Pilgrim Foxes

“Pilgrim Foxes: Haiku & Haiku Prose” (co-authored with James Norton and Sean O’Connor). Pilgrim Press, Aberystwyth. 2001. ISBN 0-9539901-0-9. Ken Jones’s contribution comprises six haibun and 53 freestanding haiku. Two of the haibun and seventeen of the haiku are reproduced below.

The Samurai Paper Knife

Rooted out in autumn

livid again in spring

the weed in the chimney stack

In the mail it is the elegant grey envelope that stands out. Expensive textured paper. I feel the weight of it and hold it up to the desk lamp. First class English stamp, still with a fresh faced queen. Home Counties post mark. Suddenly it all floods back. That bold extravagant scrawl. I place the envelope in the middle of the blotter, get up, and fix a drink; throw another log on the fire. The samurai paper knife is drawn fro its little wooden scabbard.

A hint of scent

this one

delicately slit

Two sheets of the same grey paper. That writing ! The long ascenders still sweep up through two lines. And those grand flourishes !

The swivel chair squeaks awkwardly. The Age of Art Nouveau, still in its slipcase. Plate 509 was a favourite of hers. “We can well imagine this dark green velvet gown in the setting of a Van de Velde drawing room”, says the caption. We can, my dear, we can. La Belle Époque. Lying on the facing page is the only remaining photo. So full of ourselves then; now only a shiny card. Yes, I remember that couple.

I place the photo inside the unread letter and look about my well lived study.

Field glasses case

in battered leather

its lid hangs open

I get up from my desk and go over to the fire. Suddenly the room feels chill… The smiles, the flourishes – now curling and crinkling in the flames. And then it’s all over.

Out of the darkness

wind chimes

made of bones

Flintstone Millennium

Unmistakably Saxon, that little window in the tower. Circa AD1000, when they were bewailing the end of the world. A less enduring millennial souvenir was the flayed skin of a Dane, originally nailed to the south door. A thousand years later it has been replaced by a notice in ink, transfixed with drawing pins:- “ For your charity please latch SHUT THE CHURCH DOOR lest any bird fly in and die of thirst and hunger.”

The great key turns effortlessly, the door swings open without a sound.

Among the hammer beams

a sudden rustling

of dusty angel wings

There they hover forever, though pock-marked with the buckshot of “ a thorough godly reformation”.

Before me stands our departing millennium, a grand cage of stone and glass, faintly scented with beeswax and linseed oil.

Gothic light

creeps across memorial slabs

dissolving another day

Leather on limestone, my boots echo down the nave. In this Church of England there are ladies and gentlemen in abundance, but no saints to be seen.

Alabaster crusader

etched on his breast plate

Victorian graffiti

Earlier in the millennium the village forefathers sharpened their scythes on this whetstone of the Norman Yoke.

Above, among the brightly painted hatchments of noble lords, the Royal Arms are displayed. For three hundred years this gaudy Lion and Unicorn have been fighting for the Crown. Not all is pomp and circumstance, however. Here is a simple plaque to the squire’s eldest son:- “Killed at Festubert at the head of his platoon, 18th May 1915. Aged 23 years.”

The pulpit is a fine three-decker. I mount the creaking joinery to its top deck, beneath its Jacobean sounding board.

High in the pulpit

a hush of expectation

rows of silent pews

Overawed, I content myself with a single expansive gesture. Close to my head, above last Sunday’s hymn numbers, a stone imp sticks out his tongue at me. Below is the squire’s box pew. It has a little cast iron stove with an embossed tortoise: “Slow but Sure”.

On the second deck – the Reader’s –a well worn book of Common Prayer lies open at its foxed title page. The black gothic is impressed deeply in the paper. Turning the pages I shed a tear for the ancient certainties, grave and constant in their King James English.

Back at the south door a narrow stair winds upwards in the thickness of the wall, past the Saxon window. A stiff new guide rope has been passed through iron rings. In the chapel above the porch the mood of nave and chancel is here compressed into smaller compass.

Whitewashed walls

iron-hard oak

this hassock full of husks

High church incense hangs in the damp air. Apart from the bench at the back there are no seats, only three long prie-dieu, for resting scripture and elbows, with hassocks for the knees. Through the small window are the churchyard yews, and the rookery beside the Hall. Light falls on a cross, cut from a hazel wand and tied with bailer twine. It is flanked by a pewter candlestick and faded cottage flowers in a bottleglass vase. On the wall

Rude painted Christ

arms stiff splayed

his hanging weight

Kneeling on woven flowers and birds I recall the peculiar down-to-earth sweetness of English mysticism – Walter Hinton of Nottinghamshire, Richard Rolle the Yorkshireman, Mother Julian of Norwich, and the Cloud of Unknowing, all those saints of the apple orchard.

The light begins to fade and a winter chill creeps in. Through the walls the ponderous tick of the church clock frames a deepening silence. And then

Creaking and whirring

gathering its metallic strength

its chime shakes the world

Haiku – The Same Keen Wind

For company

an empty chair



on my empty diary

Dancing clothes lines

from Cape Wrath to Finisterre

a deep depression

Bad day

ducks shelter

beneath the hearse

Scene of the massacre

the same keen wind

Starched sheets folded back

Soft lamplight

starched sheets

folded back

Grey light

of another day

blue flame

of the paraffin lamp

In bulldog clips

a lifetime

of bank statements

Winter evening

nothing to add

to a day

that had nothing to say

In the pine-lined room

twin beds

tongue and groove


10 sacks of coal

24 days

at home in my skull

All my larder

“best before”



on well worn silence

the sweet dreams

Again far off

that silver tarn

I’ll never visit


made blank

by time

Out in the cold sunshine

planting early potatoes

uncertain who I am

Shifting patterns

of grazing sheep

trace out the winter day