For days, drawn draperies of fire, pinned close
by dry pines, needled us with smells of smoke
so thick it stung our eyes and burned our nose
and made us run to see if flames arose

from lightning flashes on the street-lined oak.
Undoused by rain, unsoaked by garden hose,
a heavy daze hung on us like a cloak
of burlap, and even birdsong could not choke

the silence down. Nothing stirred, but those
ashen flakes forever falling, like gray snows
adrift in Florida, where everyone’s kinfolk
hopes to lounge, poolside, in cool repose.

Drenched in fire, we wondered what evoked
this verdict heaven loves not, only knows.

First published in A Gathering of Poems.





Lightning pries the sky
open like an oyster shell.
Hard rain falls like pearls.


Hot. Heavy. Dark clouds
dangle their electric cords.
Plug in. Shock the earth.


Black vultures at rest—
surprisingly beautiful
on the dead branches


Originally published in Haiku Happening.



An almost native Floridian from Tennessee, Mary Harwell Sayler writes in all genres for Christian, educational, and indie publishers. Her many books include everything from books for children to inspirational romance novels to devotional books and life-health encyclopedias. After placing hundreds of poems in journals, anthologies, e-zines, and indie-produced poetry books, she collected many of her previously published poems and some new ones into her books A Gathering of Poems (2020) and Haiku Happening (2023.) 

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12 Responses

  1. Monika Cooper

    Hard rain like pearls, mmm. Also love the “surprisingly beautiful” vultures.

    If past years are any indication, there should be a haiku competition happening around here soon.

  2. Paul Freeman

    I really liked ‘Incensed’. The two half lines and the one in between ‘…those
    ashen flakes forever falling, like gray snows adrift in Florida…’ are fantastic imagery from what must have been a scary time. The fear is also well conveyed.

    Of the haikus, the first, with the oyster imagery, really appealed to my liking of a well-developed metaphor.

    Thanks for the reads, Mary.

  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Margaret Coats has judged a haiku contest in July for the past two years. You obviously have a lot to contribute if such a contest is on the docket soon.

  4. Paddy Raghunathan

    I agree with, and second all the comments above, Mary.



  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    The complex rhyme scheme in “Incensed” is expertly handled. I know the kind of intricate labor that this takes, and the result here is as smooth and natural as a caress. “Ars est celare artem,” at its best.

  6. Margaret Coats

    Mary, your haiku are splendid. The one with vultures has the feel of classic Japanese examples. The one just before it makes good use of modern images unknown to the Japanese masters. And the first one has the much-valued interplay of two items (sky and shell), displaying its unique beauty in the final word.

    The rhyme in “Incensed” is not only expertly handled, as Joseph Salemi says, but because it employs only two rhyme sounds, it takes up the challenge of following medieval French practice, in which all of the shorter fair forms use only two sounds. I love your touch of speaker confusion in “street-lined oak.” You didn’t do this just to turn around “oak-lined street” and satisfy the rhyme scheme. It contributes to expression of the distraught thought in the minds of those experiencing the fire.

  7. Sally Cook

    Mary, your poetry is most skillful; everything that Margaret said and more’ most especially the inversion of the street-lined oak.

    I am not usually a fan of haiku; finding most skating on the surface. Yours have awakened my interest. Thank you for your poems..

  8. Cynthia Erlandson

    “Incensed” really caught my attention, especially by the descriptive genius in the opening lines: comparing the fire to draperies pinned against the sky — and by pine needles! Later on, the comparison of the heavy haze to a burlap cloak is also really well done. Lovely, in spite of the frightening subject matter.

  9. Mary Sayler

    What wonderfully encouraging comments! Thank you all for taking time to respond and offering such positive feedback. I hope we’ll meet again soon. God bless.

  10. Priscilla King

    Once I watched some big birds soaring and circling overhead. What beautiful dark brown wings they had! Eagles? Ospreys? Red-tailed hawks? Then they drifted lower, and I saw their heads and realized they were turkey vultures. Yes, vultures are surprisingly beautiful in flight–a perfect phrase.

  11. Tom Woodliff

    I like the first haiku the best. Who would have thought of using oyster shells in this context? Very nice


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