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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Issue 38 – Senryu & Kyoka

new year’s eve
my best intentions circle
the drain

Shelley Aikman, USA

the colour
of my recent memory––
chinar tree

dry leaves
the versions of myself
I leave behind

Vidhi Ashar, Bangalore, India

campsite clothesline
a teen girl connects
the holes in her dupatta

Hifsa Ashraf, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

their view
on contentious statues
city pigeons

dying town
the bright lights
of casinos

Ingrid Baluchi, Ohrid, North Macedonia

graveside blooms
she did have a way
with things

faded rainbow––
the uncertainty
of your love

Mona Bedi, Delhi, India

in the waiting room––
trying to become the white moth
in a field of clover

Deborah A. Bennett, USA

a new play
about racism
no intermission

Mom calls it

goldfinch flight––
maybe my path
is too straight

Brad Bennett, USA

a child still
white lilies

Bisshie, Zürich, Switzerland

remedial history––
learning which battles
are mine

Julie Bloss Kelsey, Maryland, USA

heavy grey clouds
where two oceans meet––
carrying your child

René Bohnen, Mossel Bay, South Africa

heat lightning
the storm rages
inside her

Nancy Brady, USA

your guitar strings
the tension increases
how much longer
before you snap

Susan Burch, USA

third booster
the pharmacist and I
on a first-name basis

Marylyn Burridge, USA

the pianist shares
with the neighborhood

Alanna C. Burke, USA

portrait photo
trying to look better
than i do

Sondra Byrnes, USA

flower tattoo
on her old scar

Christopher Calvin, Indonesia

Halley’s comet
the absence
of a father

petro c.k., USA

bone white
grandma’s vase
sold for a dollar

Erin Castaldi, USA

our garage
sheathed in moonlight
his first swastikas

Aidan Castle, USA

steamed cod
the sharpness of scallions
in mother’s scolding

every hour
the cuckoo’s cry

ginkgo leaves the unexpected corollaries of middle age

Antoinette Cheung, Canada

what she isn’t saying
ley lines

Evan Coram, USA

secret wedding
she throws her bouquet
to the wind

a river
meandering down
to the sea
my yearning to be
more than a friend

suspended class
i continue listening
to the rain

Alvin B. Cruz, Philippines

sipping cocktails
the garbage on the beach
wasn’t in the brochure

Stephen C. Curro, USA

thoughts and prayers
if only they could raise
the dead

Dan Dolen, USA

night wind
I run in a desert
with wild dogs

in dreams
the pieces of my heart
blue sharks

Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo, The Hague, Netherlands

happy hour
his marriage
on the rocks

press clippings
my accolades

Johnette Downing, USA

laughter lines
i add one more
to my drawing

Christine Eales, United Kingdom

blowing dust
off an old book
the smell of time

no change in her cup
or circumstance

Eavonka Ettinger, USA

she plans
her own spectacular fall––
hell flower

she sleeps
to talk to her dead––

moving through
the rain shadow
she becomes a rainbow

Adele Evershed

funeral parlour
the one time
I kiss my father

Keith Evetts, United Kingdom

third culture I never was

Tazeen Fatma, India

life goes on
my heart settles back
into rhythm

Bruce H. Feingold, USA

black dahlias
his love letter

P. H. Fischer, Vancouver, Canada

extinction-level event . . .
I stir more sugar
into my coffee

sequoia tree rings
he stretches his arms
from the Aztecs to Hiroshima

Jay Friedenberg, USA

falling rain
when she speaks Spanish
all over me

Alex Fyffe, USA

all my children
grown up––
a storch flies past

family quilt––
patching her life
together again

Katja Fox, Cambridge, United Kingdom

rocking me
back into neutral
a park swing

Jenny Fraser, New Zealand

dusty corner
i, too, am coated
by this year

Ben Gaa, St. Louis, MO USA

the moving lips
at prayer

seen with 2022 vision
a different story

Mike Gallagher, Ireland

hidden stitches
the lives my mother
never lived

Lisa Gerlits, USA

touching each wall
before the estate sale
mom’s path

I tilt my head
to the right

Peggy Hale Bilbro, USA

divorce sale––
desk chairs in the driveway
back to back

small-town diner
customers cluster
on the sunny side

in a strange land
block party

Jennifer Hambrick, USA

hospital fare

three sleeping pills
will morning come

Charles Harper, Japan

falling blossom
indigenous children
in unmarked graves

John Hawkhead, United Kingdom

the untouched gray
in her pigtails

