ Invitational, 8/28/16.

Ominous Dreams

Blood Moon
His stroll in the park is a shot in the dark. She sits on a bench under a light waiting for something to happen. Dramas such as this are enacted in parks everywhere. A full moon can seem like an omen, and a blood moon can feel like a curse. With the moon at my back I approach them — two people inexorably drawn together for a purpose that is still unclear.

The Curtain Rises
They toss the silent frisbee back and forth on this still summer evening. The gunman in the window views it as a moving target not unlike a clay pigeon. The purpose of an object is ultimately made clear only in how it is used. A quiet street is like a stage in an open-air theater. I like theater and wonder how this play will end.

Storm Warning
They surge past the guards and form a crowd in front of the embassy building. You step out onto the balcony and prepare to address them. Scenes such as this are always more dramatic in a movie or a 1930s newsreel. Some say a car backfiring sounds like a gunshot. I drive out of the picture as my car, half-stalling, backfires again and again.

 *    *    *    *
Published in Gnarled Oak (, 8/17/16.
Note: These aren’t real dreams, and the “I” in the stories is not me. Sometimes writers just write! ;- )

Ordinary Forms of Happiness

A bird in a tree, singing.
A cup of hot tea on the sill.
I sip and the sparrow goes winging,
no trail in the sky but its trill.

*    *    *    *
Published in Englyn: Journal of Four Line Poetry, Issue 3 (, page 65, 7/19/16.

Address of Welcome: An Excavation Poem

Much will delight you
in the splendid confines
of the mind —

the best and utmost pleasure
for years and virtually
the whole of time —

because activity is not real.

Address of Welcome: An Erasure Poem*    *    *    *

Inspired by The Found Poetry Review’s National Poetry Month prompt for April 10, 2016 (

First, choose a text by another writer. Read through it carefully and consider the following question: What has been buried in so much other language? Then, by removing portions of the source text, excavate what has been obscured by narrative, exposition, rhetoric, etc. There are many possibilities for excavating pieces of language from a text. You may choose to bring to light beauty, violence, a particular image that appears and reappears, or anything else that risks being lost.

Closed Doors: A Book Spine Poem

Closed Doors: A Book Spine Poem.

*    *    *    *

Published in SONIC BOOM …for writing that explodes (, page 50, 4/2/16.

Painting with Words: Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2

Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2; 1912; Marcel Duchamp. Photo via Wikipedia (

swing of shoulder and swivel of hip,
click-clack clockwork cubism
in stop-action slo-mo descent,

a futurist modular manikin
clothed in earth tones,
part knight and part nun,

all angles and lethal edges,
slicing air and crushing conventions:
duchamp’s incendiary

……………………………a staircase.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 2/19/16.

Painting with Words: Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar, 1939

Painting with Words: Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar, 1939

Portrait of Dora Maar, 1939, by Pablo Picasso. (c) Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (

Your abstract nose is a shotgun, Dora, and
your left eye stares straight down the barrels

at me. But your Guernica eyes are distant and blank.
Two eyes and that thousand-yard stare . . . or

one eye times two? Picasso did you no favor! He
split your face down the middle — a Siamese cyclops.

Your hair is a helmet, your clothing plate armor,
and one face is heavily guarded. But one face is

open. To him? My God, certainly not to
your rivals! To whom, then? To what?

Stormy, defiant, sad Dora Maar.

*    *    *    *

Published in The Ekphrastic Review: Writing and Art on Art and Writing (, 2/19/16.

Scalp Warning: A Blackout Poem

*    *    *    *

I found an old Hardy Boys book at a book sale and thought it would be fun to make blackout poems with it — one for each chapter. This is the first.

I made a mask to cover the unnecessary words to cut down on the visual “noise” due to the roundabout order of the poem’s components. It took a good deal of planning and practice, but it was quite fun to do!

Oh, and that scalp? I’m happy to say it turned out to be made of papier-mache.  ;- )

Letting Go: A Book Spine Poem


*    *    *    *

Published in Hedgerow: A Journal of Small Poems (, 1/22/16.

Book Spine Haiku No. 1

Book Spine Haiku No. 1

* * * *

Published in Hedgerow: A Journal of Small Poems (, 1/22/16.

Book Spine Haiku No. 5 (ver. 2)

Book Spine Haiku No. 5 (version 2)

* * * *

Published in Hedgerow: A Journal of Small Poems (, 1/22/16.

