Issue 34 – Haibun & Gembun

Gembun

listen to yourself, as mute as Orion . . .

banzai
the hell we dodge
each day

Source: Remixed from pages 40, 42, 64, & 68 of The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Shloka Shankar, India

Haibun

Tadka

When you speak to me or I to you, in all the different languages between us from all the worlds we live – in silliness, in seriousness, in public faces, in private fears, in the idioms of our mothers and what of our fathers has left us tongue-tied, we speak in a broken-wholeness of tongues. Seasoned past the half-mark of our lives we find, like schoolgirls, spice where there was only salt to taste before.

a splutter
in heated oil––
chattering friends

Anannya Dasgupta, India

Spring Cleaning

Thoreau’s call for simplicity still strikes a chord. Lately, I’ve been doing my bit to clear the clutter. Nothing major: just getting rid of things that I’ve been carrying around for years and have outgrown. Like you.

useful, sure,
but are they really
essential oils

Benedict Grant, Canada

Our Daily Bread

The old man’s recollection of that summer was clear. Much of the food and resources from the larger Caribbean islands nearby were used in the war effort. The boat that came to collect all the men of age to fight the war in Europe was the last to come for quite some time. Subsistence living suddenly grew even harder.

the walk to school
a mango
split four ways

Run by a handful of nuns, the only school was next to the Catholic church and it only had so many chairs. When a new child came in, one of the older kids simply cycled out. This is how, at age twelve, he became a working man. Barefoot and whip skinny, he would walk a kilometer through rough terrain to help build some of the island’s first real roads. Cutting down trees and splitting boulders. At quitting time, he would walk back home and help tend the small hillside garden plots the family would use to grow food.

island sunset
fish and rice
by lamplight

Telling me the story about the day his little brother was baptized the old man starts to tear up. At the time of the baptism, the islanders hadn’t even seen flour for nearly nine months. He simply recalled waking, working, and going to bed hungry. Baptism was an important time for the people whose life was rooted in faith. The family only had one pair of baby shoes and they had one purpose. For this family devoted to faith, the shoes were worn by every child on their day of baptism. In those days the sacrament was performed in Latin just days after birth, just in case. When the service was over, the priest took him aside. Pulling a small pouch of oats from under his cassock, the priest gave it to him. “For the baby”, the priest said. “It’s all I have to give.”

communion
the only bread
for months

Bryan Rickert, USA

Soliloquy

One moment your forehead is weaving a frown, then your lips curl up into a half smile. While putting you to bed, I try to anticipate what the next day will bring: a new expression, a string of gurgling sounds, or a different shade of blue in your eyes?

As you stare intently at my face, your right hand hanging on to my hair, I wonder if you will remember these bonding moments, my one-sided conversations.

my share
of the silence
mother’s day

Remembrance

Looking through our family albums, I notice there isn’t a single photo of just me and my mother. When I ask her why, she says she was always the one behind the camera.

old diary
that little girl’s voice
still inside me

Debbi Antebi, United Kingdom

Sento

The first thing I notice is the noren over the door, which is shaped like a pair of trousers. As I know only basic Japanese my English students wrote out the kanji characters for man and woman so I don’t enter the wrong side. A kind lady greets me at the reception and chats away. I don’t catch most of what she is saying. She imitates washing her body and I nod and smile. She then imitates getting into the pool and I give her a thumbs up.

vending machine
the change warms my hand

I undress and lock my clothes away. This is my first time being completely naked in front of strangers and I feel butterflies in my stomach. Scrubbing myself thoroughly at the washing area, I know that absolute cleanliness is important. The hot water is quite invigorating. Moving around, the heat makes me sweat profusely.

bubbles come up
as I break wind
a floating world

Just then a hunky Japanese man strides in with quite a package. He tests the water and jumps straight in. No pre-wash. He sits across from me and I catch a glimpse of his ripped abs dripping with water. I move towards the foaming spray, afraid that my manhood might get stiff for all to see. He turns around and reveals angel wings tattooed on his entire back and buttocks. My students said that the yakuza are the only ones who openly display their tattoos and they don’t like foreigners. I get out and cool down in a different bath.

cycling through puddles
the reflection of street lights
guide me home

Diarmuid Fitzgerald, Ireland

The painter of landscapes

gentian
indigo carmine
brilliant blue
fast green
sunset yellow
carmoisine
erythrosine
ponceau 4R

choosing hues
from the spectrum—
dad’s medicines

Geethanjali Rajan, India

Re-orientation

Kat Lehmann, USA

Coming Down

On the verge of climax, he pauses to change the radio. “I prefer Rob Zombie when I’m fucked up on pills.”

evening primrose
he gets off
on my trauma

Over Before It Begins

The last time I shaved my legs, I had a panic attack. It was the first date since my engagement ended and when I told the guy I hadn’t shaved in a while, he said “well, you’ve still got a few days.”

