Sep 16 2010 12:03pm

The Time I Fought Matsuo Basho

Somehow on
my book of zombie haiku
was categorized into the genre
of Japanese poetry,
which caused the great Asian poets,
the creators and perfectors of the little haiku,
to simultaneously roll over in their graves.

I understand Amazon’s confusion.
The type of book narrated by a zombie poet,
does not have its own Dewey decimal number.
Friends and family all politely ask
who is the target market,
meaning they can not comprehend
which type of person
would actually spend money on a book of zombie haiku.
And all the dead haiku poets agree.

There is one in particular,
who does not intend to lay in his tomb,
now facing down because of my book.
There is one dead Asian haiku master
who has had enough,
and the skeleton of Matsuo Basho,
through lungs that don’t exist,
takes his first breath in over 300 years,
slams his finger bones through the dirt,
and pulls his decayed corpse
out into the Iga Province countryside.
Lightning lights the sky behind him
as he holds a samurai sword to the sky
and flies off that wet Asian hill
into the stormy night
and the skeletal remains of Matsuo Basho
lands in my backyard in Ohio.

This is all a dream, of course,
inspired by the Japanese poetry category
where Zombie Haiku is ranked higher
than Master Basho on
This sales ranking is updated hourly,
and for the past few months,
our books have been in battle,
sometimes with his above mine,
but usually mine is above his,
and this constant book rank wrestling
has caused Matsuo Basho to rise up,
and because all is possible in dreams,
he is standing in my backyard,
moaning my name through the wind.

I knew this was coming eventually.
Basho has put up with a lot.
Many humor section haiku books
have taunted his eternal rest in the past.
Baby Haiku’s lullabies almost woke him.
Redneck Haiku was loud and disruptive.
The purring Catku almost stirred him awake.
But it was Zombie Haiku that finally did it,
giving him a way to rise again,
for him to finally put a stop
to the poetry desecrating his legacy.
I always knew
I would never get away with it.

I step outside,
wearing my Karate Kid uniform,
poetry journal in hand,
and we bow.
It begins to rain
and a dog is barking.
I stare through his eyeless holes
and although he has no lips
I since a hint of a grin.
He nods as I lift journal
and with one finger counting syllables,
I recite to Matsuo Basho this haiku:

In the April rain
her book of Zombie Haiku
withered by the oak.

I follow this
with an awkward jig and jazz hands.
Basho nods again,
and then lifts his head
up into the rain,
then after loudly cracking
his dusty neck joints,
he stares at me without eyes
and responds:

old pond
a frog jumps
the sound of water

As I fall to my knees,
he thrusts his sword
through my back
which pokes out my chest
and pins me to the dirt.
I try to apologize
but leaving my lips,
only gurgles and blood.
He pulls out the sword,
kicks me over,
and as I die,
I watch him saw off my fingers,
never to count out syllables again,
and he speaks again a final farewell:

falling sick on a journey
your dream goes wandering
over a field of grass

To this, I smile and take my last breath.

His job finished,
he turns to go back
to his old home,
his finally peaceful hollow grave,
but to his surprise,
and he should have seen this coming,
I get back up
and bite into his skull.

Ryan Mecum likes monsters and poetry. Werewolf Haiku is the third book of Ryan’s Horror Haiku series. He also wrote Zombie Haiku and Vampire Haiku, with a new book of zombie haiku on the way. Ryan graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in English Literature. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and children. He also likes to write a few haiku a day and shares them on Twitter.

This article is part of Zombie Week: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Catherine Ford
1. KitFord

I have a soft spot for Matsuo Basho. I went on the JET programme and lived in the Tohoku area of Japan for 3 years. I lived a short distance from Kisakata, Basho's most Northern stop-off point in 'Oku no hosomichi' (The Narrow Road to Oku). I've walked sections of the path he walked. My house was located on land that used to be the bed of the lagoon that Basho went to Kisakata to see. I've even climbed Haguro-san. Have you read the version of 'The Narrow Road to Oku' illustrated by Miyata Masayuki? The path up Haguro-san looks just like his illustration.

Thanks for reminding me of those awesome times.
how sports
2. how sports
Precious how sports Welcomed Let's Shop Fairest how sports for Our Dear Mommy
how sports
3. Sei Shonagon's Sister
"There is one in particular,who does not intend to lay in his tomb"? Lay what, an egg? A writer who doesn't know the difference between "lay" and "lie" really shouldn't be invoking the name of Basho. It makes you look both ignorant *and* pretentious.
how sports
4. Jason Christie
I will have to look up your haiku! I wrote a book of robot poetry called i Robot that was published in 2005 by EDGE/Tesseract press. Soft spot over here for spec fic, fantasy, etc. poems.

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