Issue 37 – Haibun & Gembun


Watching it live

I am five and a half. Everyone is in the living room. The ceiling is Artexed and the carpet is the orange of a nightwatchman’s jacket. I’m sat in my pyjamas with a glass of milk. My grandparents are behind me on dad’s Practical Woodworking project pine sofa. On either side, my parents lean forward on the brought-in kitchen table chairs. Dad puts his hand on my shoulder as the astronaut steps off the ladder…

outside             on t.v.             the moon

Alan Peat, United Kingdom


Tonight I would like to silence the sweetness of the summer wind. Listen to another voice, feel the touch of a hand, feel …

on my pillow
the dream catcher

Instead, I take a book from the bedside table and read, so as not to listen to the wind and call the sleep.

I wander among

Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo, Netherlands/Italy


just suicidal enough to fake my death consummate my pain in some dramatic gesture delete social media and finally get some good fucking sleep to dream for myself alone imagining everyone wondering what happened

heavy summer
when I’m depressed even my cat
doesn’t like me


there is morning today, and it is like any morning, more or less, the sky is gray, there is my phone in my hand and words of war gleaming under the glass, and it’s another blunted senseless day of carrying on with it all

drops of milk
stirred into my morning coffee
news of bombings . . .

Ash Evan Lippert, USA

Shark Week

Monday morning the mechanic calls and tells me to sit down. Wednesday I receive an email from an anonymous woman who tells me I’m missing out on the most romantic experience of my life and that I should wire her $1000 to secure it. Friday evening two Cub Scouts are standing at my door with a box of cookies. It’s out before I can stop myself: ‘What’s your angle?’

the warm-hearted smile
i usually flash––
endangered species

Benedict Grant, Canada

Travel Advice

Sit in a café and read a newspaper in a language you want to know better. Pretend you’re never going home, even if you’ve never left.

red-eye departure
adding my two cents
to the bathroom wall

Bob Lucky, Portugal


Alone in my desert.

Reading Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, unable to climb out of the Inferno into Paradise. A virtual church pummels with platitudes. A purgatory of filling tax forms, swamped with unfiled receipts and too much coffee. COVID cabin fever compounds the gloom. Snow melts to grime. My banjo plays the blues. A colonoscopy is booked.

sorting sepia photos
so many
forgotten names

There’s no GPS in my desert.

Wandering aimlessly in boredom, binge watching movies, all the same construct with not very subtle twists. Hours spent gazing at Facebook, getting kicks from the minutia of other folk’s lives. Every time I resolve to snowshoe, the temperature drops to the minus teens.

Longing for Spring.

For dog-tooth violets blooming in the elm root hollow, trilliums carpeting the forest, marsh-marigolds gilding the mud flats, an insistency of cardinals, and sunbathing with the dandelions in fresh, sweet grass.

spring equinox
druids circle
the sarsen stone

Bryan D. Cook, Canada

she says she loves me but I have my doubts

another anniversary
the flowers
I bought her
don’t even warrant
a kiss

not even science wants him

in the coffin
my first time
smelling him
without the whiskey

Bryan Rickert, USA

Family Ties

Mother insisted that Dad have a funeral mass. I spoke up. That is not what he wanted! He said he wanted a wake, play his old 78’s, wear party clothes, get plastered…Ten eyes glared at me. You are upsetting her, they said. Daddy’s girl, they added.

I pulled my black dress over my red slip and joined the others at the church. I swayed to my IPOD Frank Sinatra tunes before the service started, and sipped vodka from my water bottle during the homily.

nightmare strangled by apron strings

Carol Judkins, USA


In the grocery store, a colander is only a dollar.

slipping through

I keep looking at the tag. One dollar.

the cracks

I assumed colanders were expensive. All those holes.

a quantum

It’s not until now, at 23-years old, that I wonder why we spent years—decades—carefully pouring the water from boiled pasta.


I choose the white one and put it in my cart.

Connecting the Stars

Our old house is listed on realtor sites today, a Tuesday. I think of other Tuesdays that brought a shift in my life. First child’s birth. Second child’s birth.

moving day

My throat feels sore. Nothing terrible, just the brink of something. I immerse myself in the comfort of a warm bath.

grandmother’s lilies

If home is the place where it’s okay to feel sick, where will I feel sick now?

in a stranger’s lawn

Maybe this Tuesday is just another birthing, a former life pushed into gravity.

