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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Times of Transition – Getting older (2)

Times of Transition with Guest Editor Deborah Karl-Brandt

For the next few weeks let’s talk about Times of Transition. Arnold van Gennep and Viktor Turner explored these times of transition scientifically, because human existence is defined by them. So, together, let’s do the same – by reflecting on our lives. All of us experience periods in life when alteration takes place and we have to change too. Everything changes: the seasons, moods, the weather – there might even be times when the boundaries of right and wrong, of good and evil seem to change. We are caught in the middle of transition, becoming opaque like water in turmoil. Looking back, we hardly recognize our way up to the present; looking forward, our path seems to be foggy and uncertain. Sometimes we are challenged to let go of our former self to become someone new.

next week’s theme: The last frontier / Poems of dying and death

In Daoism, life and death, yin and yang, merge. Every living being has to die. We all know that we are exploring this last and ultimate transformation one day, whether we are ready or not. So better be prepared and think about what it means to be alive and what it means to die.

British author Terry Pratchett not only wrote about DEATH, he chose the following as his motto upon his elevation to the peerage: Do not fear the reaper. Japanese haiku masters wrote poems known as death haiku, which contained the wisdom of their lives and served as a final message. Several death haiku have been handed down from Basho. Do it like Terry Pratchett and Basho: let’s write about dying and death.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Daylight Time, Saturday September 30, 2023.

Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry. (The Submit button will not be available until the Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in.) With your poem, please include any special formatting requirements & your name & residence as you would like it to appear in the column. A few haiku will be selected for commentary each week. Please note that by submitting, you agree that your work may appear in the column – neither acknowledgment nor acceptance emails will be sent. All communication about the poems that are posted in the column will be added as blog comments.

Below is Deborah’s commentary for Getting older:

– – – – – – – – – –
An old age.

Ashok Pattala
Musheerabad, Hyderabad, India

I find this haiku, which is close to a concrete haiku, quite interesting. Connected and disconnected in equal measure by the second line, this line acts as a pivot. In this line I see a freshly created burial site.

An irreplaceable person is taken from home to a new place (one can ponder this pun alone for a long time), which turns out to be six feet below in the graveyard. The stale consolation is that the person was already very old, as the mourners reassure each other.
The harsh truth is nothing in this world can make us stay when our time has come to move on.

I wonder
if apples weep
as they rotten

Dan Campbell

The curiosity of a child trapped in an older body that will sooner or later fall into decay. The tragedy of knowing that this will happen. That nothing can stop this process. Do the apples know this? They certainly don’t! Wouldn’t it be a real relief to be as ignorant as the apples? An ancient Taoist goal was to improve one’s well-being, to extend one’s youth and lifespan through self-cultivation in order to attain immortality. A dream as old as mankind.

late summer light
my anti-wrinkle cream
a few cents more

Eva Limbach

At first glance, a few cents doesn’t seem too much and the cream is a superfluous luxury item. But is it really that simple? Old-age poverty is a widespread problem. In the beginning, you can’t afford your beauty cream, and in the end, you may not even be able to afford a regular meal, adequate medical care, warm clothes, or a home to return to. After a lifetime of work, having enough money to live a carefree life in old age should not be a matter of negotiation.

third marriage
the kintsugi gold
that makes us whole

Kathabela Wilson

How can you heal a broken heart? How many times can a heart be broken, and how often does it heal? Love is something that accompanies us throughout our lives. There is no fixed period. We can fall in love again and again. As sad as an ending is, there is also the possibility of a new beginning.

battle wounds–
the scars that map
his existence


This haiku is beautiful and painful in equal measure. Someone has been drawn into war and must now live with the consequences until the end of his days. His youth, his health, perhaps his sanity have been terribly affected. I have the feeling that something of that person has already died there, in that war.

And the burning question is: was it even worth the cost? Now that person is old and living with the all-consuming hurt (scars) gets harder and harder every day.

