Benjamin Suzuki: Disappointed hummingbird: quasi-haiku and other short form poems, compiled by Kendal Q. Binmore

Disappointed Hummingbird: quasi-haiku and other short form poems of Benjamin Suzuki


compiled by Kendal Q. Binmore





Your world in my hands: boarderless poems

Kendal Q. Binmore



I hold your world

in my hands

this the only individual

Benjamin Suzuki



           To see the absurdity of poetry read very little of it. You will then see the obvious: a few or more words going nowhere, foolishly stretching for significance while there are bills to pay. Bills are here, they make, construct a place; they make us by demarcating our value to others. Suzuki’s words herein reside nowhere–yet they ground a man who changed the legal process by which we live, a man who changed our bills, where they come from, how they are paid, but, alas, not their coin, that coin as ancient as life. He accepted our trap of words with an honesty most of us demur; accepted them to find escape of, through them.


           He must have read till synapse overload, word piling on itself until meaning became directionless. Then comes the incantation of word, where syntax becomes a jumping across vast distance, meaning the jump itself. A single word is multiple departure, directions winnowed by words surround. Underdetermined because overdetermined, paradox which magicks understanding, gone the clarity of walk which yields our paychecks.


           The law contours that walk yet arises from ambiguity. Hence our contention over who shall sit the High Court: not just augur who shall speak the myth, but who shall be placed in potential of myth to come. Justice resides in law before legislation; we may despise to adore our Justices, but cannot do without them.


           Suzuki placed the resolution of indeterminancy, the trimming of that overdetermination otherwise underdetermination, among us. Pluralism is not a landscape of caves–although he let us think so in the voucher cases–but a continuous ground where ownership is ephemeral. Which is how Justice is. A parasite, letting us use it so it will be long after our passing.


           The limit of our world, Wittgenstein tells us, is the limit of our language. Almost right. It must be so, just almost right, if I am to speak. For there is no “our”:



From the journal of Benjamin Suzuki:


God turns another face; or we move in direction unforseen to encounter a beyond astonished. That which crushed our hopes, which made us be, now releases us to choreograph our being absent rehearsal. We are the beyond, for there is no us; acts migrate to an elsewhere to craft a returning reply–we conceit of people complete, whole, nowhere clearly present.


We are the beyond, for there is no us. Language is no Quinean raft adrift in time, but multiple rafts, jump as you can, a topology of incomplete connection, that incompleteness beyond the understanding of any mind, mind of the moment, embedded in something it calls language.


           Suzuki’s realism lies in the fact that connections beyond his (any) language exist. A fact which is denial of Humean scepticism: crossings have been found (have they?), will be found, found not in me, but the stories which come to me. A fact which is a faith that miracles arise since new voices come, I hear tell, through stories.


           Reason tends to quash voice into singular outcome. Suzuki avoids this by reasoning amidst voices to come. Travel within an unclear topology is jurisprudence. Its role is to pivot decision in ways unforseen by the creators of content, to hop languages through minds unknown, avoiding the tyranny of this moment.


           So Suzuki’s hopping poetry, perhaps to likely not exceptional, but the ground which let him stand. He stood where voices claim the same word in disparate necessities, where life claims itself unique by forgetting all other life.



roars among us

happily deaf


Past the boundary of that forgetting lies failure unseen, even unheard: Suzuki stands there, for there likely is a language jump. Not one for his taking, but still a connection found–for others perchance to take.


from afar

human stands

foreign life


He stood in others’ failure, believing it likely more, awaiting our triumphs to stale. Then, when remembering seems the only way out, he offers return to that failure. Back to juncture, paths lost for success’ sake. Justice stands apart from success and failure, knowing both pass on. What remains is content, sprouting of both.


words diversify

water swelling from the ground


Jurisprudence is no never ending game of victory, but place from which games become; and die:


in severed rock

buddhas sit, awaiting notice

no death, no life


           This landscape grounding paths can be sensed through ambiguity or purposeful incompleteness. Give me enough ambiguity to make a world, Suzuki says to Associate Justice Takahashi Yoshimitsu of the Hawaiian Supreme Court. Or let a world die. Exactly where, how death and life elide is creation’s tool. Suzuki avoids punctuation to make the tool evident:



by my questions

I create a world


can read



by my questions

I create a world





by my questions:

I create a world


the former a sprout from failure, the latter beyond failure and victory. Ambiguity is his protection from others’ certainty, a certainty measured by the enforced silence of yet more others.


he lives


in the laughter

of others


Caved in, battered into the non-existence of silence; yet laughters batter each other, creating a nullity where one can be, the contours of that space all malign, but malign differently, that the weakness of derision, that it would own all places at once, so cancels itself, at times, through mutual contempt.


