From opposite sides
Fear and desire build a wall
Separating me

Another haiga (picture + poem) and so quickly after the last. Sorry. They with their form as important as content construction seem to be better at helping me not think about politics than the illustrated screeds and ekphrases (a description of one art form in terms of another) I usually do as a way to justify my existence.

I used to favor nonfiction books, they are the opposite of poetry, in many ways. But I can’t read them any more; the internet and the text-bites therein have laid low my ability to concentrate on one topic for more than 1000 words. Plus, who know what’s worth the time? In this truth-free epoch, it’s opinions all the way down; so the best you can do is stop your descent  after your cognitive dissonances kick in, but before where your confirmation biases do.

So, for now, poetry it is. With poetry, unlike nonfiction texts, words are picked for their form—individual sounds and joint rhythms—as much or more as for their signifying value. The pure form-as-meaning stuff, the punctuation and line breaks, “is what it is,” and refers to nothing outside itself as well, l’art pour l’art?

Compensation” by Emily Dickinson

For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.

For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears.

Dickinson begins “Compensation” weighing the opposite feelings of ecstasy and anguish; then she compares them using the near opposite, though hardly compensatory adjectives,“keen and quivering” More opposites follow: hours v. years and farthings v. coffers. But her opposing terms are not all fully compensated for—if I may paraphrase—for an hour of love you get years of hate and after fighting over every nickle and dime you are left with an account full of grief. Then there’s the form-as-meaning part: She deletes words and inverts ordinary language for sound and rhythm’s sake—they can make the poem stagger more than stroll—these awkward cuts and pastes add to its bitter “keen and quivering” charm.


Do we simply fear anguish and desire ecstasy, then push the former away and draw the latter nearer? Nope, it’s more complicated than that; consciously or not we also fear trying and failing to get the ecstasy we desire and we desire anguish when we do fail and feel we deserve it. These sincere but futile compensations are always building and scaling walls inside our heads though sadly, the building always seems to be one brick ahead of the scaling.