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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Facial Expressions – sadness (1)

Facial Expressions with Co-Guest Editors Hifsa Ashraf & Arvinder Kaur

Facial expression as non-verbal communication is the most significant way to express emotions. Darwin also considered facial expressions as a significant part of the evolution of communication. We may run short of words, but our face symbolically says a lot. It is said that a person’s eyes can lead us to their heart and soul, something that poets and writers have used to the hilt. Apart from the movement of facial muscles, facial expressions have their own language that varies from culture to culture in terms of their understanding and interpretation. In this era of technology, emoticons are used to convey a range of emotions. In fact, one can safely say that emoticons have softened and lent a personal touch to messages that might otherwise seem dull and drab.

In literature, and especially in poetry, facial expressions have a special place. One can immediately understand the import of the moment if the poet says that her large eyes filled with wonder, a tremulous smile played on her lips and the moon appeared pale. In micropoetry, many famous haiku poets have used facial expressions in their poetry in an interesting way. Some examples from Basho’s poetry:

A sense of terror, fear, or surprise in both poems:

an old river
making big eyes
at the willow

stars in my eyes
wishing to see blossoms
on weeping cherries

Translator: Jane Reichhold
Basho: The Complete Haiku

And Kobayashi Issa used facial expressions in a different way:

autumn wind—
the face of the man
who planted pines

Translator: David Lanoue
Used with permission, Haiku

Many facial expressions have been identified now but we will stick to the basic six facial expressions. And these are happiness, surprise, contempt/disgust, sadness, fear, and anger. You can let your imagination run wild and share some personal experiences or stories, or your observations related to these facial expressions in the weeks to come.

Below is Hifsa’s & Arvinder’s selection of poems on the theme of sadness:

aggressive cancer—
tears well up
at this friend’s news

Christa Pandey
Austin, TX, USA


at the window
reflection of my
darkness in the night

Vandana Parashar


unsettling the wabi sabi of this stained moon

Daya Bhat


winter sleet
trying to remember
her voice

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany


retracting glaciers—
tiny pools of melting

Katja Fox


bottom lip trembling –
the tragedy of
a dropped ice-cream

Caroline Ridley-Duff


rainy day…
a sudden rush of tears
reading Facebook posts

Jackie Chou
United States


trigeminal pain
“never noticed!”
always mirrored

Helen Buckingham
United Kingdom


second miscarriage
no well tended graveyard
for butterflies

John Hawkhead


roaring rockets-
stained smiles
of victims

Radhika De Silva
Sri Lanka


reading your love
letters from the war –
a tear in the eye

Jovana Dragojlovic
Belgrade, Serbia


my trembling lips
in between

Sharon Ferrante
Florida, USA


a large teardrop
smears the report…
dead hearing nerve

Richard L. Matta
San Diego, California USA


day moon
her last breath there
in his eyes

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom


breakup note
she bites her lip
to taste the hurt

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India


broken toy . . .
tears in the eyes
of a child

Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
Catania (Italy)


peony petals fall…
the weight of another
postponed dream

Steliana Cristina Voicu


tears swelling
I hold my fur baby
for the last time

Tuyet Van Do


the quiver
of mom’s lower lip
each goodbye

Eavonka Ettinger
Long Beach, CA


does your absence
hurt more than your words
autumn equinox

Ravi Kiran


we know what’s coming
even before they fall
the pre-shine of tears

Jenny Shepherd
London, UK


glittering eye pools
blinked away
river carved stone

Kavita Ratna


faded oil painting
of a cherry blossom
our lost love

Tsanka Shishkova
Sofia, Bulgaria


soldier cemetery
the sunflower
lowers its head

Helga Stania


deep wood glade
a wanderoo copies
my sad face

Suraj Nanu


sad movies
the boy keeps handing
her facial tissues

Chen Xiaoou
Kunming, China


leaving —
in his restless eyes
the clouds

Mariangela Canzi


pet funeral –
tears falling
in the rain

Dan Campbell


father’s sniffles lifting the palanquin

Nitu Yumnam


cracked mirror
something missing
behind her eyes

Mark Gilbert


on the rose petal
a mother’s tears

Evan Spivack
Teaneck, NJ


your first day
of school
…the lump in my throat

Margaret Mahony


love lock bridge
hiding her tears
in the rain

Kerry J Heckman
Seattle, WA


funeral sprays
her downcast gaze
on a fallen lily

Archie Carlos


their drooping faces after
losing the match

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India


a streak of melancholy
in her wrinkled eyes

Ram Chandran


autumn blues …
in the looking glass

Natalia Kuznetsova


last of the Baby on Board
a shadow
passes over her face

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC


his last breath
my tears
on his cheek

Susan Farner


starless night
the abused child’s
blank look

Neena Singh


old bridesmaid
a teardrop
on the wedding ring

Padmini Krishnan
United Arab Emirates


brooding eyes…
a tattered teddy in
father’s hands

Vipanjeet Kaur


last breath —
the light in her eyes
slowly fading

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India


hung out to dry
between clouds
autumn sadness

marilyn ashbaugh


flitting by
the butterfly’s blue
in my eyes

Herb Tate
Jersey, UK


weeping willow
for no reason
my sudden tears

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, VA


father’s casket mother’s empty stare

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois


fading into gray rain another tear

Peggy Hale Bilbro


her eyes
reflections of her life

Jan Stretch
Victoria BC Canada


lost baby
the sparkle in her eyes
long gone

Hla Yin Mon
Yangon, Myanmar


picking daffodils
my hands hold
the scent of sorrow

Adele Evershed
Wilton Connecticut


holding her fast
in my gaze
our preemie

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts, USA


shiver of moonlight
on the dark pond
tears on my cheeks

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK


Mother’s Day
old age homes decorated
with tears

Bipasha Majumder (De)


