Auto Bio 5-7-5


My Life Haiku’d
By Joe Kowalski

Advantages of a Haiku Autobiography
It’s still poetry,
but without the burden of
timing rhyming. Oops.

How Grandpa Wooed Grandma, 1919
At a church picnic,
Art threw peanuts at Esther.
The next year, married.

Heritage, Parents
Okinawa vet
turned shortstop, turned roofer man;
waitress turned nurse aide

My Version
Airman turned medic,
turned photog, turned reviewer,
turned teacher, turned this

I don’t remember
Saturday, October eighth,
nineteen forty-nine

My Very Own Birth Defects
some red-green colorblindness
and extra left thumb

Age 0+: First Memory
It was a left hook;
baby bottle hit the floor
of the apartment.

Age 3: Second Memory
Followed kids to school.
Returned in squad car back seat.
Then Mom bought a leash!

The Wonderful World of Monochrome
It had poor contrast,
our 17-inch Crosley.
But it was TV.

Bro in Sheboygan.
Sis, Fondy, 1:03 a.
Three Saturday births.

Grade 1: Dick & Jane Primers
What’s this baby stuff?
I wondered, having read Look
and Life with my mom.

1956: A Bully No More
Our class bully screamed
and howled as he as was dragged to
his polio shot. 2

Age 7: An Unsatisfying Answer
My great-grandma died.
“Will I die too?” I asked Mom.
“Not for a lon-n-n-ng time.”

Grade 2: Hand Turkey Rebel
Was I in trouble
for cutting just white feathers?
Mine on classroom door!

Age 8: My First Original Joke
Why’d chicken cross road?
Because it was too far to
go around the road.

Old Guy with Glass Eye
We kids on his porch,
he laughed and coughed so hard that
his eyeball flew out!

In Lieu of Doorbells
In our neighborhood
we hollered at the back door:
“Johhhhhhny!” or “Peeeeter!”

Baseball Manager Dad and I at the Sporting Goods Store
Nestled in blue crepe,
twelve new baseballs in a box.
Unequalled fragrance.

Base 10
“Metric—It’s coming!”
That was in grade school math class.
Grade school ’59. 3

Boys’ Winter Sport
Big semi coming!
Four, five, six, seven snowballs
hit the trailer wall.

Road America Fans Driving Down Johnson Street
Every June we’d
see Ginger Rogers in her
red Jag XKE.

Age 13: Pneumonia
Thick oxygen tent,
10 days’ penicillin shots,
back rubs by nurses

“President’s been shot,”
announced Sr. Ruth flatly.
After lunch: “He’s dead.”

The Lost and Found Teenage Seminary Years, Part 1
Maybe the priesthood?
On a Vocation Trail walk, 4
finding out: Not me!

Age 16: My Second Original Joke
Wanna see some slides?
Shoes off, fancy slides on floor,
then enjoy the groans.

Temporary Athletic Prowess
Joe wins triple jump!
38-feet!  School record!
. . . for twenty minutes.

Age 16: Best Birthday Present Ever
Here’s what I asked Mom:
Please quit smoking cigarettes,
which is what she did.

The Lost and Found Teenage Seminary Years, Part 2
So why did I stay
when I should have gone elsewhere?
See Part 3 below.

The Lost and Found Teenage Seminary Years, Part 3
50-year friendships
are what I got from that class.
Bohunks ’68!

What Else I Got from the Seminary Years
That class diary . . .
(Wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote)
taught me how to write.

A Fan Letter Answered5
Queen-stamped envelope
from one Louise Harrison;
straight from George’s mum.

When I Won the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes
I really did win,
but no balloons at the door.
Last place, fake dubloons.

Okay Songs I Wrote, Ages 16-20
“Chelsea Road,” “Dream Farm,”
“Me an’ You,” “B-52,”
“Crowbar Blues” et al

Instruments that I Can Sort of Play
Mando, autoharp,
glockenspiel, harmonica
and the piano

Teen Summer Jobs
Outdoor theater guy,
then workin’ on the raaaailroad,
then shoe store stock boy

July 20, 1969
Chilly summer night,
but I had to see the moon:
Neil and Bud were there!

My Friend Louie’s Friend Went Shopping for an Ice-Fishing Car
Answered this want-ad:
“Old Chev, $200.”
‘53 Corvette.

Age 19: My Third Original Joke
What did the man in
the orthopedic shoes say?
I stand corrected.

How the Local Recruiter Turned Me into a Medic
“Can photographers
be a little colorblind?”
“No problem. Sign here.”

Age 20: My Fourth Original Joke
Now, how do you tell
male chromosomes from female?
Just pull down their genes.

Bad Songs I Wrote, Ages 20-23
“O Zone,” “Red Love Paint,”
Thirty more over five years.
Worst: “I Got Murmurs”6

1957 Pontiac
My first and best car:
Carib Coral Super Chief,
four hundred dollars

Unlikely Street Race Victory
Jerk in new Corvette
versus me in pink Ponty—
with four-barrel carb!

