The First-Ever Footnote Haiku (Plus, More News about the Worsening Situation on Erik’s Office Window Sill)

figurine with rat: secret negotiations

Secret negotiations (see below for the latest in the Window-Sill Wars)

I was recently proofreading the source notes section of my forthcoming book, In the Garden of Beasts, when it occurred to me that bits of random poetry might be embedded within.

I don’t use conventional footnotes of the kind we all learned in high school because they’re too distracting. Instead of littering the text with tiny numbers, I assemble my notes in the back of the book, where readers will find the relevant citations identified first by page number and then by a few words taken from the quote or sentence in question. For example, the very first line of the book, on page 3, begins with the phrase, “It was common…” In the notes, a reader looking for the source of this material will first hunt for page 3 and then look for a brief snippet that matches the original text. The note will look like this: “3  It was common:” The citation (in this case a rather long one) follows.

So, I wondered if any sequences of these phrases might form interesting bits of random poetry. Clearly I have too much time on my hands. However, I give you now, for the first time in literary history, a brief collection of source-note haiku, each consisting of snippets in the exact order in which they appear in the notes portion of my book. The titles are the titles of the corresponding chapters: 


The Choice

I love you past telling.
          I was busy
Do you know really?
          I had to choose.


Tiergartenstrasse 27a

We have one of the best residences,
trees and gardens,
twice the size of an average New York apartment,
entirely done in gold.



There had been talk of numerous liaisons,
his clammy possessiveness.
“Believe me,” she said,
“Hitler needs a woman.”


Diels, Afraid

A pathetic passive-looking creature,
I was young and reckless enough,
like a frightened rabbit.


Mrs. Cerruti’s Distress

She found this astonishing:
Temperature 101 and ½ in the shade today.
The three men undressed and climbed in.


As Darkness Fell

Wish I did have a home:
It was the greatest shock,
the strain and terror of life,
to kill them all.


A Dream of Love

I thought of you my dear,
spread over the nerve connections:
at sixty-five one must take stock.


The Queer Bird in Exile I

A gifted, clever and educated woman
she considers herself a Communist—
through Martha’s efforts,
They bought a new black Mercedes.


The Queer Bird in Exile II

Max, my love,
          that ass,
          a real buffoon;
Bassett confessed he had destroyed
          such love letters.


The Window-Sill Wars V: Tinderbox!


Conditions on my window sill continue to degrade, as both sides stockpile armaments and as the secret Red Rose Army comes ever closer. It’s a tinderbox. Anything could set off a conflagration. One fear: That a house lifted by a tornado in Kansas might, by some grim quirk of fate, fall upon one of the leaders, thus leading inevitably to the outbreak of hostilities.

Image of a house fallen atop Nunzilla

The worst nightmare

The spies continue to ply their trade. As I last reported, one member of the Red Rose Army had secretly left the column. His whereabouts remain unknown, but there can only be one conclusion: He is a mole in the pay of one of the opposing camps. But which one?  There is a rumor that he was met in a remote hallway by Rat (last spotted secretly conversing with the Nunzillas) and given cash and instructions. But for what purpose?

Red rose figurine and mouse in close-up

Up to no good

Yet another diplomat has arrived—Sleepy Poe, the Edgar Award statue—with hopes of cooling tempers and bringing both sides to the negotiating table. But how much can a porcelain statue with no ears or mouth hope to accomplish?

Image of newest diplomat: Edgar Award statue, sleepy figure of Poe in porcelain

Yet another diplomat arrives

You Are Here

Erik Larson is the author of six previous national bestsellers—The Splendid and the Vile, Dead Wake, In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac’s Storm— which have collectively sold more than twelve million copies. His books have been published in nearly forty countries.

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