GMT+2, or: In the Mean Time

A collaborative Chagallian Loku

by Michael Simonelli & David ben Alexander

Jerusalem taupe,
winter khamsin northward streams dark sands through our glass,
one sand pebble left in the clock’s tapered shadow,
sere wind breaks our wing

somewhere now where God rests
dunes caress with downy fill, eternal grains here,
graceful echelon, mosaics carved, rarefied
stars align to coasts

the world from the clouds,
squiggly fractal boundaries in between people,
morning groggy-eyed sunrise through stretched acrylic
grounded in promise

directional signs,
herd animals jostle on, can’t forget baggage,
travelators scoot well past the red-eye's runway,
each with life in tow

sandstorm rocks taxi,
clouds all that is visible, the expectant shift,
meter stops running, zero beats to the measure,
vantage no longer

family concern,
guests gather at synagogue, Tel Aviv sunset,
the anxious await break of accident reports,
frozen winter dreams

Eilat in winter:
warm honeymoon on Red Sea, chilly salt water
waves, oceanic time curves around large bodies
at scale, we’re smallest

rare snowfall settles,
Israeli children cheer, sheer slush by morning
cold rains bring green, sprouts, plants, blooms, before springtime warmth,
allergy triggers

spring still comes each year,
rebirth, salted brine-gray fog, pied balloons aloft


The Loku is a form of poetry created by Carlos Chagall.

  • Loku are comprised of 17 haiku, for a total of 289 syllables, with 1 additional syllable thrown in (at any point in the Loku) as a symbolic gesture to mar the otherwise standard form;
  • The haiku to the Loku form are as syllables are to the haiku;
  • The poet should think of the Loku as 3 sections:
    • the first 5 haiku long;
    • the middle section 7 haiku;
    • the last again 5 haiku long;
  • There are 2 volta in the form, separating the sections, similar in purpose to the 1 volta found in a sonnet. These are the turning points, at the start of haiku 6 and 13;
  • The 3 sections take shape on the page as (8) four-line stanzas, and a final two-line couplet:
    • the four-line stanzas are made of (2) haiku, in 5/12/12/5 syllable-pattern;
    • the final couplet is a concluding play on a haiku in the form 5/12.

I’m sharing this exciting new collaboration for today’s OLN.

While I’ve written many poems as responses to other poets through Poetry Partners (please consider submitting an original piece of yours – I would be honored to publish it!), the composition of this particular poetic collaboration was an entirely new experience for me.

Michael & I penned ten haiku each; then we discussed potential volta and went about composing and editing the loku (comprised of 17 haiku) together, leaving three haiku on the cutting room floor. It was wonderful fun!

Much greatly deserved credit for the creation of the Chagallian Loku form goes to Carlos Chagall.

Let’s write poetry together!

When it comes to partnership, some humans can make their lives alone – it’s possible. But creatively, it’s more like painting: you can’t just use the same colours in every painting. It’s just not an option. You can’t take the same photograph every time and live with art forms with no differences.

Ben Harper (b. 1969)

Would you like to create poetry with me and have a completed poem of yours featured here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish? I am very excited to have launched the ‘Poetry Partners’ initiative and am looking forward to meeting and creating with you… Check it out!

57 thoughts on “GMT+2, or: In the Mean Time”

  1. It is wonderful to see the reaction to the loku. Please know that I am happy to assist with any questions regarding the form, although you and Michael already have a great handle on that. David, should anyone actually write a loku, I would appreciate a quick comment on my About page with a link back to the post. Obviously I am a loku collector! 🙂 Congratulations and thank you again. —CC

  2. Oh, man, WHAT a form. I think the entire community needs to do this, and I have copied over the instructions because I have GOT to try this. I read through the entire thing first, without checking the form link. I could feel the obvious rhythm of the words, but because you altered the formatting, I missed that they are a haiku set. So then once I realized that I had to go back and read the whole thing again with “haiku” whispering in my ear.

    And it really works.

    I love the way the individual haiku are such freight trains, powering through all the syllables, contrary to the staccato of the source form, yet so appropriate to this form and to your subject.

    1. ❤ 🙂 Alexandra ❤ 🙂 ~ thank you so much. I have to say that I found this new form fascinating to work with – it's unlike anything I've ever done before, and I had a blast with it. And the most amazing thing is simply what you said – it really works.

      Much love,

    1. 😍 Phillip 😍 ~ this was incredibly fun to write! Thank you.

      BTW, I’m relatively new to the poetry world, but my impression from reading other poets’ blogs is that collaborations aren’t so uncommon… do you really think it’s been a product of the pandemic? I have no sense of whether that’s true or not.


      1. you are correct, it is not uncommon, but i have seen more of it come about recently during the pandemic, i imagine it stems from a desire to reconnect with the world, isolation has been tough. 7 years ago, i was very active in the spoken word community. it took a pandemic for me to realize how much i miss it.

        1. Phillip ~ so interesting. thank goodness for the Internet.

          I know that’s not a new idea – but you just made me consider it all over again… it would have been so much worse for so many of us if we couldn’t go online…


  3. Such a skillful and vibrant poem–or alloy of poems, melted in a crucible and joined as one. The description is superb, and the spiritual journey it evokes one of transcendence but also deep humanity.I especially love the first two stanzas. What a lovely piece of craft you have created together.

  4. There are so very many phrases and sections here that I love, but my favorite was bodies at scale, we’re smallest. What a [poetic portrait of a city, the natural land it sits on, and the people who call it hom or are passing through. I feel as if I’ve just been there.

  5. 289 +1

    Just wow…
    Applause 👏
    For the poetic study into rock formations, the patterns of the plateaus and the surrounding habitations by these 3 extraordinary scientific and poetice minds.

    A wonderful collabotation in bringing these two fields together, not leaving history behind.
    Creating the setting the winds caught my eye, so beautifully described
    And the curve of the ocean, just breathtaking

    Am I losing my mind…
    Did the aeroplane make it home?

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