Rocking the Haiku
by Joseph Farley
“What’s with it with kid’s today,” Clive Tuttle complained to no one in particular. “All they want to do is listen to haiku with someone plucking a four string guitar or banging a log. Back in my day we had music, real music, although my parents wouldn’t have called it that. How can you dance to it? It’s less than a minute long.”
“You can dance to it,” his daughter, Kateri, argued. “A minute is plenty of time to move around.”
“No one has the patience any more for a three minute song. What’s this world coming to?”
“If it’s too long it gets boring.”
“Why do the instruments have to be so minimal?”
“Because it’s haiku dad. Besides, music, all those instruments, all that noise from machines, it’s been done over and over. If anyone wants to listen to that kind of stuff they can download it. Haiku is what’s happening now. It’s what my generation is about.”
“Why all the affectation? Dressing up in Japanese period costumes from what? The Tokugawa period?”
“Edo. Tokugawa were the shoguns.”
“Whatever. No one in Japan has dressed like that in centuries. I’ll never understand teenagers. Didn’t understand it when I was one, and certainly not now.”
“Knock it off dad. Just drive me to the concert. You promised.”
“Sheesh. I could be watching cricket.”
“Grandma told me hardly anyone watched cricket when she was young.”
“It was an unenlightened age.”
“There!,” Kateri pounced. “You have cricket. I have haiku. It’s called being modern.”
Her father growled. There was no comparison.
A wasted Saturday. Things you do for kids.
Olivia Yamaguchi went by the name of Shando. She was a spelunker/ haiku artist. She had quite following. In addition to performing on stage, she made documentaries about her subterranean adventures. Wearing a helmet camera, she crawled deep underground through narrow crevices and wet chambers, finding remote spots never seen by man or woman to paint her words. The haiku thus preserved were not spontaneous. Yamaguchi prepared her brief texts well in advance, carefully editing each piece until it glistened, one descending line of characters. Underground she tried to use natural pigments derived from studies of ancient cave paintings. She knew her work would last. Perhaps longer than the human race. Popularity and the money that came with it was appreciated, but the eternal was what she sought most.
Yamaguchi considered her chief artistic rival to be Alloy who dressed on stage in a metallic shogun outfit. In regular life he preferred sweats and blue jeans, and went by the name of Robert Aviles. Alloy was into techno haiku. He made deals with sponsors to have his haiku engraved on satellites, rockets to Mars and deep space probes.
While professional rivals, Shando and Alloy were friends. They had agreed to a joint tour with equal billing. The tour was a stadium buster. Record crowds greeted them wherever they performed. Clive Tuttle had programmed his car to drive him and his daughter to the stadium and find parking. Tuttle watched a cricket test on his phone while the car handled the road. Kateri practiced her Japanese. It took forever. The roads were jammed, and parking was hard to find. Still, the package got delivered. Tuttle watched Kateri waddle off in her new kimono wondering how she could walk on those wooden clogs.
“I’ll pick you up at 10 PM sharp. Call me if there’s any problem.”
The car drove off. What to do for the next three hours? Tuttle thought about it, then saw the billboard for a strip club. Problem solved. They might even have cricket on in there.
Kateri swayed with the crowd to the hypnotic sound of haiku. She drank from bottles of sake that were passed around, and inhaled second hand smoke from hundreds of joints. It was the best moment of her life. Too date anyway. All her friends were there. The real ones who were more than a photo on an app. On stage were her idols, Life just seemed better in three lines of five, seven and five syllables. She wished it would never end, but after the final encore haiku, a duet by Shanto and Alloy, it was time to go. Three lines. That was all it took. Kateri realized what she wanted to do with her life. “I want to be a haiku performer.”
Cricket had been on at the bar. The view on stage and on the monitors had been perfect. Time passed by with much less agony than expected. Clive Tuttle arrived to collect his daughter in a more relaxed state than when he had dropped her off. Kateri was awaiting at the designated pick-up spot with several friends she had promised rides to. One was dressed as a Shinto priest, one as a samurai, the rest in kimonos. Somehow they all managed to squeeze into the car without damaging any costumes. Clive Tuttle told the car all of the destinations for the return trip. He sat back and spoke to his passengers.
“How as the show?”
Not much more was said between father, daughter and the rest. Kateri talked mainly to her friends until they were dropped off one by one. Her father played games on his phone until it was just him and Kateri in the car,
“You tired or want to stop somewhere for a bite?”
“I’m not hungry, Besides I have to get up early tomorrow. I am starting kanji class.”
“Okay, just rest then,”
Kateri hummed a few of her favorite haiku one after another, the words appearing in her head. To her father, it almost sounded like a song.
“You know there is such a thing as linked haiku,” her father said.
“Renga and stuff like that? That is so ten years ago.”
Her father sighed. He wondered. Five to ten more years of this? Before we can “reconnect?”
He tried to hum along.