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Rats and Camellias
Rain drips down on the garden beds,
And scurrying rats are dragging off
The fallen camellia heads.
I'm not sure if this one is really a haiku or not: strictly speaking it has far too many syllables (8-9-8 rather than 5-7-5), but if it's genuinely Japanese that may just reflect a difficulty in translation. [In the graphic version this is accompanied by an Oriental-style ink drawing by Katherine Sturges, showing a scene of flowers and rain, with two grey rats snatching up fallen blossoms and a rabbit scampering to get out of the wet: it is not clear whether Katherine Sturges is also the author of the poem. It comes from a book called Little Pictures of Japan (My Travelship series), published by Book House for Children.]
Rat haiku, known as ratku, are a big thing with some rat-lovers. The biggest collection is probably the one headed "Subtle art about our favorite creatues". To my taste many of these are neither subtle nor very artistic, merely sloppily sentimental, but there are also some genuine gems. I am very taken with the work of a writer identified only as Jane from New York, and especially liked the following two:
We never realized
The toilet paper was all
Rolled up. Now we know.
If this is a bath,
I'll scream! Louder! WAIT - I CAN
GO EVEN LOUDER!
Both are perfect haiku in form, with lines of five, seven and five syllables, and the first one in particular is to my mind very haiku-ish in "feel", in the way that it conjures up an entire scene and mood with a few well-chosen words "adding up to an image that implies far more than it says" (Frances Stillman, The Poet's Manual and Rhyming Dictionary).
More poems by the mysterious Jane, and others, can be seen on a page of Ratku Contest Winners.
The following are authentic Japanese rat-related haiku by the 18th C Japanese poet and painter Taniguchi (Yosa) Buson. [A koto is "A Japanese instrument similar to a zither, having 7 to 13 silk strings stretched over an oblong box."]
Walking on dishes
the rat's feet make the music
of shivering cold
Light winter rain
like scampering rat's feet
over my koto.
I also like the following poem by Washington poet DJ Renegade, which I came across on the net. It's not quite a haiku in form but has the same delicate and visual touch as real Japanese haiku.
Beside the dumpster
a rat drinking rain
from an eggshell.