Vapor Trails

Haikus Don’t Make Sense

Creative Writing 498 required one short story and an exaggerative dozen poems.  Undoubtedly the multiple revisions compounded that estimate because now I recall only four of the topics.  I remember writing a free-form poem about why bubbly Coca-Cola tastes better than room-temperature, low-fat milk.  Imagine pouring powdered dairy product into a low-end 1970s Snoopy thermos and for several hours carrying it around an Arizona elementary school with no air conditioning.  Yum.  I also wrote two Italian sonnets about my seven-year marriage to Ebenezer Scrooge and a BMW that served as a chicken coop, both with similar living conditions.

As an alternative, I considered writing a haiku – short and simple – and quickly discovered writing fewer words complicates the assignment, not simplifies it.  Additionally, traditional Japanese poetry focuses on nature and reflection upon it and in that poorly-lit period of my life, reflection could rarely be achieved with a mirror.  Nevertheless, I did write a fourth poem to fulfill the course requirements and developed an image that remained with me long after reaching the end of the proverbial dark, pre- and post-divorce tunnel.

All The Closer I’ll Ever Get

For anyone who has spent a holiday season working at a cash register, one single customer berating a minimum-wage cashier changes a tense environment from stressful to hostile.  Having met that type of customer more than once in that profession, I tend to internalize that barking and subsequently spend several nights not sleeping well.  Over time, pushing that individual from my mind became easier, although never impossible, and I apply my “vapor trail theory” to overcome those one-time attacks and make the hectic holiday season easier to handle.

When the humidity decreases and temperatures drop, vapor trails remain in the sky far longer than the planes that create them.  And when those early-departure flights leave their mark before sunrise, the oranges and peaches and pinks in the air appear like perfectly straight strands of wool cutting across the lavender sky.  These man-made puffs provide the natural aspect upon which my haiku develops.  As I watch the softly straight clouds gradually change colors in the brightening dawn, I think about the roughly one hundred people who earlier in the morning passed over my house and through my life. The ongoing contemplation about the people lingers as long as these spun strands of condensation hang in the sky.

Nearly two decades after writing my haiku, I cling to the idea of a person passing through my life, whether a surly customer barking or an airline passenger jetting miles overhead.  As I gaze at the pink, trailing remnant in the sky flying above Yosemite Valley at sunset, I stop to think of the travelers, perhaps more than I should, or more than anyone else would, and I feel sympathy that they came no closer to these majestic granite marvels than a mile high and five-hundred miles per hour.  Never again in my entire lifetime will I cross paths with those individuals and each taught, cotton cloud reminds me of those seventeen syllables that stay with me after the vapor trail dissipates.



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