Book Spine Haiku No. 6 (ver. 2)

Book Spine Haiku No. 6 (version 2)

*    *    *    *

Published in Hedgerow: A Journal of Small Poems (, 1/22/16.

Time Capsule: A Book Spine Poem


*    *    *    *

Published in Gnarled Oak (, 1/18/16.

The Miller and the Gleaner: A Remix Created from First Lines of Poems

Behold her, single in the field,
Caught in the center of a soundless field,
Across the millstream below the bridge…
Earth has not anything to show more fair.

Diligent in the burnt fields above the sea,
A sweet disorder in the dress,
Hair — braided chestnut…
Love, unrequited, robs me of my rest.

*    *    *    *

Published in Poetry WTF?! (, 12/1/15.

The eight lines of this poem are derived from the works of the following poets, in the following order: William Wordsworth, Philip Larkin, Howard Nemerov, William Wordsworth, Josephine Miles, Robert Herrick, Jean Toomer, and W. S. Gilbert.

Remorse: A Remix Created from First Lines of Poems by Emily Dickinson

Through lane it lay, through bramble,
Through the straight pass of suffering…
While I was fearing it, it came
As imperceptibly as grief.
Remorse is memory awake.

*    *    *    *

Published in Poetry WTF?! (, 11/27/15.


Grounded, by Jonas Stirner

Grounded, by Jonas Stirner.

An air vent
of a tramp steamer
that’s seen better days,

it stands
on spindly legs —
whimsical, nonchalant.

Its color
is mottled yellow, and its

is cocky
for a thing with one leg
stuck in a huge red can.

It won’t
be pushed around, though —
it’s grounded.

*    *    *    *

As in 2014, the sculpture park Grounds For Sculpture (an incredible place!) ran a contest to gather a bookful of poems that are reactions to works of art on display. This poem, along with Shiro, below, won a place in a commemorative book called The Visual in Verse: An Ekphrastic Poets’ Invitational. In addition, we poets whose pieces are in the book were given an opportunity to read them to a supportive and enthusiastic crowd on 8/31/15. A fun experience!  :- D

Subsequently, “Grounded” was reprinted in The Ekphrastic Review: writing and art on art and writing (, 5/22/16.


Shiro, with artist Jae Ko

Shiro, with artist Jae Ko. Photo (c) ARTFIXdaily (

This is not
Hokusai’s wave,
all hooks and danger.

Shiro is a mountain-like wave:
10 tons of adding machine paper
that adds up to more than the sum

of its parts. Because it’s also
a wave-like mountain: glacier white
tinged with pink and blue as light

plays over its contours. Monumental
in scale, it changes slowly as the arc
of the sun marks its many surfaces

and brings to life the creatures
that animate this fluid mass.
Benign eyes peek out —

heaps of alien features
as curious about us
as we are about

this sculpture
that we call

*    *    *    *

Published by Grounds For Sculpture in a commemorative book called The Visual in Verse: An Ekphrastic Poets’ Invitational, 8/31/15. The sculpture — approximately 80 feet long and about 20,000 pounds — was created onsite at Grounds For Sculpture and will be recycled in 2016.

A Taste of Fiction

“I did it! I wrote a story in exactly 50 words!”

“Really?” Maxwell snatched the slip of paper from my hand. Crumpling it up, he shoved it into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed.

“You… You ate my story!”

Maxwell burped. “Your writing’s very tasteful,” he said, and left the room.

*    *    *    *

Published in 50-Word Stories (, 8/18/15.

Rewriting “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” in Exactly 100 Words

I. Death Cheats Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me. “Need a ride?” he asked.

“Thank you, sir. These shoes pinch.”

“Move over, Immortality. Make room for Miss Dickinson.”

’Twas then I first surmised the horses’ heads were toward Eternity. “Getting off, please!”

Death grinned. “I think not.”

II. Emily Dickinson Cheats Death

A-tremble with indignation, I shamelessly flirted with Immortality, with predictable results. Leering, he shoved Death from the carriage and we galloped off.

Soon, though, his blood cooled and reason returned. “None may know Immortality without Death,” said he. “I will return you home.”

“Let it be so.” I smiled, relieved.

*    *    *    *

Published in SONIC BOOM …for writing that explodes (, page 38, 8/1/15.