leaves and leaves
in my clouded eyes
another autumn

foglie e foglie
nei miei occhi offuscati
un altro autunno

Angiola Inglese


such gloom—
even gulls fly home early

Biswajit Mishra


the bright coldness
of Milky Way

Florin C. Ciobica


too sad to speak
the alien’s jaws
lock up

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD


lost lollipop…
a toddler screws up his face
to cry

Nancy Brady
Huron, Ohio


dad’s sudden loss
all the light from my eyes

Cristina Povero


my every reflection

C.X. Turner


trudging through rain
nobody notices
tears race down cheeks

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA


tattered suitcase
her face carries the weight
of her sorrow

Lafcadio Orlovsky


final visit to the vet—
the trust in her eyes
still haunts me

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia


Join us next week for Hifsa’s & Arvinder’s commentary on additional poems, & our next prompt…


Guest Editor Hifsa Ashraf is an award-winning poet, author, editor, and social activist from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Her work has been widely published. Hifsa is the author of six micropoetry books on gender-based taboos, mental health, socio-cultural, and socio-political issues. She has won The Touchstone Award for Individual Poems 2021 from The Haiku Foundation. She received special mention for her book, Her Fading Henna Tattoo, in the Touchstone Distinguished Books Award 2020 and in the Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award 2021. Her most recent micropoetry collection, hazy crescent moon, is about Islamophobia and is published by Alba Publishing, UK.

Guest Editor Arvinder Kaur, author, translator and an award-winning poet, specializes in English literature and Media Studies. Her haiku have appeared in several international journals. She is the author of four books of micropoetry, two of which are bilingual where she has translated her own work into vernacular. Her books have been very well received in India and abroad. She lives in Chandigarh, India with her family.

Lori Zajkowski is the Post Manager for Haiku Dialogue. A novice haiku poet, she lives in New York City.

Managing Editor Katherine Munro lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and publishes under the name kjmunro. She is Membership Secretary for Haiku Canada, and her debut poetry collection is contractions (Red Moon Press, 2019). Find her at:

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This Post Has 19 Comments

    1. PLEASE DELETE! My apologies ladies and kj Munro this was meant for renku 13 and has no place here! Sorry!

  1. Both of these used the multiple images of weight effectively, I felt:

    tattered suitcase
    her face carries the weight
    of her sorrow

    Lafcadio Orlovsky

    peony petals fall…
    the weight of another
    postponed dream

    Steliana Cristina Voicu

  2. it’s clear the ever-dense, unimaginable heaviness of hurt in hearts still beating ’round the world, and when a poet captures it…it gets tempered with beauty and reflected time….the punch of sorrow is softly framed….but none-the-less….it is felt strongly, concentrated into brief poems and economical words. thank you to all the participants sharing their sadness in this forum. and great kudos again, goes to Hifsa and Arvinder for suggesting these topics.

  3. Thank you Ingrid for commenting on my haiku. I too have had your experience. Pleasure to be among all writers ! Loved every one!

  4. So many of these ku – reach my heart, deeply and directly … so much of our human experiences are shared in the most intrinsic manner…. sending each one of you a hug – just sharing this moment of deep connection!

  5. As I suspected, this was a difficult read, but there were so many excellent poems that it’s hard to imagine what’s to come next week. I am grateful to have been included.

    It turns out Richard and I went through the exact same incredibly scary event. So I could not have related more to

    a large teardrop
    smears the report…
    dead hearing nerve

    Richard L. Matta
    San Diego, California USA

    So glad we made it through, Richard!

  6. lost lollipop…
    a toddler screws up his face
    to cry
    Nancy Brady
    Huron, Ohio
    This senryu brings back memories of lost childhood treasures like a favorite doll or a simple balloon.

    1. Thanks, Valentina. I think we’ve all been through those feelings of (childhood) losses.

  7. The pain expressed in many of these for loved ones makes for a difficult read this week, as expected. Maybe more so considering current affairs, both environmental degradation and ongoing wars.
    Thank you Hifsa and Arvinder for including one of mine. I felt for the following two in particular:

    retracting glaciers—
    tiny pools of melting
    Katya Fox


    your first day
    of school
    the lump in my throat
    Margaret Mahony

    1. Ingrid,
      You are right about some of the painful feelings these poems cause.
      I particularly resonated with your haiku, but then I remember all too well experiencing that same feeling. Thanks for sharing a painful, tearful moment.

  8. Thank you for including me in these poignant reflections of sadness. I especially liked Kavita Ratna’s way of describing a tearful episode:-

    glittering eye pools
    blinked away
    river carved stone

    1. Dear Mark, deeply touched by your response! A lived experience, I assure you! Warmest regards!

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