A Sea Gypsy Haiku Sampler


by Ray Jason…….

It was a most unusual voyage. I was sailing South in search of a world free of screens. Still reeling from a month in El Norte, witnessing the tyranny of technology, I needed serenity. I sought a peaceful lagoon, where people were not submissives – dominated by their TV screens, computer screens and Smart phone screens.

When the anchor was down in one of my favorite hideaway coves, it felt like a great emancipation – a return to solitude and stillness. Within a few hours I was absorbing the tranquility of the tiny bay. I knew that I was truly being cured of the frenzy when the haiku began to flow.


This ancient form of Japanese poetry has appealed to me since my early days in college, when I was introduced to the great master of the form – Basho. Basically, the poems are tiny snapshots of Nature. But in their most exalted moments they speak to the sublime interface of the Human with the Natural. They amplify the often uncelebrated aspects of the world around us that are elemental, commonplace and eternal. And they do so with austere elegance.

The most standard form is three lines with the first and last comprised of five syllables and the middle line having seven syllables. They should be immediate impressions of a real-time encounter with Nature. They should not be abstract and intellectual. They also require simplicity rather than ornamentation. An old adage that expresses this perfectly is: “If the finger that is pointing towards the moon is bejeweled, that to which it is pointing will not be noticed.”


When I was in Vietnam on a U.S. Navy ammunition ship, my spirit was deeply wounded. One of the great comforts that helped me make it through that chapter of my life was the solace that I received from haiku. I had with me four slender volumes of the work of the great American haiku poet – J.W. Hackett. These poetic gems were a vital bridge over troubled waters for me. I wrote an entire essay on that topic which you can find with this link.

I still love composing haiku, and when out in the islands I spend most twilight hours observing the waters and wilds around me. Seated with my back against the mast, I am poised with my clipboard on my lap, hoping for a spontaneous revelation.

During my Voyage Away from Screens, the haiku gods blessed me repeatedly. I thought I would share some of these with you. It seems like a particularly good time to do so since the essays have been fairly heavy of late. May my little haiku poems bring you some comfort and insights.

The wood-fire smoke –
as ancient and primal as
this jungle lagoon.

Beneath a half moon
children are fishing – but they
only catch laughter

Sleeping on my deck –
on a night full of moonlight
and honeysuckle.

Thousand year jungle
next to a chain-sawed hillside –
sad Humanity.

Coconut water,
and a fish from my spear gun –
a sea gypsy feast!

Even far from shore
a skunk’s defense overwhelms
my sailboat’s cabin!

A brilliant full moon
and the night dew on the deck –
my shadow glistens.

True simplicity –
a sailing boat, my freedom,
and the Wide Waters.

Indio children
laughing on the twilight shore –
gift me Happiness.

A cup of sake
to toast the full moon rising
from this tropic sea.

A Christmas full moon –
it’s the perfect gift for this
happy sea gypsy!

P.S. If there is anyone out there who has contact information for J.W. Hackett please let me know so that I can tell him how much I admire his artistry.

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Ray Jason
Read more of Ray Jason’s work on his blog.

“I live aboard my beautiful sailboat, AVENTURA, and wander the wide waters as an itinerant philosopher. My life is simple, free and joyous.”

Ray currently lives on his sailboat in Panama. Previously he was a Key West cab driver.

3 thoughts on “A Sea Gypsy Haiku Sampler

  1. Ray, Thanks again for your work. Just to show you how “civilized sick” I still am, I ask you to revert to the beginning of the second paragraph of this piece, where you mention dropping anchor. When I saw the word “anchor” the first thought that came into my mind was that of a news “anchor” on television. How’s that for SICK? Ray, in the next issue my piece on “Omnipotent Acoustical Ugliness” will appear. I’d say it is right in your groove. Thanks, Jerome (Post Consumer Man)

  2. Jerome,

    Tal vez tu necesitas mas tiempo en Espana! Perhaps you need to spend more time in Spain!

    Anchor Man would have never occurred to me. However, Anchor Liar might.

    Gracias para tu apreciacion,


  3. Ray, Quizas mi ego inmaduro esta nublando mis pensamientos, pero mi “castellano” es impecable. Ninguna traduccion necesaria. Y Raimundo, Espana se ha caido al mundo moderno. La paz que tienes ahora ya no existe en Espana. Quedate donde estas! un abrazo, jerry

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