One Less Virgin in the World
New Year’s Eve it was.
Not once, not twice, but three times.
Did slow down later.

June 9th 1972
The girlfriend and I
sailed the Rapid City Flood, 7
with snow-tire spins.

With Me Attending: Little Old Sarge
Aged cook sergeant
turned to see the fireworks,
 grinned at them and died.

With Me Attending: Green Lakota Lady
Hepatic green skin.
Liver cancer did her in.
Her brothers chanted.

With Me Attending: During His Electrocardiogram!
Running EKG,
the paper tape said Flat Line.
Thirty-nine years old.

Nickname by Coincidence
Hospital humor:
So, ‘cause five died on my shifts,
I’m “Sgt. Reaper?”

Foggy Morning Breakdown
Car crash vic I found,
fresh from his best friend’s wife’s bed,
fractured but smiling.

My First New Car
’73 Grem
with Levi’s interior,
in Mellow Yellow

January 25, 1974: Four Years in the U.S. Air Force was Plenty
Woke up that morning,
“Yellow River” on the tape,
DD-214. 8

Women I Would Like to Have Dated
Lesley Ann Warren!
that barmaid, those twins, shoe girl
and, of course, Susan

Women I Actually Did Date
Marys, Linda Sue,
Starla, Carol, Rebecca
and, of course, Alice

1974-1981: Joe Photog
For the newspaper
I shot sports, ads, politics
and some beauty queens.

But My Favorite Newspaper Picture
“Shoot warm-weather pix”
was the supposed assignment.
Got pix and a wife.

Our Front Lawn Wedding
One fall, late morning,
under the shedding ash tree,
shivering but wed

My Hank Williams-Inspired Lunch in New Orleans
It was buffet-style.
Jambalaya, crawfish pie,
a filé gumbo.

Meeting the President of the United States
Ford reached out his hand,
but saw my press pass and said,
”Oh,” and moved along.

Meeting the King of the Blues
“Hi, I’m B.B. King.”
And guess what I said back?
I said, “No kidding.”
Meeting the Lone Ranger
Clayton Moore in town.
He offered me his donut.
What a news guy perk!

Calling Out “Fontella!” to Ms Bass in Her Cream-Colored Mercedes Limo
Benz full of black gals,
R-E-S-Q-M-E plates.
I hollered. They squealed.

Know it: I was a Poet
Briefly, anyway.
$50 prize poem
titled “Eye Contact.”9

1977: The Arrival of Little Mae
Welcome, baby girl.
Husbands strong as wives?  Never.
I: “How many thumbs?”

Terms I Coined, But Did Not ©ash in On
At a Brewer game,
designated driver and,
at work, third-hand smoke.

I Was Earwaves
LPs to CDs.
BB, Jan Hammer, Hiatt.
14 bucks a week.

High-Wire Haiku: A Sample for my Students
Obese squirrel falls,
no doubt the victim of an
unbalanced diet

Coming in from Recess Duty
Stocky fourth-grader:
“I’m sweatin’ like my grandma,
it’s so hot out there!”

1990: The Arrival of Little K
Welcome, baby boy.
Moonlight Sonata on tape.
Snipped slippery cord.

My Published Letter to the Editor of the National Geographic10
December ’02,
re August cover pictures,
saw a resemblance

Global Warming
I wonder about
the ethics of recycling
a recycling bin.

Religion Roulette
Roman Catholic?
Lakota Zen pantheist?
Let’s just wait and see?

Lost & Found
If prayer doesn’t work,
how come St. Anthony helps
me find lost objects?

My Worst New Car
Volks Passat Wagon:
Pricey routine maintenance,
but lots of airbags

Age 64: Light Bulb
Here’s an idea:
An autobiography
written in haiku!

Favorite Books
Sweet Thursday, Steinbeck.
Devil’s Dictionary, Bierce.
Sand Cake by Frank Asch

Favorite Beatles Songs
“I’ve Just Seen a Face,”
 “Here, There and Everywhere,”
“I’m Down,” “Hey, Bulldog.”

Favorite Pop Songs, Other Bands
“You Baby,” Turtles.
”Fortunate Son,” CCR.
“2000 Man,” Stones.

Favorite Pop Songs, a Bit Newer
“Roll to Me,” Del A.,
“One More Time,” MonaLisas,
“Stacy’s Mom,” Fountains

Favorite Pop Songs, Solo
“Eight Ball Blues,” Goodman.
 “Thunder and Lightning,” Chi C.
“Maybellene,” Berry.

Favorite Country Songs
“Hey, Good Lookin’,” Hank.
 “Long, Long Time,” Linda Ronstadt.
“S.A. Rose,” Patsy.

Favorite Folk Songs
“Freight Train,” Liz Cotten,
 “Erie Canal,” Pete Seeger,
“Circle Game,” Joni

Favorite Instrumentals
“Dragnet,” “Peter Gunn,”
“Catnip,” “Ashokan Farewell,”
“Cry for a Shadow.”