           To see the absurdity of poetry read very little of it. Absurdity self-inoculation against readers. What reader will bear this assault against his presence? Perhaps those who reside in failure, failure their absurdity endured.


distant leaf

ravaged by fungus

a face appears


Suzuki was no failure. Yet his originalism induces a failure into his, or anyone’s jurisprudence.


From the journal of Benjamin Suzuki:


Jurisprudence is a mosaic of lies. The lie not in the piece, but in the cut, in the seamless fusion of piece to piece. A necessity: histories grow of themselves, uncaring of their fit with their fellows.


Cut to seamless fusion? No. Grow until mutual encounter makes a seamless fusion. We do not cut, make our jurisprudence. We remake pieces; we chip pieces already placed. The remaining pieces shift in the tumult–and grow to fill the spaces consequent. That is where truth lies, in the growth. Where growth stops, lies begin.


Let us chip away to sustain the ever incomplete. The truth will come, unbidden, only to squeeze out other truths. That’s when we chip somewhere else on the mosaic beyond reason.


Let us chip away to sustain the ever incomplete: his failure lay in his inability to accept success. Catapulted to Chief Justice through a State appellate decision overridden by Oregon’s highest court, he became the voice of failure. Promoted by failure, he seeded it everywhere.


           Failure: severance of social relations, absurdity made. Flaying in the wind, tethered by the force of others’ success, whipped in the tumult of others’ needs, so short of oblivion. To be is to be incomplete:


From the journal of Benjamin Suzuki:


Flayed tassels of being, whipping unanchored, we the node remaining–this is death, not in an elsewhere of respite but maker of days. Paradise is no End of Days but delay of Day, of severance, Paradise returning when creation anew comes to tether us again so we may be more than ourselves. We are a sequence of tetherings, individual that which is unanchored in someone’s death, moaning faith that we may unbe, offering ourselves as strand in web of words where common being is harmony where there is no responsibility. So the Word writes of death to tether elsewheres, to make strands anchor in ever present paradise.


I is abomination, whipping strand unraveling others, as close to God as we can be, false singleton, substance of strand in the lost tie, existence declaring its power through its loss. Our I’s are wrath of God made to be, made of His Word sundered, His self-cage broken, no promises to bind, to make him vanish into spoken breath, distributed widely, secretly, power hidden from Itself, this our function as men. We are God enduring Itself, ever failing, ever trying, cry of making and loss.


When complete, we vanish:


From the journal of Benjamin Suzuki:


A Pakistani peasant, gang raped by order of a village council to punish the reputation of her 12 year old brother ([falsely] accused of “seducing” an older woman), later sues the council, winning in Pakistan’s High Court. Investing her settlement in a program to help girls, she returns to the village. A police officer, resident at the time of her rape, now asks her to become his second wife. She demurs. 18 months later, he threatens to divorce his first wife if she refuses, which would trigger retaliatory divorces across marriage alliances. She capitulates, becoming his second wife. March, 2009.


Pity respects no boundary, bleeds over all barriers, dissolves into anonymity, bears lives who cannot know why they are. Why is lost in necessity of breath, triumph each moment, medium of moment unimportant because it is there. Those dissolving in our lives are valued only in their anonymity; else their sacrifice threatens us to similar end.


Praise she who risks slaughter to stand her ground; but not those becoming the ground of others. Yet sacrifice is common to both, she raped out of her world, refusing to go, declaring her existence against cultural creed of her birth, facing the humiliation which keeps others’ lives afloat. Life against life makes a choice, a person, of a moment. Her individualism before the Court was the making of a girls’ school, a place where humiliation could not go, her humiliation public ground for its forgetting in the lives of others.


But when she forbears the humiliation of others’ divorce by becoming second wife, we disdain her submission to culture. She never left it. We forced her walk for our own ends, her individualism useful as our step forward. We made her dissolve among us, our ground for advance; as now she dissolves among the young women to which she returns.