Kerry J Heckman, Seattle, Washington, USA

lightning separates
day and night

Janet Ruth Heller, USA

returned vet
sleeping on the floor
of his old room

Frank Higgins, USA

how easily she climbs
into another bed

in a picture in a locket
in a casket in the ground
she forces a smile

Jonathan Humphrey, USA

louder and louder prayers the lord of diminishing returns

Sankara Jayanth Sudanagunta, India

this love song
not written for me . . .
and yet

Deborah Karl-Brandt, Germany

changing my grandson’s diaper
I discover
the fountain of youth

Brian Kates, USA

a hologram of life yet to be lived egg freezing

knit drop knit drop
the sound of dreams
beyond midnight

Arvinder Kaur, Chandigarh, India

morning routine
I follow their movements
with my chai tea

David J. Kelly, Dublin, Ireland

silver strands
in her hairbrush
another goodbye

Kimberly Kuchar, USA

at the funeral––
two ex-wives exchanging

Natalia Kuznetsova, Russia

last day of August
letting the calendar
linger in summer

Kristen Lindquist, USA

she asks me
to trust her
Cheshire moon

Gregory Longenecker, USA

Sunday brunch
the line at the soup kitchen
two-blocks long

Bob Lucky, Portugal

wildfires raging I join a tweet storm

Hannah Mahoney, USA

morning fog––
her husband tries to explain
where he was last night

Andrew Markowski, USA

livestock tent
a knot in the rope
in my stomach

Sarah E. Metzler, USA

driveway chalk––
all the colors of

Laurie D. Morrissey, USA

Indian civil exam––
a jam packed train
of young men

rural polling booth––
a policeman sleeps
in the classroom

Daipayan Nair, Silchar, Assam, India

Google thinks
I’d like to remember––
hospice pics

Maurice Nevile, Australia

yet to be . . .

Nika, Calgary, AB, Canada

how long
we’ve had democracy
leaf fall

David Oates, USA

school backpack
she carries the weight
of the world

Debbie Olson, USA

into the sky
her last words

art docent––
hearing her words
change color

Victor Ortiz, USA

coastal rain
again I think
about drowning

John Pappas, Boston, MA, USA

high tea
Gods discuss men
fighting over them

crying kids
he leaves
because he can

Vandana Parashar, Panchkula, India

school uniforms
the individuality
of skirt lengths

vacation over
how quickly we return
to old patterns

Jacquie Pearce, Canada

mum’s drawer
a seashell from
my childhood’s shore

Alan Peat, United Kingdom

you whisper my name
across the world

blind narcissus
the infinite reflection
of a victim complex

between virgin and whore the crucifixion of an orgasm

Pippa Phillips

yard sale
a box filled
with used flaws

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams, USA

shifting clouds my child’s pronouns

penny fountain
that same wish
since childhood

our inheritance
heirloom seeds
in an old tin can

Bryan Rickert, USA

trial break-up
the wind toys
with the snow

a helicopter throbs
across a clear sky
I delete his name

Cynthia Rowe, Sydney Australia

red sprites my pain ignites the upper atmosphere

rs, USA

agendas steeped
in polite conversations
afternoon tea

Jenn Ryan-Jauregui, USA

glacial lake
all the stories
i’ll never know

Barbara Sabol, USA

retired now . . .
what will I be
when I grow up

Bonnie J Scherer, USA

claddagh ring
i refuse the next

Richa Sharma, Ghaziabad, India

riding on a lawnmower
the thief steals
the quiet of dawn

Ryland Shengzhi Li, USA

the cities
I’ve lived in
live in me

Neena Singh, Chandigarh, India

night rain . . .
how every drop echoes
through a broken home

Srini, India

skeleton flower
sister and I excavate
our childhood

Stephenie Story, USA

news of her stroke . . .
I pray to a god
I don’t believe in

Nick T, United Kingdom

red lipstick smears
the little face
child bride

Elisa Theriana, Bandung, Indonesia

I get to hold
your photograph

C.X.Turner, United Kingdom

in a language I don’t know the subtitles of love

pollen grains––
my confession
in uppercase

Aishwarya Vedula, India

only two cars
follow the hearse
snow showers

Joseph P. Wechselberger, USA

my to do list

Robert Witmer, Tokyo, Japan

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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?
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

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


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

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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