Issue 38 – Haibun

Crimping the fringe

My fingers paused at the bottom of my ‘Indian clothes box’. The khadi scarf, soft with wear near caresses my hand. I bring white-going-on-blue fabric with the slim purple border, close to my face. Memories woven into the warp and weft of the coarse, yet smooth cotton threads sailed to me. I breathe deep. Is it sandalwood or is it my mind?
Achacha.
My grandfather, whose connection with the charkha is, even to this day, well known in the village, always wore a dash of the golden sandalwood paste on his forehead.
Even years after his passing, stories of his and my grandma’s sacrifices for Indian independence are fresh.

The time when they had to sell their only fan in the heat of summer to buy cotton bales. They taught villagers how to spin cotton into fine yarn on a charkha, and then hand craft into slightly coarse fabric. It was a step towards independence.
The time when they taught women to read and write in the light of oil lamps after the day’s work.
The time when despite police beatings, he stubbornly insisted on nonviolent protests.

A tiny smile. Another deep breath. The sandalwood fragrance has vanished.
I carefully double one edge of the tiny stole over another, along slightly yellowed fold lines. And tuck my memories away. Safe.

crack of thunder
an old oak
buckles

Sangita Kalarickal, USA

The Luthier

Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I opened my eyes to take a peek
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquility

—Hurdy Gurdy Man, 1968 song by Donovan

summer’s end
a fiddler crab’s
last wave

The sky is growing darker. My best friend and I kick off our flip-flops and head toward the beach in hopes of absorbing some negative ions before the rain begins. An elderly man and woman approach from the shoreline. He is slight and hunched with sparse white hair and a wisp of a beard that catches the breeze. She stands straighter and carries her age well.

“Oh, I envy you girls,” she says as she approaches. We giggle at being called “girls” being well past middle-age. “Still able to walk barefoot and enjoy your youth.”
The man stands silently by her side for a moment. Smiling, he mumbles something I can’t quite understand before shuffling slowly toward their parked car. She lingers.

“My husband doesn’t say much anymore. . . He doesn’t remember things,” she says, gazing after him, “but, he’s happy.”

“What did he used to do?” asks my inquisitive friend.

“He made dulcimers and hurdy-gurdies. Do you know what those are?” We nod and she seems pleased. “I’m not bragging but people all the way in California used to order his instruments.” Her eyes begin to water. “He doesn’t even remember what they are any more.”

Quickly she shakes off her gloom the smile returning, “So, enjoy every breath you can, girls. It was lovely talking with you and I wish you both a good life.”

We wish her the same. She nods and follows after her husband who has almost reached the parking lot. We step into the sand as a soft rain begins to fall.

Terri L. French, USA

All the red-caped girls have gone

A wolf comes out of the woods and knocks on my door. He asks me to feed him with poems. Surprised, I say – why would a wolf eat poetry? In a sad voice he replies that so little of the forest is left that he has no choice but to alter his diet. Taking pity on him, I decide to feed him with some of my poems; the ones that were rejected by various editors. From that day on the wolf eats all my bad poems. Shortly thereafter I notice his weight gain.

silent dawn––
holes in the pockets
of forest

Ekphrastic haibun based on Aida Muluney’s ‘The Wolf You Feed Series’ (2018)

Alan Peat, United Kindgom & Réka Nyitrai, Romania

THE WITNESS

cracker jacks box
engagement ring
his red convertible

The three of us drive across the open border between El Paso and Juarez to find a justice of the peace we’ve heard will marry us. I’m sixteen.

My cat Blackie squirms in my arms as we climb the stairs to the judge’s office. “It’s okay,” I tell him and scratch his ears. The stairwell reeks of smoke and urine.

David hands the sour-faced judge $25.00. He pockets our money then asks, “Where are your witnesses?” Panicked, I turn to the judge’s wife. “Por favor, Señora, will you help us?”

“Si, mija, she responds. She takes Blackie and tells her husband, “The cat and I are the witnesses.” Blackie purrs as we say, “I do.”

Sharon Rhutasel-Jones, USA

Tongue Tied

Being a person who speaks only English, I have always admired people that speak two, three or even more languages. Understanding all the nuances and meanings that lie beneath the surface of a language that isn’t native to the speaker is a daunting task. That explains why a Japanese friend of mine was so embarrassed to find out there was such a big difference between a “butt dial” and a “booty call.”

forest bathing
a park ranger insists
I put clothes back on

Bryan Rickert, USA

a cloud blows into my knowing

hometown
the train moves away
from one future

nᵗʰ step

suddenly old
a square of silence
mending my gown

Richa Sharma, Ghaziabad, India

Poisson Rouge

Tuesday. Feeding time. My DC office buddy asks what I did over the long weekend.

“Paris,” I say, with a smile. “Rugby World Cup final.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot. Fun?”

“Awesome. Huge crowds. Great atmosphere.”

Eighty thousand inside the Stade de France. Two hundred thousand outside without tickets. The Champs-Élysées closed and filled with fans—a giant TV screen across the face of the Arc de Triomphe. A hundred thousand at the Eiffel Tower watching another live stream. The global TV audience for the tournament tops three billion.

“Crowds!” he says, tapping in more food. “Y’ain’t seen crowds ‘til you been to a Red Sox game.”

bloodshot eyes . . .
staring into the small world
of a goldfish

Lew Watts, Chicago, IL, USA

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