Skip to content

Viral 6.2

Virals is a section in which one person choses a haiku by another person and comments on that haiku. Then the author of that haiku is invited to select a haiku by someone else and comment on that poem, and so on. For an introduction to this section, see Virals.

Viral 6.1 (Metz ➝ Robinson)

In Between by Chad Lee Robinson


                   all there is
                   between heaven and earth —
                   towering clouds

                                         — Michael McClintock

Haiku tend to be filled with the smaller things, the kinds of things people glance at and never think about again, even things that escape notice altogether. McClintock’s is a much larger scene, one that fills the windshield, one that extends beyond the peripherals of our vision.

I was born and raised in a valley of the Missouri River that opens into a wide expanse of prairie grassland and rolling hills, a small town boy surrounded by farms and ranches and open sky. How many times in my life have I seen this very scene? Generally speaking, prairie life is tough, especially if your livelihood is tied to the land. The land depends on you to take care of it as much as you depend on it to take care of you. It is a fragile existence.

McClintock’s haiku is much more universal than what I’ve suggested. You don’t have to be from the prairie or the San Joaquin Valley to appreciate this haiku. After all, the first part of the poem includes “all there is / between heaven and earth”. The clouds represent themselves and everything in between, the animals, the land, us, and they tell us that everything is fragile and is fleeting. Each blade of prairie bluestem, each cow, each cloud, all there is that is part of that long horizon that you look out on will one day be gone. A fragile existence, but a beautiful one. 

“all there is” first appeared in the haibun “What They Listen for at Arecibo” in Modern Haiku 32.1 (Winter-Spring 2001)

As featured poet, Michael McClintock will select the next poem & provide commentary for Viral 6.3.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. And maybe I was thinking of Hamlet:

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

  2. A lot of philosophy also in those towering clouds. Clouds of illusion, towers of dream. I’m not sure you can use the word heaven, a subjective word if ever there was one, without bringing this up. Even its etymology is up for grabs.

  3. i’m not sure why my response is before yours, merrill. it was meant to be a response to what you wrote.

  4. Hi, Scott, We must have posted at the same time…your post wasn’t up when I asked. I must have come across a different version…and I’m glad for yours as it gives it more strength and in much more character to Issa.
    I had wondered about that when I had come across the other vesion…it seemed so out of character for him. I’m glad to have that…and thanks for reminding me to check haikuguy David Lanoue’s web.

  5. Who was it, Issa, who said something like this: between heaven and hell there are flowers…? I’m not even sure I’m remembering it correctly but it made an impression on me years ago.

    This haiku in front of us says something very different. I love it. I love the way he used the word “clouds” to clothe the changing nature of existance in a thing.

    1. when it comes to Issa, and when in doubt, i always go to David Lanoue’s Issa Archive website:


      “. . . for Issa, the opposite of hell isn’t heaven; it’s being in this world on a day when the blossoms bloom. The poem is Issa’s one-breath Divine Comedy.”

      further down the “hell” search-page, concerning a different ku, Stanford M. Forrester comments: “Being a Pure Land Buddhist myself, I believe, but am not sure, that Heaven and Hell are both in the Pure Land. Each one of us creates our own heaven and hell. I think that was what Shinran generally said.”

      Michael’s first line creates an opening for each reader to imagine “all” that is before them, whatever reality it is, present or past, real or imagined. it can be as normal or fantastical as one wants or needs it to be. the size of the clouds emphasize this vastness and expansiveness. at the same time, the clouds create a scene that takes us, possibly, into an prehistoric era, or a post-human one. the word “heaven” ties it to humanity though, like a balloon at the end of a string.

Comments are closed.

Back To Top