She Took It to the Grave: A Remix Created from First Lines of Poems by Emily Dickinson

All overgrown by cunning moss,
The grave my little cottage is.
After a hundred years
Dust is the only secret.

*    *    *    *

Published in Poetry WTF?! (, 4/27/15.

Freedom Came Late: A Remix Created from First Lines of Poems by Emily Dickinson

This was in the white of the year.
In winter, in my room,
I read my sentence steadily.
’Twas just this time last year I died.
A death-blow is a life-blow to some
If pain for peace prepares.

*    *    *    *

Published in Poetry WTF?! (, 4/24/15.

Papa’s Mistake

“See all these boxes? They’re the unsold copies of my latest, Key West Cuisine.” Hemingway scowled. “ ‘Write a cookbook,’ they said.”

Shrugging, he continued. “Now I need room — lots of room. Fishing rods, camping gear, war souvenirs, this stuffed leopard . . .” He made a broad sweeping gesture. “Everything has to go!”

“What do you say?” He clapped me on the shoulder. “Go on, make me an offer for the lot. Be a man!”

*    *    *    *

Published in SONIC BOOM …for writing that explodes (, 4/5/15.

Nine New Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: A Remix



It was snowing
When the blackbird flew out of sight
Among twenty snowy mountains.



I was of three minds
In which there are three blackbirds
And lucid, inescapable rhythms . . .
The beauty of inflections.



The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
But I know, too,
The blackbird sat
In the cedar limbs.



A man and a woman.
A man and a woman and a blackbird.



I do not know which to prefer,
The shadow of the blackbird
Or the beauty of innuendoes.



At the sight of blackbirds
Why do you imagine golden birds?



Once, a fear pierced him:
Traced in the shadow
Of one of many circles
Was the eye of the blackbird.



The river is moving
For blackbirds —
An indecipherable cause.



It was evening all afternoon.
Icicles filled the long window
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird must be flying.

*    *    *    *

Source: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”, by Wallace Stevens (

Published in Poetry WTF?! (, 2/17/15.

Stellar Intelligence

Every night, their cat Felix would bring some of his toy mice up from the living room with a triumphant cry and then drop them on their bedroom floor. “Isn’t that cute,” they’d say the next day. “Isn’t he clever!”

One morning they saw a familiar-looking grouping of three. “Looks a lot like Orion’s Belt,” they agreed. Then, that night, Felix brought all of the mice he could find. “My God,” they said the next morning, “it’s the Big Dipper!”

*    *    *    *

Published in SONIC BOOM …for writing that explodes (, 12/8/14.

 Stepping into Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass

Dejeuner Deja Vu, by Seward Johnson

Dejeuner Deja Vu, by Seward Johnson. Photo by David W. Steele and (c) The Sculpture Foundation, Inc. (

She skewers you
with her gaze —

Her nakedness

may make you
a trifle

unlike her
clothed male

or the bird above
or the frog
at her feet.

of you to
barge into

their 19th-century
daydream, where

trumps amour,
so it would seem . . .

*    *    *    *

In 2014, Grounds For Sculpture (Hamilton, N.J.) — truly one of the world’s amazing places! — put on a lifetime retrospective of founder Seward Johnson’s work. My poem is a response to his ever-popular sculpture installation Déjeuner Déjà Vu. (Manet’s painting Luncheon on the Grass, upon which Johnson’s sculpture is based, is also known as Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe.)

Published in a commemorative book called A Retrospective Poets’ Invitational, 8/24/14.

Three Mini-sagas — Stories in Exactly 50 Words Each

An Untimely Trip

The time traveler stepped into the landscape of the Jurassic Era.

“I, Henry Hosdale, am the first person to visit the past! I, Henry Hosdale — ”

He never saw the Tyrannosaurus that squashed him flat. But the fossil of Homo sapiens embedded in a dinosaur footprint would stun humankind — in 2099.

High School Nightmare #1: The Public Speaking Class

“Speak up, please.”

Literal Leonard looked at the ceiling, cleared his throat, and started his speech over again. “Classmates, teachers, and honored guests, — ”

“Look at the audience,” said the instructor.

“Classmates, teachers, — ”

“Speak up!”

Leonard looked at the ceiling. “Classmates, — ”

“Look at the audience!”

Leonard literally ran from the room.

Death, Where Is Thy Bling?