Kat Lehmann, USA

from Red Riding Hood’s Blog

Recently, I’ve been reading some poets who’ve been trying to revise my story, like I’m an iPhone that needs an update, or like I’m little more than a “social construct” with as much value as a can of soup. Like they know. For whatever reason, they’re not satisfied with me living in “once upon a time,” in illo tempore, so they wrench me out of the primeval forest of myself — one of the few places left where you can still find wolves that talk — and relocate me in suburbia, like I’m in a witness protection program, where they say I’ve become a bored soccer mom, divorced from the Wood Cutter (who has a drinking problem), with two kids, driving a Toyota, and living the kind of life where I do little more than make the cupcakes of ennui, all the while longing for those timeless days when I traversed the woods like a lit match on a path that was dangerous, dark, and deep.

summer strip mall
all-you-can-eat coupons
at the Pork Palace

So let me set the record straight. What people miss is that the wolf didn’t dispatch my grandmother, didn’t devour her like a Thanksgiving ham, because — wait for it — the wolf is my grandmother, and vice-versa: sometimes she’s the grandmother, sometimes she’s the wolf, and there is no difference; it just depends on how you look at it. I thought everyone knew that. So, later in the story, when the wolf eats me, don’t be concerned, don’t call the Wood Cutter, and don’t rewrite me, because if you really think about it, you’d realize that I belong in the belly of the beast, because that’s where I find the time to change, to let my teeth grow long and sharp, to perfect my growl, and where, finally, I become reborn as the “great mother,” the one who is fierce, ferocious, and free. The one coming your way.

ice cave––
the dragon’s heart stirring
in the dark

Keith Polette, USA

“Lady, Be Good”

I park her wheelchair and set the brake before taking the open seat. Josie and Clare are already waiting. They don’t speak, even when I give my standard wink. There’s an unfamiliar tension in the room.

Some of the tables have been moved, encircling one in the corner. The usual smell of overcooked greens is missing, drowned out by the pungent scent of blue-rinsed hair. I notice that Josie’s eyes are watering from eye make-up, and most of her lipstick has missed her mouth. Indeed, stray lipstick seems to be everywhere.

A sudden frisson announces his arrival. Tall, with a straight gait, he walks across the room to join two other men. “His name is George,” Clare whispers to me. “A bachelor,” Mom adds, “and he can drive at night.”

rest home radio . . .
lulling her to sleep
with The Man I Love

Lew Watts, USA

Med School Confidential

One year, 1969 – 1970, Texas, at the very height of the Vietnam War. I passed my every course with high marks. And then one day I walked away.

I had a mustache and Yellow Submarine lunchbox, but had to wear an official white coat and tie each day. The school provided me with a black bag, stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, and lots of other assorted junior A.M.A. goodies; still have ’em. The school also freely prescribed all the pretty pills I needed to get me through round-the-clock schedules. I took a lot. I drank a lot.

ego tripping
with maxwell’s silver hammer*––
knee jerk reflex jerk

Four of us shared our own cadaver, a silver-haired giant of a gentleman who popped-up every day for us from his steel formalin tank. We named him “The Senator.” The smell persists no matter how many times you wash. Can almost still smell it. One day, in the respiratory physiology lab, they provided a dog to experiment upon. I still remember that poor sacrificial dog and will never forget her eyes looking at me – – the last straw. Shortly thereafter, I resigned, walked away from it all, and broke my parents’ hearts. A week later, I received my draft notice.

and ever after . . .
always following
what my dog tells me

*A Beatles song off of the Abbey Road album (1969)

Mark Meyer, USA

Nuptial Rightness

pear liqueur
learning a new

A humid, warm, treacle-still afternoon. Someone props open double garage doors. This does nothing to dispel the cloying heat, only letting in more hot air. Heaped bowls of potato salad, pickles, rice, pasta and roasted peppers load long trestle tables spread with embroidered white linen. Lines of golden spirits bottles stand already open. Guests fan themselves as they pile plates with spit-roasted pig and accompaniments.

Someone places in front of the bride the whole roasted pig’s head, its mouth agape and singed ears tipped at jaunty angles. A delicacy. She recoils slightly, downs her champagne in three gulps, then holds out her glass for more. Several glasses in she’s picking ruminatively at a glossy porcine cheek, popping crispy morsels between red lips slick with grease. The levels of golden spirits drop.

