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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