Death was an object of condescension at parties. Gods and demigods — all resplendent in the latest fashions and jewelry — would mock him: “So drab,” they’d say. “So last-season.”

“Curses on you!” he’d shout back, and storm out with whatever he could grab: some cocktail franks, a bit of brie…

 *    *    *    *

Published in the U.S. 1 Newspaper Summer Fiction Issue, 7/25/12.

Grinning at a Greek God

In a Princeton courtyard
a bronze Poseidon
wears a snowy mantle
as he presides over
a frozen fountain,
complete with a gush
of ice from its spout.

Did his wife put him out?
Had graceful Amphitrite
had enough? Was she
cracking down on his
heartless, philandering ways?

“Demeter, Aethra, Tyro,
and even that horror
Medusa!” In my mind
I hear her shouting and
see him cringe as she
whacks him with her broom.
“But Amphy, my love —”

*    *    *    *

Published in Wildberries Journal of Mythic Fantasy, 11/4/10.

Captain Palindrome Fights a Duel

“Dammit I’m mad!” Captain Palindrome stormed into the officers’ mess of the King’s Own Dragoons. The heads of his comrades turned as he stomped over to the beer tap. Filling a mug, he drank deeply. “Lager, sir, is regal,” he said to no one in particular and then wiped the foam from his mustache.

“Bob, old man, what’ve you been up to?” asked Captain Scarborough.

“He’s been making a royal pain of himself, that’s what,” answered Captain Tilit, who’d walked in right behind his friend. “Over at the newspaper.”

Palindrome groaned. “Tilit —”

“Not the Times, surely?” asked Scarborough.

“The very one. In yesterday’s edition, it seems they . . . well, that is . . .” Scarborough was amused to watch Tilit struggle to be tactful because it was so uncharacteristic of the young cavalryman.

“Come on, lad, spit it out!”

Casting a sidelong glance at Palindrome, Tilit sighed. “They panned his new book.”

“Book? What book?”

Palindrome drew a slim, leather-bound edition from inside his uniform jacket and thrust it into Scarborough’s hands. In gilt letters it said I Love Me, Vol. I. “Bloody hell,” said Scarborough as he flipped the pages. “It’s all love poems — to yourself!”

“It runs in the family, Hugh,” said Tilit. “His old ma did the same thing, when she was younger. It was her gift to literature — isn’t that what you always say, Bob?”

Palindrome nodded. “Ma is as selfless as I am.”

Scarborough shook his head in mock dismay and handed the book back. “Panned! I guess, Bob, you had expected to be . . . ?”

“Deified,” he said, nodding glumly, as he slipped the volume back inside his jacket — against his heart, as he’d confided to Tilit earlier.

At this juncture, Captain Reginald Pratt stepped forward. “Little chance of that, isn’t there, Palindrome, peddling such mawkish twaddle, eh?”

A shocked silence fell, charging the room with a dangerous energy. Slowly, Palindrome turned to face his antagonist. Looking him up and down, he said, in a casual voice, “Drab as a fool, aloof as a bard.”

“And what in hell is that supposed to mean?”

Palindrome turned to Scarborough and nodded toward Pratt. “Was it a rat I saw?”

“I say,” said Scarborough, trying to hide a grin. Pratt was forever picking quarrels with his messmates, and he, for one, would not be sorry to see him get his comeuppance.

Turning his attention back to Pratt, Palindrome sniffed in a haughty manner, mimicking his enemy’s airs. “Rot can rob a born actor!”

Pratt’s face turned red to the very roots of his pale blond hair. “Do you dare to insinuate —”

“Good lord, Bob,” piped up Tilit. “One would think you’d stuck him with a pin — listen to him roar.”

Palindrome smiled. “Ergo ogre!” This laconic sally brought a volley of laughter from the other officers ranged around the room. “Touche!” said Pratt. “Your tongue is very sharp, sir, and your words are raw.” He loosened his saber in its scabbard.

“War, sir, is raw.”

Pratt sneered. “War, is it? Live by the sword, die by the sword, then, eh?”

Palindrome smirked. “Egad, an adage!” Loosening his own blade, he looked Pratt squarely in the eyes. A hush fell on the room.

“Draw, O coward!” The business had barely begun when it was suddenly over. “Only a flesh wound to the sword arm, thank God,” said the regimental doctor, who’d been having some port when the whole incident started. “Gentlemen, stanch the blood and take him to his bed — I’ll sew him up there.”