           Rights, bastion of justice, are born of severance, of incompleteness, of individuals. I hold your world in my hands: perhaps a severance in itself, tearing you out to discern a you, making me as well, apart in your apart, individual a fantasy partnership among two entities that have never been, isolate seer and seen, this the only individual. Justice is born of incompleteness, knows only incompleteness, incompleteness never owned, traveling beyond every victory made. Which is why, how, the world will bear it, Justice ever fleeing its own victory, so it can later return.


           Not so for collective rights. These are hermetic, closing upon themselves, horizon the same face which looks out. These know endurance as their only measure, Justice a talking memory of a people made, a justification of present act to an equally present articulating memory which desires only closure.


           Completeness is no poetry, poetry no canon. Poetry inoculates against readers to preserve itself in incompleteness, an invitation to make one’s own canon, an absurdity, truth whole for only one, dissolving for another one to come. To read poetry in canon extant is to sunder that canon. Which is why Suzuki wrote these short form poems, Justice not preserved, but invited to come again.


we stand

on ground

every fleeing itself

Benjamin Suzuki


purple field

flowers ephemeral

Suzuki land

Kendal Q. Binmore


(purple…flowers: see Gerrard Ponti, (ed.), Remembering the Suzuki Court, entries 1,2, by Brian Page)



Disappointed Hummingbird




hovers by my pen

wondering where the nectar is



above confluent hatreds

birds call identically



bird calls

warning us

to beauty



climbing this decaying wave


space unlived



on the path

downcast eyes


in mutual, unfettered




with each hello

I encounter

incalculable demons

this the sutra of humanity



worlds scurry about me

glancing off my actions

as they vanish

to their elsewhere



mountain rises over homes

in aloof, silent




sexual beauty


interpretations on smiles



with each word

I am defined




audience stomps its feet

my words fraying in their gauntlet

some emerge, regroup

hoping for sense


better to speak in loneliness

watching the flock ascend



from afar

human stands

foreign life



predator stands aside

marveling at the beauty

of fighting prey



foreign life runs in stealth

once, once it stops to let me see


for that instant

I am no longer a man




hummingbird’s head

proclaims existence

affronting others



orange-white outcropping of quartz

residue from some other history




hawk hovers over turbulence

swift descent captures a warrior

purpose dripping off skin,

suffocating in the void




immobile eyes

birthed of severed limbs



animal bounds ahead in fear

showing me the way



words diversify

water swelling from the ground




frozen turmoil

upon which life abides



decaying peak

reaching towards destruction

offers shade




release me

from your creator




sheds perfection

declaring its existence





sensing loneliness





mock human cries

knowing what we know



twilight recedes

mountain closing upon me


path elongates treacherously

infinity comes, never eternity



water flows down

jagged ravine

smooth, unharmed:

history supporting the flowing present



green-gold jumps among

rocks at dusk

dry stream



we stand

on ground

ever fleeing itself



in these words

rests the world

of a moment



I raise this chawan

to the sun

grateful for a mind

not my own




the world depicts itself




these birds

eyes of the world

upon us



distant leaf

ravaged with fungus

a face appears



trapped in the world

only breath of words





dancing on upright trunk

shadow of leaves in breeze



these lives

not what I imagine

this their inestimable gift



bird on the ground

an empty tree pod



light fades

I am not what I was





become me

all you need

is a little






claps one hand

dancing the wind




chimes silence

in dance



in this wind

powers beyond my ken



this haiku

this offering

of hope, value, difference



wind takes my heat

making something else



ever less

they take

ever more




surging from rock

awaits our decay



bird in rock

always along the way



bird cries

hover above Tao



day breaks

no one knows why

there we all stand




decays in dignity

on the rock



limbs rain down

manna from some heaven

feeding what I could be




on the High Bench

life wants out



tall outcrop of rock

steadfast sentinel

of no cause



on the third floor

seventh row, third stack

bottom shelf

the answer lies



faces everywhere

no sanity there



hawk rides the wind

watching us

ride one another




roars among us

happily deaf




sentinels of difference

see no side



eyes on the ground


path unknown




buzzing along my side

almost speaks



rocks morph into images

hoping we see

what they have endured



field biologist

walks his domain

owning with words




violently sundered

makes a smile



worn face

made of arbitrary blows

rock or man?



