Masters of Sabi

crumpled doe
traffic victim
vultures kettle

JL Huffman


burn barrel
ringed with louche men
shooting drugs, guns

JL Huffman

  JL Huffman, a retired Trauma Surgeon/ICU doctor, has published four books of poetry-Almanac: The Four Seasons (2020), Family Treasons (2021), Voyage: Vista and Verse (2022), and KAR-KU (2023. She is a 2023 Touchstone Award for Individual Poems Nominee (x3), and was also a 2021 Pushcart Prize (Poetry) Nominee. Her poems have appeared in print and online journals at home in the US and abroad.


While surely not unique to North America, the ubiquitous roadkill sightings across long stretches of back road or freeway do have a distinctly Americana flair, and have become a popular subgenre of haiku and senryu in and of themselves, no doubt pursuant at least in part to the oozing sabi permeating, so central to each grim vignette.  Huffman has previously treated this phenomenon memorably in her recent collection Kar-Ku, and here does not disappoint in the slightest.  Her stellar choice of verb ‘kettle’, perhaps alien to the average laymen, has become common knowledge in the world of civil disobedience, where it generally connotes ‘when the police contain protesters in one place for an extended period by surrounding them and not allowing them to leave.’ This deft touch in effect personifies the carrion birds, individually and as a unit, lending further significance, imbuing larger meanings and import on this suggested spectacle and episode.  The fiery barrel in the second piece, whether operated for warmth or the disposal of evidence – perhaps even remains! – is also an especially appropriate prop for this showcase, and indeed the very act of incineration, the limited expectancy of a bonfire, a candle, a match makes for highly sabi article of scenery or set dressing, furthermore amplifying its quintessential autumnal ambiance.  Having an intense and at times harrowing vocation which brought her into direct and immediate close contact with some of life’s messiest displays and most radical characters, this poet has hard earned and come to acquire a commendable gift for depicting our polity’s rougher edges and complex situations with remarkable authenticity and compassion.

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