After wiping and sheathing his weapon, Palindrome reached into his tunic pocket and turned to Tilit. “Cigar? Too tragic.”

Impressed by Palindrome’s sang froid, the room erupted in applause and the stamping of heavy cavalry boots. Several men slapped him on the back all at once, while another forced a tankard into his hand. “Speech! Speech!” they shouted. “Let’s have a speech by good old Bob!”

Palindrome choked up. “Aha,” was all he could force out, after which he dashed a tear from his eye.

“Gentlemen, listen to me!” All faces turned to Tilit. “We all agree that although Captain Pratt is our comrade, he desperately needed a lesson — and, by God, thanks to Bob he got one!” The men yelled their approval. “Now, let us turn, as they say, to nobler things. Bob, bring out that book of yours and favor us with a rhyme or two.”

“Lion oil,” he muttered, secretly pleased. After blowing his nose in a fine cambric handkerchief, Captain Robert Palindrome pulled out the cherished volume and turned to page one.

*    *    *    *

Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper Summer Fiction Issue (, 7/22/09.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet — Condensed, Somewhat Altered, and Slightly Rearranged


HAMLET, Clown Prince of Denmark

QUEEN GERTRUDE, Hamlet’s self-absorbed mother

KING CLAUDIUS, Hamlet’s conniving uncle

GHOST OF HAMLET’S FATHER, the murdered King of Denmark

POLONIUS, a pompous windbag

OPHELIA, the daughter of Polonius

LAERTES, the son of Polonius

HORATIO, Hamlet’s friend

FORTINBRAS, an opportunist


CLAUDIUS: Marry me, Gertrude dear?

QUEEN GERTRUDE: I’m newly widowed — it wouldn’t be right!


QUEEN GERTRUDE: OK, you’ve convinced me.


GHOST OF HAMLET’S FATHER: Your uncle, Claudius, killed me!

HAMLET: God’s blood! Here I am, pining for fair but high-strung Ophelia while my mother remarries with unseemly haste, and now I have to avenge your death? ’Tis enough to drive me mad!

 ACT 2, SCENE 1:

HAMLET [in the library]: I’ve lost my mind!

POLONIUS: [speaking to himself] Poor boy — overwrought with unrequited love for my little Ophelia, no doubt. Semper fidelis, ex libris, etcetera, and so on. [speaking to Hamlet] And what, may I ask, are you reading there, young sir?

HAMLET [flipping through a book]: Words . . . words . . . yes, just plain old words.

POLONIUS: Harumph! You really are deranged.


HAMLET: Dear King Claudius, won’t you come to the play I’ve prepared for you? You’ll find it most . . . instructive.

KING CLAUDIUS: Why of course, Hamlet, my lad! Heh, heh. I’m glad you’ve come to your senses. And in any case, ’tis not as if the story will illustrate how I, uh . . .

HAMLET: Yesssss?


 KING CLAUDIUS: That monstrous play! How horrid! Still, it seems familiar, very familiar. Perhaps I’d better say my prayers.

HAMLET [on his way to see Queen Gertrude]:  ’Tis him! Die, foul fiend! But, hold — stay your hand, Hamlet. He’s praying. And anyway, I shouldn’t keep Mother waiting.

 ACT 3, SCENE 2:

QUEEN GERTRUDE: Hamlet, your behavior toward your Daddy Claudius is so rude!

HAMLET: What utter nerve! I think I’ll kill you.

QUEEN GERTRUDE [backing away]: Eeeek!

POLONIUS [from behind a tapestry]: Help, help! Save the queen! Neither a borrower nor a lender be! Habeas corpus — ahem — and so forth!

HAMLET: On second thought, I’ll kill him instead.


HAMLET [over his shoulder, as he leaves]: You’re no Lady Macbeth, Mother, so stay out of my way.


OPHELIA: Hamlet killed our father! I’m going mad! Mad, I tell you!

LAERTES: Hamlet killed our father! I must avenge him, or I’ll go mad!


KING CLAUDIUS: Plotting against my dear nephew? Let me give you a few tips on that, Laertes, my boy.

LAERTES: Many thanks! I don’t know, though. I’m having second thoughts.

KING CLAUDIUS: Did I mention that fair Ophelia has drowned, dead of unrequited love for Hamlet? . . .

