Issue 36 – Haibun, Gembun, Rengay & Sequences

Haibun

Answering Machine

Dad rings to tell us it’s prostate cancer. He’s phlegmatic; says that at his age he’ll most likely die with it than of it. We talk around the subject; he puts mum on. She’s worrying about us worrying so she’s overly upbeat. I tell her that we’ve sorted the passports and we’ll see them soon. We agree it’ll fly by.

The cat is still asleep in its patch of sunlight. Way above, the honey buzzards are still circling. Music still drifts from kitchen to garden. Nothing is different. Everything is different.

winter evening
in the shade of
his second shadow

Alan Peat, United Kingdom

Visiting the Past

Running along the length of Korea are majestic mountains. Covered in lush forests filled with aromatic Hinoki trees, they provide a comforting escape from the rush of city lives. For millennia these mountains have stood as sentinels, calmly watching the flow of time and the journey of humans.

rain forest café
the waiter in a zebra shirt
and leopard pants

Carol Raisfeld, USA

Monochrome

. . . When everyday is like yesterday
in dreary predictability
I seek succour in memories,
drown in nostalgia
savouring every lick, until its
sweetness too evaporates
until I turn to words
for sustenance, each stroke
relished and gourmandised
and hope reigns eternal . . .

stretching the day beyond her means tram stop

Madhuri Pillai, Australia

Gembun

the dregs of nirvana

Thursday rain
he serves me leftovers
on the chipped plate

Kelly Sauvage, USA & Agnes Eva Savich, USA

minutes on the meter

high anxiety
the abyss
of an unfinished poem

Kelly Sauvage, USA & Robert Moyer, USA

Rengay

Two Straws

50’s dance party
getting into
the swing of things

a trombone player

directing the band with his slide

her poodle dog skirt
from the thrift shop––
never been worn

vacancy––

a soda

with two straws

he waits for a slow dance
to ask her

In the Still of the Night

taking the long way

home

Angela Terry, USA & Julie Schwerin, USA

Om Shante Shante

a poker chip
nestled in the stone
Buddha’s palm

free from desire

Tao roulette

disgruntled patron
suing the casino
for bad feng shui

lost among slots

the endless chimes

of ten thousand things

losing streak
bad karma catches up

carpet maze

the way out the door

is within

Terri L. French, USA & Kat Lehmann, USA

Sequences

Land of the Free

electric gate
Your Kind of Community
in glowing white letters

picket fences
a white man shadows
the black teen

thud of footsteps
one bark answers
another

ID check
the black teen’s shadow
slips out of the gate

Chen-ou Liu, Canada

Return to Issue

Issue 35 – Haibun


Reruns

I keep sneaking looks. The antics of the aristocats, the dalmatians escaping Cruella, the stork delivering Dumbo. Watching them react, years telescope. I don’t watch movies anymore: I watch my kids watching movies.

jungle adventures
discovering my inner man
cub

Benedict Grant, Canada

Extraction

Apparently, my jawbone’s rotting even though I don’t feel it as the nerve of my molar has died years ago. I bite the bullet and sign into the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. To save my wallet, I opt for numbing rather than gas. The nurse inspires great confidence “ Which side hurts dear, I’m lousy at reading these x-ray screens?”

I clutch the arms of the chair, frayed by many a victim before me. Bigger needles drive a hefty puncture unlike the pinpricks of vaccination.

Left alone to freeze up and anticipate my fate, I peek at his tools. This isn’t a fancy surgery, it’s a wrecking yard with hammers, chisels, drills, and pincers. “Am I really frozen?” “Sure, I gave you enough to stun a horse; bite on this block like in the movies when they’re about to amputate a leg!”

A nurse grabs my jaw with a much-practiced grip of steel and the hammering begins. “ Don’t worry about the cracking noises and the acrid burning smell… they’re normal”. Boney bits fly from my head. “Boy, this tooth is rooted really deep in your jaw….did anyone tell that you have a thick head?” “ Yes, but not in this context” I gurgle through blood and rinse. One more pull, with enough pressure to extract a wheel bearing on my truck, and the remains of my molar hit his facemask. “We’re not finished yet” he mutters as he scrapes out rot from my jawbone.

Well, that wasn’t so bad; I pity those folk in earlier centuries whose only freezing was rum or unreliable ether, if at all. Back in the Middle Ages, you died from a tooth abscess sending rot to your heart. But my reflection is short-lived… a week of swelling, icepacks, gauze wads, excruciating pain, sleepless nights, liquid food, and codeine fog. The saving grace is that I write some haibun with an unusual economy of words. I’ll reread them later to see if they make any sense.

dental bill
purr of the surgeon’s
Lamborghini

Bryan Cook, Canada

Frost Bite

On the news, I recently heard one of our American senators refer to the LGBTQ community as “snowflakes.” A term used by many to define things delicate and sensitive. Setting aside the fact that snowflakes compound themselves into city crippling blizzards, I assume the good senator has never witnessed the ferocity of a drag queen breaking a fingernail.

strangling its kill
the feather boa constrictor

Bryan Rickert, USA

Warrens

At 6:00 pm, when all the other school kids are at home, she’s hanging around the schoolyard. It is quiet then and the school’s pet rabbits boldly emerge from their holes to romp and nuzzle in their enclosure. The groundskeeper allows her to feed the rabbits their supper: a handful of herbs, a lock of brush, a sprig of ginkgo. Every day on my way out of the schoolyard I see her, crouching with the creatures around her. Sometimes she calls out to me. Other times she appears busy. Either way, there’s a sanctity at that hour, between her and the rabbits around her, that I try not to intrude on.

