Issue 39 – Haibun

The Recurring Dream of San Francisco

There are usually stairs, and dark buildings, and fog blowing in. Sometimes an encounter with an old lover—oh, you again. Once I found two blankets that were mine, left on a ledge—a man saw me take them and called the cops. It’s an easy city to hide in, and the least occasion is cause for fanfare—say, a meal of Alaskan halibut served by acrobats. And it’s a city made for walking, which I do resolutely, clutching my big red purse—looking for a friend who left my keys on the table, a chain with my childhood name and a rainbow.

the memory
of nevermore

Cynthia Anderson, USA

Overheard at the Welcome Parade

Stella says they don’t speak our language but get free housing, no questions asked. Stella says they lounge in the cafe where her friend works, playing games on phones paid for with our taxes. Stella’s youngest says mothers and babies left behind are killed in missile strikes. It’s true, she says, looking up at her mother, Sister Philomena saw it on breaking news. They can photoshop anything these days, Stella says. Then gives her youngest a clout on the ear.

moment of silence
the bandleader raises
her eyebrow

Roberta Beary, USA/ Ireland

Russet Potatoes & Serotonin 

When he’s anxious, I cook him his favorite meal. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes or homemade venison stew. I don’t know whether he knows why I cook him his favorite meals when I do. I imagine he picks up on it, on some level. We have the habit of letting each other engage the time to process big feelings and revelations that come up in life from time to time. A good, honest conversation over a hearty, home-cooked meal made with love can change/save/restore/replenish the world.

sunshine pours
from a leak in the roof
base camp

Erin Castaldi, USA

Promise Keepers

He packs an overnight bag, tossing a worn, black NIV Bible on top of his underwear. “Can’t you stay home with the boys and me this weekend?” I ask. “No, I gotta go,” he says. “This is a big meeting. I’ll come back a better husband and father. A stronger Christian man.”

church supper
women cooking
on the Lord’s day

The boys and I go stay at his grandparents’ vacant house on the mountain. They’ve both been gone a couple years, but I still envision Ruby making fried pies at the gas stove. I tell the boys we are having a sleepover and turn it into an adventure. But, truthfully, I’m angry at my husband. Tired of playing second fiddle to God.

church organist
the way her feet
pound the pedals

When he returns the house will be empty. Oh, we will come back in time for me to make supper. He will say grace, holler at one of the kids for putting his elbows on the table, tell me, “Thank you, honey. It was good.” Then he’ll kiss the top of my head and go out to his shop to tinker ’til bedtime. I’ll scrape what’s left of supper into the dogs’ bowls and go to draw the boys a bath.

Terri L. French, USA


Dad, retired airline pilot, always in control, is driving the car. Unlike me, he’s been an excellent driver all his life. I’ve told him three times to turn off at the next exit. Too late, he drifts onto the exit without slowing. I grab the wheel and scream, slow down, Dad. Unmoved, I see an unacknowledging glaze in his eyes.

gently wetting
a bonsai’s tips—
the feeding bottle

Richard L. Matta, USA

A Different Drum

Every now and then, Neil asks me if I remember meeting so-and-so in Listowel and my answer is when? and, if he says at the all-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, I laugh loudly as a melange of memories surfaces . . . having another G&T with ice and a slice as traditional tunes and songs tumble out from the pub sessions onto narrow balmy streets, and a stream of strangers to whom he is introducing his new girlfriend; but I do remember PJ, the bodhrán player in Neil’s trad group – a rangy Clareman who migrated over the border to this market town – who percussed the weekly sessions in the Harp and Lion, where he told me that he also made bodhráns, sparking my desire for one.

car park transaction . . .
the new drum’s oily skin
still smelling of goat

Maeve O’Sullivan, Ireland

Explanatory Notes:
Note 1: The All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil is a large annual Irish music festival, held in August. Each year a single town or city hosts the Fleadh Cheoil.
Note 2: The bodhrán is a frame drum used in Irish music, made with a wooden frame covered with goat skin on one side and usually played with a tipper (stick).

She comes to me

in my dreams, my mother. Spry, and lively (even though she’s dead), a real Spitfire, reminiscent of the nickname given to her as a child of wartimes. She grins and cackles, happier than I ever saw her in life. Happy, that’s the only word for it, as if something is about to happen. She visits me twice that week, flitting about in my dreams, happily waiting . . .

cardiac unit
not ready to party
with her yet

Marianne Paul, Canada


In the years after Vietnam, I remember him sitting out on the patio with his cigarettes and cheap beer. Always pouring one out into the dog bowl. I figure he just got tired of drinking alone.

pawn shop
a few purple hearts
gathering dust

Bryan Rickert, USA 

Motivational Speech

First, you have to understand that you are nothing. I am something. I’ve been turning around failures for thirty years. Failures like this place. Failures like you. Weekends are for winners. You shouldn’t need training to know how things work around here. Figure it out. Why do you delegate so much? Your team needs to know you can execute. I shouldn’t have to explain myself. What I want is self-evident. When do you get to see your family? Why would they want to see the face of a loser like you? I haven’t seen my family in months. I’m not with my family right now because I am mentoring you. You think I am being hurtful? You should thank me for my coaching. Go read Viktor Frankl. It sounds like you need to figure out your why so you can handle my how. Do you still have a job? Well, for the moment that is up to you. 