LAERTES: I’m all ears. What’s the plan?


HAMLET: Alas, poor Yorick! You had a fine head on your shoulders . . . until it fell off. [dropping the skull he was holding] To be or not to be: that is the question. My father is dead; Polonius is dead; Ophelia is dead; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who have conveniently been left out of this story up to this point, are dead. And since this is gloomy old Denmark, and this play is a Shakespearean tragedy, it seems certain that death cannot be far from us all. Certainly what with these slings and arrows of outrageous fortune flying around —

HORATIO: There you are, Hamlet — I’ve found you at last. There’s to be a friendly duel between you and Laertes! Make haste!


HAMLET: Die, Laertes!

LAERTES: Die, Hamlet!

HAMLET: I’m wounded!

LAERTES: I’m wounded!

QUEEN GERTRUDE: I’m thirsty! [drinks poisoned wine]


KING CLAUDIUS [stabbed by Hamlet]: I’m dying!

HORATIO: I’m alive!

FORTINBRAS: I’m Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, conveniently riding by at the head of an army! I claim this kingdom as a part of my own.


*    *    *    *

Published in the U.S. 1 Newspaper Summer Fiction Issue, 7/25/07.

Smoke and Sunbeams

I was commuting to work on a sunny November morning, and I was five cars behind a dump truck. We were all moving down a narrow tree-lined road, and as the driver shifted up through the gears, clouds of exhaust came blasting out of the muffler.

I set my ventilation system to internal as the bluish haze expanded — above the cars, above the truck, above the trees. And then I noticed the sunbeams, long shafts of light coming through the branches.

It’s an age-old theme, so I won’t belabor it: without the smoke, I wouldn’t have seen the sunbeams; without the darkness, I wouldn’t have seen the light.

*    *    *    *

Two Pershings

Deaths on July 15th:

  • 1940 Robert Pershing Wadlow, giant: 8 feet, 11-1/10 inches tall, 490 pounds
  • 1948 John J. Pershing, American General

—Excerpted from

They died on exactly the same day, eight years apart: General John J. Pershing, a military giant on the battlefields of World War I, and Robert Pershing Wadlow, a giant in the literal sense. At nearly nine feet tall, the 22-year-old was the tallest human being on record.

Wadlow was born in 1918, the year that the hero for whom he was named brought the crushing weight of the U.S. Army to bear on the Imperial German forces in Europe. But it was Wadlow’s own considerable weight that brought on the foot injury that led, through infection, to the kindly young man’s untimely death.

Had they been aware of each other? Did the Gentle Giant, as he was called, follow John J.’s postwar career? And did the former general ever catch a glimpse of young Robert in the newspaper, touring America as a goodwill ambassador for the International Shoe Company, which gave him free size 37s in exchange for his services? Each had fame, in his own way, and both have had statues erected in their memories.

They probably never met, these two who shared a name. They probably never even passed each other on the street. Pershing lies in Arlington National Cemetery now, and Wadlow lies in his hometown of Alton, Illinois, but in a listing of notable deaths for July 15th, on the World Wide Web, they lie side by side. Serendipity, if nothing else, has brought them together at last.

*    *    *    *

Rhyme and Ride

It was open mike night at the Hard Luck Cafe, and the poetry slam was nearly over. After this loser, I finally get to strut my stuff! thought Stu. That’s when the guy next to him dumped his double mocha latte into Stu’s lap. “You fool, you’re so uncool!” Stu shouted as he jumped up and hurried to the men’s room to clean himself off.

By the time he returned, the audience and performers were leaving. His mind in a whirl, he searched for the people he’d come with as the crowd streamed by. “I can’t believe it! It’s over, and they’re gone! How am I supposed to get home?”

The MC, who at that moment happened to be standing next to him, sympathetically said, “Rhyme and ride, my man. Rhyme and ride.” In a rare flash of insight, Stu understood: rhyme and ride wait for no man.

*    *    *    *

Reverse Metamorphosis

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible insect.  —Franz Kafka, “The Metamorphosis”

One night, when Grgrsmszzz woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his sleeping place into a horrible human the size of a bug — life inside the kitchen wall would never be the same again.

“Where’re my stiff, bristly legs? Where’s my shiny, brown carapace? My ribbed belly? My antennas?” The splintery hole in which he lay seemed unaccountably hard and uncomfortable. “What’s happened to me? I must be dreaming,” he thought and fell back to sleep.

