Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Richard Straw: DESERT PLACES

In omnibus requiem quaesivi et nusquam inveni nisi in een Hoecken met een Böcken.
Thomas à Kempis

"Everywhere I have sought rest and found it nowhere, save in little nooks with little books." His monastery cell and lancet window reappear now on a second-hand bookstore's shelf, where I find him again remaindered, but translated afresh.

I trust and collect such personal jottings, especially those published anonymously or collected posthumously by friends. Steady correspondents; meditative diarists and fiction writers; reclusive poets, aphorists, and parable tellers; and especially this speaker of homilies to common brethren—all capture the small moments. The words are not short-sighted, despite their authors' often being short-winded. Without them, there's no antidote to the daily bluster.

At home, going at a labyrinth walk's pace, I begin this updated version of the Imitation, penciling in light marginal notes and comparisons with its prior translations. My eyes close to visualize the words. My wristwatch ticks as I breathe air from the past.

I reach out to feel

by Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina
first published in
Contemporary Haibun Online V3, N4 (December 2007)

The Thomas à Kempis quotation is from an article by Vincent Scully that appeared in The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912, Volume XIV; see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14661a.htm).

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I slip the Lawrence Welk DVD into the player and whisper, “Mom, our first sleep over.”

Black and whites change with the notes on his accordion, shadows crossing her toes exposed at the bottom of the bed. Now finished, the nurse returns the blanket charting the formalities under the watchful eye of the Franciscan cross hanging on the wall. An aide helps me move the recliner closer. A pajama party—I remembered to bring my own pillow.

light and bubbly
a respirator breathes
for both of us

by Tish Davis
Dublin, Ohio
first published in
Ink, Sweat and Tears (March 5, 2008)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Announcement & Update: The Biennial British Haiku Society Haibun Anthology 2009


The British Haiku Society has extended the closing date for this international award to 1 October 2009 because the editors felt that there were insufficient entries of a strong enough quality.

You now have a further opportunity to send in your best haibun that illustrate an awareness of the relationship between the prose and haiku. The editors recommend that you think about the points below.

*Can the haiku stand alone and relate to the prose yet without repeating the same idea?
*Is there an identifiable theme that still leaves room for the reader to participate and find meaning?
*Is the language precise and fresh?

Conditions of entry:
*Open to all, except BHS committee members and any others involved with the administration of the anthology.
*Submissions must be written in English and be between 100 and 2000 words long, including haiku.
*Work must be unpublished and not under consideration for publication elsewhere.
*Each haibun should be given a title.

Entries will not be returned, so please retain copies of your submission. Copyright reverts to the author after publication in the anthology. In the event of there still being insufficient quantity and/or quality of submissions, those that are received will be carried forward for consideration for the 2011 anthology.

Submission details:
*Three copies of each haibun, with each copy starting on a separate A4 sheet.
*One copy should show your name, address, telephone number and email address (if applicable).
*The other two copies should contain no identification.

Entries on disk (floppy or CD, in Word format) will be happily accepted.
If you require receipt of your entry, please either request an email acknowledgement or send an SAE , or, for those overseas, an IRC stamped by the originating office.

Entry fee: £6.00 (cheques to ‘British Haiku Society’), or US$ 12 (in dollar bills), plus £3/6$ for each additional haibun.

Closing date: In hand by 1 October 2009.

Address for entries: Andrew Shimield, Haibun Anthology, 18 Deepwell Close, Isleworth, Middlesex , TW7 5EN , UK .

Selection and appraisal: The process will be undertaken by Jo Pacsoo and Lynne Rees. They will select the haibun for publication in the anthology, and will provide an appraisal of each haibun selected. It is anticipated that the anthology, whose title will be drawn from the selected haibun, will be published in spring 2010.

Copyright reverts to the author on publication, but entry to the 2009 anthology signifies agreement to your work being published digitally by the Society or copied for archival purposes (for example, by the British Library or Poetry Society).

All entrants will receive one copy of the anthology.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Barbara Strang: THE OMAUI ROAD

The grownups are behind a newspaper. Something is being decided. At 10.30 our family crams into the Morris 8, Mum, Dad and baby in the front, and three of us packed in the back with belongings. We start along the windswept road to Bluff, but soon turn down a rutted track. Before us lies a sea of speckled mud.

The road to Omaui is not a road at all—it lies across this inlet called the Mokemoke, usually full of water. But where has it all gone? It could come rushing back . . . in one huge wave, engulfing the Morris 8, and us. We whizz over the smooth surface, probably crushing thousands of crabs. Ever closer to mysterious Omaui Hill with the three weird bumps on top.

Some day they will build a proper road to Omaui, which will skirt the Mokemoke and thrust through the patch of bush. We will drive there on Sunday afternoons.

almost hidden
amongst flax bushes­—
the crib!

Note: “Flax”—the native harakeke, whose sword-like leaves can grow over six feet. “Crib”—Southern New Zealand dialect meaning holiday cottage

by Barbara Strang
Christchurch, New Zealand
first published in
Kokako 6, 2007

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I went to see my Chinese doctor this morning and wanted to say “Dr. Livingston, I presume,” but I bit my tongue, so to speak, and didn’t say anything but “Good morning” because, well, first of all, that’s probably the joke he is most sick of since that is his name, though he’s a physician and should be able to heal himself, and second, though it’s not related, is that he’s not Chinese but American, he just practices Chinese medicine, and that’s quite an accomplishment because if I’m not mistaken, and I have been before, he is the only non-Chinese doctor in China allowed or registered or certified or whatever it is they do here to practice Chinese medicine.