I hold your world

in my hands

this the only individual



speaking chawan

we forget

our mutual incompatibility



having no enemy

I become no one

going no where



lacking hope

there is no lie



mother, child in arms

knows no wrong

terrible beauty



derisive laughter

bones on the pyre

keeping us warm



redressing grievance

shapes others

into scream



lives come before this Bench

theater: enter stage left, exit stage right




in severed rock

buddhas sit, awaiting notice

no death, no life



I bow in combat

opponent no enemy

defeated Cicero still speaks!



in this rock

myriad gods

cohabit unawares



shadows on wind:

calligraphy arising as it’s lost

no record the only record



in this small bowl

hope of a world



image absent origin:




in blue-green eyes

of no human tint

infinity within dime cranium



in the rain

I am a roof



fingers stand in sheared rock

frozen wind




by my questions

I create a world



world protecting me

from world:

ceiling of birds in flight



riddled in wholes

life abode for other:

old sahuaro



sentinel alight

on feigned death:

bird on wintered tree



fathomless hunger

quashing all that comes

black hole, singularity:

God made mine



envelope of greeting

protective bubble

against fear



tangential life

propelled to an elsewhere

by my presence



jagged beauty

waiting to impale:

canyon floor



cactus green

in evening sun

flow trapped in a moment



encountered on the trail

friendly nonsense:

language disparate



in the distance

life buzzes

God far removed from me



stilled chaos

grounds the path

dry wash



across vast distance

squirrel and I




convoluted prickly pear

stretches outward

fleeing its living past




with old, worn face

stepping stone




tapers to bird

caught in the flow



deep in the night

face encrusted rock




dead life

stretches forward

tracing explosion



dead, gnarled tree

surging from ground:

nothing escapes



life scurries in tall grass


yet impacts my world



eyes down

make horizon small

so the path can end



rock jettisons from itself

impossible escape:

fingered boulders



baring its face

to become:

cliff etched in wind



rocks slide

making a way




rain of leaves

cycle of recurrence

beyond our being



fire of dying leaves

consumes itself

beauty to some elsewhere


fall where you are



river stones

flow through my eyes

desert wash



perched on the cross

bird uses




dead sahuaro

no one’s totem



world passes

in latent threat

bee swarm



beyond the bend

staffed man:

laughter of culture contact



storing the life of others

it endures:

bloated sahuaro




purpose moving on



dying tree

kept beautiful

by its parasite



on downward slope

broken faces

provide purchase




makes another

in the same place



rumors wail

pushing me into city’s ally


huddled, I look out


see wind pushed

by building cliffs




snakes across the ground

in its own time




streams through rock

breaking what was there




uses itself

as vista




destroys the path



he lives


in the laughter

of others



rumors roil

the stream’s volume shifts

exposing drying stones

upon which to stand


rumors roil

stones desperate to stay dry



shadows on wind:

calligraphy arising as it’s lost

no record the only record




shifting in words:





frozen in other:





revered loss

of its maker



among comrades

approaching death

Humean wilderness





Mitland/Suzuki poems


Some time after their joint tenure on the Court, Henry Mitland and Benjamin Suzuki began taking yearly week long summer holidays in unpopulated areas of the American Southwest, probably motivated by Mitland’s interest in archeology (see Henry Mitland’s private journal for his speculations on ancient history and archeology). In my years scouring the private papers of the Suzuki era Justices, I have occasionally encountered poems which seem derived from these excursions, either dateable to a known holiday, present in the corpus of both Justices, or more loosely inferible by content. I append these here, suppressing my reasons for thinking them somewhat joint efforts of the Justices. KQB.



roads without destination

traveled on the backs of ghosts

Anasazi spring


(Anasazi, derived from a Navajo word meaning “aliens’ ancestors,” is commonly used to designate the ancient [c 100 – 1300 ce] pueblo culture in a region encompassing Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, and Western to Central New Mexico, ususally focusing on the end centuries of that era. The word, introduced by an archeologist in 1936, has something of a negative connotation to present Pueblo Natives, as the Navajo are generally thought migrant to the area after 1300, making them the true local “aliens.”)



upon approach

Rosetta stone



ontology at a distance



in the hills

residue of failed escape

rocks imagine



in the trek

a man knows

lost to the world



image screaming

too much of us:

shattered rock



reality layered and disjoint

in which parasites abound

human wilderness




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