cold tamales
the bitter taste
of expectations

Lori A Minor, USA

imbalance

Too far to the left, to the right, breathe, find your center
and move from there

Rooted, as if you were a tree, let all your weight go down
below your feet, all the way to the center of the earth
At the same time, suspend your head from the heavens
to ride the clouds

Feel your feet spread out like the bottoms of a sand dune
shift your weight without pushing off from the ground
as if a thousand pounds hung off your coccyx bone
Now pop your head on straight, your neck and spine
in perfect alignment as if they were a string of pearls
imagining a one-pound weight hanging from your chin

Keep your wrists seated at all times making beautiful lady’s wrists
If your right leg is substantial your right arm is insubstantial
If the left arm is insubstantial the right leg is the one to look out for

Be like water, your gaze soft
your eyes resting on the horizon
But above all, first and foremost, you must relax

tai chi
shifting my stance
in the checkout line

Michael Henry Lee, USA

Jilted

An old friend told me that since she’d stopped drinking two years ago she could no longer write. “My muse flew the coup,” she said. That seems to happen a lot with those who’ve chosen to ride the wagon. I wonder where all of these muses go? Playing the slots in Vegas maybe? Sipping a café au lait at a little French Bistro? Tucked away at a Himalayan Buddhist retreat? They may be happy that the artists, writers, musicians they inspired went dry. Can you imagine the sense of responsibility? Seldom do they get credit for any work of art produced, but always receive blame when inspiration is lacking. I’ll bet they’ve all met up to raise a glass to freedom. But there will be a few—those who actually miss their keepers—who will return with a bottle in hand, “Drink up,” they’ll say, “We’ve got some work to do.”

hungover
a smeared poem
on the bar tab

Terri L. French, USA

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Issue 34 – Linked Forms

Hexarengay

Erratic Gravity

Kat Lehmann, USA & Bryan Rickert, USA

Once Upon a Time

Tanya McDonald, USA & Lew Watts, USA

Tan-Renga

John Hawkhead, United Kingdom & John Stevenson, USA

Rengay

Last Call

sawdust
on the floor of the saloon
cowboy spit

by the Women and Escorts sign
the glow of a cigarette

her accent over cocktails––
the shape
of her vowels

crowded pub
his touch
on the other woman’s arm

on a barstool living the life
of a country song

last call
the fading buzz
of neon

Alan S. Bridges, USA & Jacquie Pearce, Canada

Role Reversal

a barking dog—
the thunder fades
into the distance

eyes follow the rails
to a single point

the art teacher
trying to explain
perspective

role reversal
how long it takes
to see the other side

the new pronouns
after their name

the poet
giving words
where I had none

Angela Terry, USA & Julie Schwerin, USA

Cradle Song

pink moon
not one wrinkle
on mother’s face

tender ways of love
with tired eyes

cradle song
the kiss
on my birthmark

falling asleep
at the movie show
in her warm arms

treasure chest
a walk in her shoes

party time
mum would rock’n’roll
along with my music

Elisa Theriana, Indonesia & Ron C. Moss, Australia

Celibacy

after the breakup
the strength
of her sneeze

the unheralded joy
of a bowel movement

parboiled potatoes
this frenzied quest for
a seven-inch handle

the sliiide
of fingers down
the ziplock

riding her wave
with the spin cycle

three fingers then two
the intimacy
of a cigarette

Kelly Sauvage, USA & Robert Moyer, USA

Heads or Tails

nickels in my pocket
from our birth years . . .
first of autumn

warm coins
for a cold soda

winter drizzle––
no spare change
for the street performer

spring showers
pennies dropping from
the child’s fist

the ref calls
heads or tails

one long summer day
George Washington didn’t throw
a dollar that far

Michael Dylan Welch, USA & Gary Hotham, USA

Olvera Street

crying baby––
the Mariachi band
stops to tune

a mother hissing
“no tocar”

gaudy ukuleles
hanging with the chilies––
first drops of rain

hushed voices––
painted skulls
in the candle shop

the slap of tortillas
as we count our cash

Sepulvida’s window––
in the evening rush
a siren

Michael Dylan Welch, USA & Oleg Kagan, USA

Over the Wall

counting motorcycles
just to prove
I’m not a robot

behind the slow tractor
hells angels

desert highway
the rank and file
eatin’ dust

licking
its open eyes
gila monster

sarapes sold
at a road-side stand

cantina flies
the only wi-fi
since the border

Terri L. French, USA & Bryan Rickert, USA

Sequences

Purple Hearts

green grass––
a house bought on
the G.I. Bill

yellow tablets . . .
a little shrapnel
in his knee

blue veins––
there’s a hole in
Daddy’s arm

red balloons . . .
an overdose hovering
in the air

black suits––
a flag-draped casket
on a local heroes’ hill

Source: found sequence from singer-songwriter John Prine’s “Sam Stone”

Matthew Markworth, USA

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