Dusk, and it’s still stiflingly hot. No one cares – we’re singing folk songs in a language we don’t speak and smashing glasses on the driveway. Some people dance. Everyone agrees signs are good for a long and happy second marriage. Captive butterflies, released during the ceremony, flew off after they warmed up briefly in the bride’s cupped hands. We reckon if we make it through tomorrow, our headaches will join the memories.

a horseshoe
of white satin
her new prince

Marietta McGregor, Australia

Never Forgotten

From the back of a drawer falls this letter, written in 2001 from the woman I shared an apartment with in the late sixties. I’m sorry I didn’t write at Christmas, she says. My sister died an hour after Christmas midnight of ovarian cancer. She tells me now that in her dying, she was able to end a nine-year estrangement with her sister, not unlike the long estrangement between the two of us. Despite having her own ovaries removed, my old friend dies less than a decade later of a cancer in the ovarian family. I tuck her letter back into the drawer under the last letter from a good friend who died of esophageal cancer. When I think I can bear no more I uncover a letter from an artist friend I met in the sixties in O’Hare, our commuter plane grounded by snow. Brilliant, he was already exhibiting at the MoMA and we became close. My apartment was soon filled with his photomontages. Three years ago he had a serious stroke, ending his darkroom days and art tours, and died a month ago. I’ve thrown away so many old handwritten letters and am glad to have these with the imprint of the person still seared into them. I’m glad I have my first husband’s letters from Vietnam, dead now also of esophageal cancer. I’m also glad I have letters from my father telling me what a good daughter I was to him and my mother.

float through
my house
the genie’s bottle

Pris Campbell, USA

A New Nose

in the mirror
the high cost
of living

“It’s malignant,” the voice on the phone tells me.

I arrive for surgery the following morning. Numbing injections. The first causes tearing up. Then injections two, three, four and so on. By the time the surgeon is ready to start, I’m sure he could decapitate me.

“I’ll remove the tumor a layer at a time and look at each under the microscope until I’m sure the cancer is gone,” the doctor explains. “I won’t take more than I absolutely have to so that rebuilding your nose won’t be too much of a problem.”

“Fantastic,” I tell myself. “A new nose. Maybe it’ll look better than the one I’ve seen in the mirror for 75 years.”

at windmills
the surgeon’s scalpel

Sharon Rhutasel-Jones, USA

Chicago Café

Everyone looks at him, even if briefly. He sits alone, staring into space, occasionally taking sips from a small espresso cup. The tics seem to mostly involve his head and shoulders, a contraction, a violent shrug, a silent sneeze every minute or so. The verbalizations, hardly more articulate than grunts, are near-constant, just barely audible above the din of conversation. I wonder if his neck and throat hurt as badly as mine at the end of a long day. I want to say something, but would that be more unwelcome attention? Silent thanks for the pharmaceuticals that keep me contained.

symptom check         I stick out my tongue at the doctor

Stephen A Allen, USA

F   O   G

so thick even the low-beams bounce back into my eyes making it difficult to drive faster than a snail’s pace. I squint and clutch the wheel, try to stay right of the dotted center line. Night blindness usually keeps me off the road after dark, especially when it’s raining, but not tonight. This is my first meeting for parent’s of children struggling with substance abuse. Tonight’s discussion will be on boundaries; that is something I desperately need help with. Stopping at a red light, I exhale the breath I’ve been holding. I will get there. . .I will get there.

zero visibility
everything loses
its definition

Terri L. French, USA


If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

I pause to take a breath and to discuss the metaphorical aspects of these lines with my grade eight class. They try to build up convincing discussion points.

“Let’s get back to the text,” I say after a few minutes of interaction.

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this,
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

My students pretend to be attentive. But I notice the furtive glances, the blushes, the smiles, a spaced out expression while the hand doodles.

I continue, straight-faced.

Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

hearts and flowers . . .
a folded piece of paper
in a uniform pocket

*text from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Vidya Shankar, India


the mollusk’s new handbag

cheetah print
one more whiskey
before the dancefloor

Kelly Sauvage, USA & Agnes Eva Savich, USA

old photograph––
this is me
this was me

pouring myself into the body-shaped abyss

Vijay Prasad, India & Richa Sharma, India

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Issue 36 – Haibun, Gembun, Rengay & Sequences


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


. . . 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


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


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


a soda

with two straws

he waits for a slow dance
to ask her

In the Still of the Night

taking the long way


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


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

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

Chen-ou Liu, Canada

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Issue 35 – Haibun


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

Benedict Grant, Canada


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

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


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

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?

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


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


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




every so often
the scent
of Coppertone

Pippa Phillips, USA

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