the children line up behind 
the tallest boy 

Joshua St. Claire, USA

A List for My Kids of Legitimate Reasons to Interrupt Me While I Am in the Bathroom

  • The washer is unbalanced and careening wildly
  • The brownie timer is going off
  • The spaghetti is boiling over
  • There is an emergency alert on the TV that is not just a test
  • The cat threw up (but not just a hairball)
  • There has been a fight and someone is bleeding profusely
  • N*Sync has reunited to do a laxative commercial which will only run one time—right now—and then be immediately deleted on all media
  • A vampire is knocking at the door and asking to be let in (a real one, not a trick-or-treater)
  • A marine biologist and a sociologist have teamed up to teach a brittle star sign language which it uses to dictate haiku about its life, which is being live streamed on YouTube as the brittle star slowly succumbs to a fatal illness
  • Definitive and incontrovertible evidence has been found that proves a massive world-wide conspiracy to alter “The Berenstein Bears” to “The Berenstain Bears” exists and is on-going
  • The internet has become sentient
  • The Rapture
  • Casey Kasem has been cloned and will host New Year’s Rockin’ Eve (December 31 at 10:00 PM or later only)
  • An actual unicorn has been tamed in our backyard
  • A Mongolian dance troupe has come to town and is performing Waiting for Godot set at a Starbucks where mobile orders pre-empt in-cafe orders for eternity
  • The Zombie Apocalypse has arrived and the zombies are actually here
  • Joyelle McSweeney, Joy Harjo, sam sax, Stephanie Burt, and Danez Smith are on the phone and they want to do a collaboration with me and I have to talk to them right now or they will call Billy Collins to see if he is available instead
  • An archaeologist named after a Canadian province discovers a Vegetable Lamb of Tartary which, just now, started to weave its wool into a cocoon
  • All the world’s vinegar has been transmuted into Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 for the next 27 minutes
  • CERN has produced a micro black hole that has begun eating the earth

the pitter-patter of little feet just the cats

Joshua St. Claire, USA

Dear Daniel 

So many girls, dear Bond. So many beds you’ve shared. 
Like Anya Amasova with Ringo—whatever did she see in him? 

youth club dance 
Mam’s mascara 
on my ‘stache 

Melina Havelock only had eyes for you. And for many years
Eva Green still stalked Casinos as Vesper Lynd. Long after we’d all
undressed Ursula, or searched for a patch of pink on Shirley Eaton’s  
golden body. Were you drawn to their names?  

flutter of moths
under the porch light 
a pouted kiss 

Like Mary Goodnight and her good nights, and the chilled smile 
of Miranda Frost. What of those lovely ladies Jenny Flex  
and Honey Rider, or Elektra King and Kissy Suzuki, alliterative to the end?  
They weren’t a touch on Octopussy and Zenia Onatop, 
though Plenty O’Toole and Pussy Galore were in the running.

three refusals 
at the first fence 
pulled up 

Yes, there was always that touch of class, never stirred . . . 
except when living twice with Aki, or once with Solitaire,  
or flying over moon-shadows with Holly Goodhead, 
forever haunted by the diamonds of Tiffany Case.

proposing again . . . 
the steady rasp 
of her emery board 

They say you had the hots for fish-mealed Helga Brandt,  
for Ruby Bartlett with her chicken salmonella gift, 
and even Paris Carver, who never died today, nor tomorrow.  
But Tracy Draco was the closest to your heart. A countess,  
at her Majesty’s service like Judi, a Dame no less.

              ocean tide honeymoon ebbing away 

Which brings me to you, dear Bond. You’ve changed. 
We all get shorter with age, but you seem to bruise more easily. 
And is it my imagination, or are there tears within your eyes? 
But then again, who wouldn’t cry?

              open marriage her diary locked shut 

What man could fail to rage against a pen that holds him  
back from she, the One, allowed only to reciprocate  
her unrequited love with a wink or the casual throw of a hat? 
Spare more than a penny for her heart, dear Bond . . .

              7 years ditching her twinsets for leather 

                                                                                   . . . before it’s too late. 

still not home 
the hourglass figure 
of an hourglass 

Lew Watts, USA


What finally broke him seemed so innocuous. After all, we’d being doing it since we met in Yosemite. Signing off our emails with an insult. I believe the earliest may have been “fucktard,” quite innocent in retrospect. I remember toying with a reply of “knobhead” for days before landing on the more delicious “toe-rag.” The next time Rob signed off with “pillock,” which triggered my vile and equally-testicular “cullion.” 

We did stray into two words for a while—”sycophantic lickspittle,” “femiculous lubberwort,” and “hercine cockolorum” were paricularly memorable—before reverting to the single expletive: “loblolly,” “poltroon,” and the wonderful “slubberdegullion.” And so it was a surprise one day when he replied with the simple P-word, “pinhead.” Since then, silence. 

climbing Mt Baldy . . . 
the final pitch 
a little hairy 

Lew Watts, USA

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