Over the years this girl will grow up. Someday she’ll fall in love, her world enlarged by another. But it occurred to me—as if with a sense of loss—that this other, however fond and devoted, could never plumb every depth and discover every element that shaped and defined her. No matter how intimately they would come to know one another, no other would ever see this image of her, in second grade, tending rabbits as the sun descends behind the schoolyard.

Saturday night streets
the moon
unnoticed

Frank Dax, South Korea

Sleepless Night

Forty years ago, I waited all night long outside the delivery room while my wife experienced birth pangs alone inside. I was told I must stay outside the double door. I felt my heart was like a wet towel wrung constantly until the sunrise got up smiling in the window. The midwife came out to deliver me the birth news. I jumped from the bench and followed her into the room, eager to hold my girl and wife in my arms.

flight to Incheon
a baby’s whimper
off and on

John Zheng, USA

Safe Return

It’s been a year since that first report. Afterward, several people wrote in with sightings, some claiming they’d seen him in the woods at night. But it was only when a postcard arrived that interest picked up, a photo of him beneath the Eiffel Tower. Weeks went by before the next card. This time, he was on a beach, with palm trees in the background.

I can only imagine how our neighbors must have felt. Surely, some sadness initially, even anger. But did they occasionally crack a smile? Like with him stuck beneath a limbo bar, or with a banana, being mobbed by baboons. My favorite, which reached the front page, was of him waterskiing, his face flushed and dripping with spray.

But today, he’s back, in his usual spot between two toadstools. Has he changed? A few rough edges perhaps, the hat more pink than red. But the soft-serve beard is still as white as snow, the belt as stretched as ever.

welcomed home
to a pinboard map––
gap year

Lew Watts, USA

Holograms, figments, & whatnot

“….. nothing is real, & nothing to get hung about…..”
The Beatles, “Strawberry Fields”

There’s a growing consensus among many deep theoretical thinkers that objective reality cannot really exist or is, at best, formless. That this universe (& all the others out there, parallel or perpendicular) are virtual projections, representations created in the “mind” (whatever “mind” is/isn’t) of……….the whole enchilada. Get the picture? So, what’s new, pussycat? Isaac Newton’s reality wasn’t Albert Einstein’s reality, and his wasn’t Niels Bohr’s. And you should be thankful my reality ain’t yours.

that familiar face
in the bathroom mirror––
I might not be me

Mark Meyer, USA

The Coolest Place On Earth

Early 1970s. Uncle Dom’s house. Swing set in the backyard & train tracks just beyond the fence. Cuckoo clock in the living room, Coca-Cola bottle opener on the kitchen wall. 7-11 down the street where he’d take me and my siblings to get balsa-wood airplanes and cherry Slurpees.

What wasn’t cool was the ride home after Dad knocked back half a dozen 16 ouncers of Schlitz and my brother had to tell him when the stop lights changed. When you’re a kid you think everything you experience is normal. Doesn’t everyone’s Dad do this?

therapy
revisiting secrets
through the wormhole

Michael Morell, USA

Cutting the Cord

Pregnancy came easily, labor too, but not so the reality of a newborn in my arms. They shouldn’t trust inexperienced people with infants, I thought. I could not connect his name, and so instead called him Snuffly Bear Kid.

off-key lullabies
the labor pains
of every deployment

Nancy Brady, USA

Velveteen

The red rabbit belongs to the white tree, which grows below as it does above, or so they say. There’s no way to verify it. Even the red rabbit, who burrows, can’t see all of it at once. After all, it’s underground.

pet cemetery––
she unearths
her childhood

August

All-day and all night by the water. We swim further and further out and every time we make it back to shore we collapse onto each other, let the sun lick the water off our bodies, sand-dappled skin stretched and water-strained muscle, air bright with salt. Looking right at the sun makes me sneeze and you ask why, you say the sun has no scent, but you’re wrong. The sun smells like your hair, three shades lighter, like your clothes, pin-dried on the line, like your freckles, a constellation on each shoulder. So many stars back then, even where they don’t belong, stars that fall in the water, in the footprints we leave behind, stars that shine green at night, the sky an amphibian, and

so

were

we.

every so often
the scent
of Coppertone

Pippa Phillips, USA

Return to Issue


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

Return to Issue