Favorite Classical Music
“Moonlight Sonata,”
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire,”
Vivaldi’s mandos

Guilty Pleasures
 “Footloose,” ”Funkytown,”
 “Only Yesterday,” “Aubrey,”
“Catch a Falling Star.”

Favorite Rap Songs
So sorry to say,
but I can’t think of any
I’d want in my ears.

Favorite Visual Artists
Da Vinci, Hopper,
Escher, Van Gogh and Stella,
Kertesz and Erwitt.

A Teacher for 25 Years? Why?
Was mostly indoors.
Appreciative audience.
A decent pension.

My Three Web Sites
Joe’s Eclectica,11
Pelican Pie (high school alumni)
and Earwaves Again. 12

Too Close to 200 Pounds
Whoa: Layers of fat!
Must be because my lifestyle’s

That President
Incompetent ape.
No, I take that back . . . out of
respect for baboons.

My British Shoes
Worn-out U.S. shoes
I replaced at a shop in
Haltwhistle, U.K.

Song Come to Life
I got my hair cut
inside Tony’s barber shop,
there in Penny Lane!

Also in Beatle Land
7 Cavendish,
a few blocks from Abbey Road,
I touched Paul’s house gate

52-Year Diary Word Count
Penned, penciled, markered,
500,000+ words.
Read, then burned most up.

Pandemic 2019, 2020 . . .
Why were those people
in 1918 smarter
than we seem to be?

And in the End
If each day I think
“Hey, I won’t be dead today.”
I’ll only be wrong
Superscript Notes

1. Dextrocardia is a rare but generally harmless birth defect in which the heart is tilted to the right instead of the left. Some research has connected the condition to polydactyly, extra fingers and toes, because digits and the heart develop at the same time.

2. I was in the first group of the millions of children to receive the Salk polio vaccine after it had been proven safe and effective with 500,000 young “test subjects” the year before.

3. Three countries worldwide were not on the metric system as of 2020: Liberia, Myanmar and the United States of America. Even the UK doesn’t use the “English” measurement system.

4. The Vocation Trail is a wooded path at St. Lawrence Seminary. It was available for students to “contemplate their religious future.” But Van Morrison’s then-charting “Brown-Eyed Girl” reminded me too much of a real brown-eyed girl I knew and I decided my vocation would be secular.

5. A copy of the full Louise Harrison letter is available on request.

6. I got murmurs in the morning / [mock doo-wop chorus] Oom wah ooh
    I got murmurs in the evening / Oom wah ooh
    I got murmurs in the nighttime / Oom wah oom wah oooom
    [falsetto] and Daylight Savings Time
   Murmurs on Father’s Day / Oom wah ooh
   I got murmurs on Mother’s Day / Oom wah ooh
   I got murmurs at Christmastime / Oom wah oom wah ooom
   and even on Labor Day

7. On the morning of June 9th, I had redeemed my S&H Green Stamps for a metronome. In the early evening, a stalled storm front over western South Dakota caused streams in the Black Hills to fill up and converge on Rapid Creek, sending a wall of water through Rapid City, bursting a dam and emptying a lake in minutes. Two hundred thirty-eight people were killed.

8. DD-214 is the Department of Defense personnel discharge form.
9. For a college lit class, I wrote this poem. The professor entered it in a judged competition.
I don’t remember what I spent the fifty bucks on.

10. December 2002 issue of National Geographic, Forum section.  It had to jump over two pages of ads.

11 and 12. My public web sites were and Now unhosted.
This booklet is copyright 2020 by Joseph NMN Kowalski
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Submitted on April 05, 2021

Modified on March 05, 2023

10:26 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic trimeter
Characters 11,829
Words 2,086
Stanzas 108
Stanza Lengths 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 8, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 8, 1, 3, 1, 2

Joe Kowalski

Born in Wisconsin to Greatest Generation parents, typical Fifties childhood (with a few exceptions; see poem), seminary instead of real high school, US Air Force medic, news photographer, pop music columnist, elementary teacher, retired. Stamp and cover collection, mandolin, piano, harmonica, traveling with wife. more…

All Joe Kowalski poems | Joe Kowalski Books

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1 Comment
  • Earwaves
    Because of images not here...
    Note 9, Here's that $50 poem:
    Eye contact
    When eyes collide--

    Could be microsecond love affairs,
    irises abloom.

    Could be smoke from the past,
    torches smoldering, smoldering.

    Could just be an old familiar tune
    like "No Reply."

    But I contact yours
    and see
    optic homicide.

    o speak to me only
    thine eyes.

    Note 10, National Geographic Letter to the Editor:
    "The early human on the front cover and the Hummer SUV on the back cover ad have the same facial expression."
    LikeReply2 years ago


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Who wrote the poem “Funeral Blues"?
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