My complete stories & my book ORPHANS

Godzilla's Haiku
by Steve Schlich
A reading in these formats: .mov / .wav / m4a

I. Rise

Slumbering in my sea-bed
I wish for no more than peace

Insistent calls disturb me
I know who it is
Time for another epic

Their prying feeds my anger
They won't let me rest
And my patience deserts me

Roiling underwater plume
Speeds my new ascent
Angrily I part the waves

Their cameras and weapons
Mechanized eyestalks
Reek of fear and machismo

Ineffectual bomb-fires
Explode around me
Impotent puny creatures!

Great cries sound as I reach land
Ants beneath my feet
Seek escape they cannot find

II. Ravage

Tokyo lies before me
Chaos in my wake
Mere rubble cannot sate me

Power lines like sparking strings
Buildings like cardboard
Missiles like annoying gnats

Flames shoot from my gaping maw
Steel melts at my roar
The Works of Man become ash

I'm the villain of this piece
No child's cry this time:
“Thanks, Godzilla. Thanks a lot!”

I don't understand the fuss
They run from me. Why?
They called on me to appear


III. Retreat

How will they foil me this time?
Gamera? Mothra?
Technological advance?

They will not succeed at first
Nor I in the end
For fate has cast our roles well

A yearly invocation
My rise and retreat
Our victor and vanquished game

My mind's eye senses movement
Sneaking to the shore
They plot my watery end

Their trap for me is ready
I am drawn to it
An actor whose lines are set

A rough tumble from the cliff
Temporary end
For I know they'll ask me back

And when they call out again
I'll rise to the occasion


copyright (c) 1994 by Steve Schlich

ABOUT THE STORY introduction from the 1994 book ORPHANS

I wrote “Godzilla's Haiku” in 1987 for my bad movie loving wife, Kit. And it actually got published in a magazine for writers called The Report. They even put my name on the cover, only the second time that's ever happened. But by rights, it should never have happened. I hadn't written Haiku for years. I futzed on the form and worse, mis-remembered the pattern.

The funny thing is, neither the editor nor the readers noticed.

Haiku is carefully constructed Japanese poetry. Here's an example that explains the form and demonstrates the pattern:

First line states the theme
The second elaborates
Third line sums the two

Each line functions as the example above describes. That's the form. The first and third line contain five syllables, and the second line seven. That's the pattern.

I decided on an epic haiku, with many verses. But I remembered the pattern incorrectly as 7–5–7, not 5–7–5. I didn't notice the error until after I'd given the poem to Kit and after it had been published in The Report. Not that I would have changed anything; the thing was devilishly difficult to write!

Thinking how clever I was, I also imposed my incorrect pattern on the verses as a whole. Parts One and Three have seven verses each and Part Two has five.

So the screw-up was nearly total. There's nothing like seeing your work in print to make you wish you'd gone over it one more time.

Once I realized my error, I voluntarily declared “Godzilla's Haiku” an orphan and gave up any hope of ever seeing published again...until now.