One of the saddest, most authentic poems I have ever read. It will definitely stay in my mind. And it should be a reminder of what a terrible business war is, and how many wars are shaking this earth these days. We should all work to keep the peace.

somewhere up there
the shepherd’s call

Mike Gallagher

One day we will have to leave. One day we will have to answer a call and move on. Growing older means knowing that the time we have here will probably be short. This poem asks the universal question of what will happen to us when we have died. Although our religions may be different, we all hope that we will be taken care of, that we will be freed from worldly pain, that we will remain in light and love, and that we can begin anew.

another birthday…
can i still be
a baby

Nairithi Konduru, 8 years old

My friend Sompronnuch from Thailand told me something that I often think about. Aging is a process, we get older every day. So what’s all this nonsense about birthdays, she asked me…? We age since we were born. Even a young child may wish to be younger. Maybe it’s becoming a big sister and wanting to be the baby of the family again, maybe school is harder than expected, maybe there are problems with other children. The desire to be cared for and to live an easier life and not have to deal with the consequences of growing older is a very natural desire.

crisscross applesauce
my hips telling me
I’m not dead yet

Peg Cherrin-Myers
Franklin, Michigan

Growing older for most of us means that our body turns into something immobile, into a structure that we have to coexist with. After growing as children and gaining new abilities every day, our world shrinks along with the abilities our bodies lose. But even though it hurts, the lyrical self welcomes the pain because it is proof that we are alive and our story is not yet over.

one more bald spot the ego comb over

Richard L Matta
San Diego, California, USA

I was told that the most beautiful part of my body was my hair. Since my hair has begun to turn grey, I’ve been struggling with it, with myself and with my vanity.

There are so many questions in this one-liner. What is beauty? How do we define ourselves? How do we overcome the pain that transformation brings? Is it possible to grow into acceptance? Do we learn to embrace the changes that come with growing older? I hope that one day I can look lovingly in the mirror and see the dignity of a life lived.


Join us next week for Deborah’s selection of poems on the theme of The last frontier / Poems of dying and death…


Guest Editor Deborah Karl-Brandt lives in Bonn, Germany, with her husband, two rabbits and numerous books. After her PhD studies in Scandinavian languages and literatures, she now works as a freelance author and poet. One of her poems won 2nd place in the 2021 Pula Film Festival Haiku Contest. Her poems have most recently appeared in Prune Juice, Kingfisher, First Frost, Frogpond, Failed Haiku and Tsuridoro. If she is not outside for a long stroll or to do some birdwatching, she is an avid reader who is currently exploring Chinese Xianxia Webnovels.

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 14 Comments

  1. I wondered about feedback policies can you or do you consider ne a work critiques to learn the way of haiku so exciting and new

  2. another birthday…
    can i still be
    a baby

    Nairithi Konduru, 8 years old

    This is not only sweet and charming, it speaks for all of us! We all wish to have that innocence. How did we ever grow up?? Aren’t we the same as we were? We all want to be hel in the arms of the world again, treasured and cared for… thank you for choosing and sharing this sweet poem and Nairithi, thank you for writing it!

  3. Dear Deborah, with each week our dialogue deepens. Our lives grow together here! The day I wrote this haiku it was our 22 anniversary! So the great gift of new beginning was strong in my heart. Our wedding was a concert we gave , and I sang a poem of mine, set for flute and voice by my 2nd husband who died of melanoma a year before… He had played flute with his friend , now my 3rd husband… (!) Who helped me through and is the healing gold … Thank you for your sensitivity…
    At our wedding I sang…

    time begin again
    when the poet
    out of time

    becomes the tree
    full of unseen birds
    and is beneath bedides

    pen poised
    so as to never
    end this line

    1. becomes the tree
      full of unseen birds
      and is beneath besides

      (the last word has a typo the first time I posted it… and it is important…
      It emphasizes transformation…)

  4. Dear Deborah,

    Your keen empathy has struck a chord with the Haiku Dialogue community. It is a pleasure to read the poems and your responses. It all takes us on a deeper journey into connectedness, as you eloquently express.
    Many thanks.

    another birthday…
    can i still be
    a baby

    Nairithi Konduru, 8 years old

    Nairithi takes a fresh approach to the classic idea of ‘remaining a child at heart.’ Nice!

  5. dessert
    travelling with thirst
    a miracle..
    That miracle happened to me and a pleasant surprise to me for selecting my haiku . Thank you.. Thank you for the same. I congratulate Deborah Karl-Brandt for insightful and analytical commentery.
    Your selection given me new strength and power to my pen. Thank you all the members of selection committee and all the writers

  6. Dear Deborah,

    I find your commentary quite moving and inspiring. I am so grateful for this lifetime journey you’ve taken us on. You’ve given me a lot to ponder with this last prompt. Thank you!

  7. Deborah thank you so much for your insightful commentary on my poem. It’s always comforting to be understood.

    1. That is what I live for. Learning to understand others and connecting with them. We need more connectedness.

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