Worried that her son had not yet risen, Grgr’s dear mother slipped into the hole where he slept and gently tapped him with an antenna. “Awaken, my darling son,” she said. “Shouldn’t you be scuttling around the kitchen, looking for tasty bits of garbage for us to eat? You know how hard it’s been to put food on the table since your father was almost squashed.”

“Blast! I’ve overslept!” Grgr yelled. How strange his voice sounded to those things on the sides of his head that passed for hearing membranes. Alarmed, he jumped up and startled his mother half to death. She reeled from the hole just as his father rushed to her assistance and peered over the edge.

“What has gotten into you, Grgr?” he shouted. Grgr struggled out of the hole and tried to explain things as best he could. Straining to understand his hapless son’s reply, his father said, “He speaks gibberish! And look at how he’s changed! Only four limbs now, no exoskeleton, no antennas— ” He gave Grgr a series of pokes with his forelegs. “Get back in your hole, you brute!”

“Ow! Hey, knock it off, will ya?!” said Grgr as he retreated to the safety of his hole. For the rest of the night, he tried to amuse himself by exploring his sleeping place: a shaft-like knothole in a horizontal two-by-four about one inch deep and a couple of inches in diameter. Since he could climb vertical surfaces now only with the greatest of difficulty, after a while he simply sat at the bottom and sulked. Grgrsmszzz was depressed.

At mealtime, his loving sister tossed a delectable selection of edibles down to him, trying to tempt his palate with choice bits of decaying food and greasy gunk, but none of it appealed to poor Grgr. This went on for a couple of nights, but little by little his family’s mixed feelings of fear and sympathy had turned to indifference. The fact is, they were so busy trying to make ends meet that they no longer had time to think about him. Left alone in his hole, Grgr became thinner and weaker, living only on occasional drops of water and bread crumbs that somehow found their way into his sleeping place.

And then, as if things couldn’t get worse, Grgr’s father rented out his hole — his hole! — to some boorish beetles who drove him into a corner and heaped dust and debris on him. “Hey,” Grgr complained, “I’m still living here, ya know?” Then Grgr fell silent and brooded.

The hours flowed by, and after a couple more nights, Grgr’s transition was complete. He couldn’t understand a word any of these bugs said anymore, and, more important, he didn’t really care. First, he drove off the beetles with loud verbal abuse and shrewd pokes with a pointy splinter of wood. Then, after a rest to gather his waning strength, he used his strange limbs to climb the side of what was once again his hole. The time had come to confront the family.

Poking his head over the edge, Grgr saw that a meeting was in progress. “Good timing,” he thought, as he watched his mother, father, and sister talking.

He heard his mother groan. “How hard things have been since Grgr became so strange!” she said in cockroach.

“Yes,” agreed his father. “It’s not enough that he refuses to support us, he’s become so rude he scared away our boarders!”

“You want to know what I think?” asked Grgr’s sister. Her mother’s and father’s antennas twitched toward her. “I think he’s persecuting us. Yes, that’s it: he’s persecuting us!”

“She’s right! He’s turned against us,” said her father. It was at this juncture that they became aware of Grgr, crouched outside their little family circle.

“Stop persecuting us!” yelled his sister, who had become terribly fond of that word. “Get out! Get out!”

Her parents turned to face him and picked up the cry: “Get out, get out!” they all yelled.

Grgr may not have comprehended their words — they just sounded like a bunch of hisses — but he certainly understood their tone. “That’s it!” he shouted back at them. “I’ve had it with this two-bit hole in the wall! I’m outta here!”

*    *    *    *

Published in Defenestration: A Literary Magazine Dedicated to Humor (, 8/20/09.


22 thoughts on “Bill Waters ~~ NOT Haiku

  1. Pingback: Haiku is great, but . . . | Bill Waters ~~ Haiku

  2. Gary Waters on said:

    I really enjoyed all of them…I loved them when I read them earlier, as well!

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. Gary Waters on said:

    Bill, we loved the 50-word essay…entertaining, clever and humorous!!! :-)

    I assume, since it’s on the top of the page, that it’s your latest work…thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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  21. I particularly enjoyed your response to the Emily Carr painting (I haven’t read all the others yet). I live in Emily Carr’s territory and am very familiar with her work. I like the Carr spirit you captured in the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

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