chilly morning
the blind erhu player
warms up

I am wishing my wife were here because she knows everything that is wrong with me, like the sneezing I always forget to mention, as Dr. Livingston and I gossip a bit about mutual acquaintances and he gets down to business taking my pulse and checking out my tongue and asking questions about my digestion and appetite and cough and have I been following his dietary recommendations, and I tell him that China makes me sick, and he laughs because we both know the air is horrible and we might as well take up a three-pack a day habit, and I’ve been coughing for two years, which he already knows, but my appetite is good and every time I eat fried food I think of what he’s told me, and then I remember a recent foot massage I had and tell him about how the masseuse looked at my big toe on my left foot and said I wasn’t sleeping well, and he just gives me this funny smile and says, “They always say that or something about your digestion.”

overcast skies
artificial sunflowers
turned to the window

Tapping his fingers lightly on the table and furrowing his brow, he gets very serious as he writes out a prescription for a Chinese herbal tea to help correct my damp heat stagnation, which he diagnosed partly by pushing all around my abdomen until he found out where it hurt, and to be honest I have no idea what damp heat stagnation is but I trust this man, for he is my doctor after all, and he’s kind, and most amazingly to me, he can write and speak Chinese like a native, and yes, as I said, I’m amazed but also jealous because Chinese has proven to be a completely foreign language to me, maybe because my brain is too filled with bits and pieces of other languages, of Hindi and Spanish mostly, but oddly what comes out of my mouth most often and inadvertently since living in China is Japanese, which I suppose the Chinese wouldn’t like if they knew what I was saying, though I’m not really saying much.

year of the rat
erasing the crossword
year of the cow

When it is time to go, I really don’t want to go because I know the next stop is the Chinese herb shop where I will have to push old ladies and stooped men out the way just to get a free cup of tea to get the courage to stand in line to pay before I go to the counter and join the scrum to get my herbs bundled up into little packages, and then I’ll have to walk around for an hour or two or hang out in a café while they put it all together, which isn’t so bad in Hangzhou if the air is okay that day, and later I’ll push my way back to the front of the counter and take my herbs home and make tea, at least that’s what they call it, but it is really the most god-awful concoction you can imagine, no matter what combination of herbs you get or even if you throw in a bit of cardamom toward the end of the first boiling, and this brew takes two boilings to release all the terrible smelling elixirs that will rejuvenate you, but in the meantime, at least for the next two weeks, you feel like the wicked witch of the west hovering over her cauldron, and you may look just as green, and you can’t invite anyone over to your apartment during that time because the place smells so bad, as if the family pet has died and been left in a corner because no one has the heart to take it outside and say goodbye.

winter thaw
the sweet potato vendor
pokes his last tuber

by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Marleen Wenneker-Hulst: PHOTO

Sorting out an old box I come across my kindergarten class photo. I find myself on the front row, smiling, wearing the red and yellow dress I remember so well. Looking at the picture more closely I recognize the dark haired girl sitting next to me as Janine, now spouse of my colleague Jacob.

I take the photograph with me to the office the next morning, curious to see his reaction. But he starts laughing and waves the picture away, clearly refusing to face the image of the little girl who so many years later became his wife.
Bringing up your childhood like that means you are getting old, he says later.

thick snow
her steps
in his

by Marleen Wenneker-Hulst
Musselkanaal, the Netherlands

Monday, April 13, 2009


The sound is a blackbird, forever clearing its throat, like the morning-after chanteuse of a smoke filled club. A barking crow. A crowing dog. A cardinal calling for love as if a red shirt isn't enough. There's a rattle of pick-up trucks bound toward morning coffee, the discussion of March Madness and no work, yet the light has an angle of promise. A trickle of snowmelt and an old woman scrub at little corners of big problems, and the town yawns, if a town can yawn, into grudging wakefulness. The ice is mostly gone from the lake.
a blackbird
in all its darkness
a bright wing
by Ralph Murre
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Friday, April 10, 2009


At the department store the girl at the cash desk runs her eye over the elderly gentleman who is pushing towards her ten bars of chocolate, top quality brand. Angular face, silvery hair, slight stoop, refined in a low key sort of way. Surrounding him, though, an atmosphere of trepidation and a barrier of silence.

Images flood the mind: an art exhibition with water colours of flowers by a young lady. The amateur artist herself ― elegant, sporty appearance, has had some success in the tennis world. The husband at her side older by some tens of years, grey-haired, clear-cut features. Then a winter scene: black ice, the man losing control of his Mercedes. He escaping injury, the young woman, no seatbelt on, paralyzed from the waist down. She doesn’t go out in public any more.

ravishing flowers
behind glass
no trace of scent

Years later the gentleman stands at the cash desk in the department store again ― with ten bars of chocolate, top quality brand. As ever carefully dressed, the stoop more pronounced, thinner now the silvery hair. A barrier of silence around him, but without trepidation.

He must be over eighty now and his wife somewhere around fifty . . .

on a park bench
withered pine needles
still in pairs

translation from German by David Cobb

by Ruth Franke
Emmendingen, Baden-Württemberg. Germany
first published in
Blithe Spirit 18/4 (2008)
Zehn Tafeln Schokolade

Die Kassiererin im Kaufhaus mustert den älteren Herrn, der ihr zehn Tafeln Schokolade, edelste Sorte, hinschiebt. Scharf geschnittenes Gesicht, weißes Haar, leicht gebeugt, diskrete Eleganz. Um ihn herum ein jähes Erschrecken und eine Mauer des Schweigens.

Bilder steigen auf: eine Kunstausstellung, darunter Blumen-Aquarelle einer jungen Frau. Die Hobby-Malerin selbst – elegante, sportliche Erscheinung, erfolgreiche Tennisspielerin. Daneben ihr Mann - Jahrzehnte älter, graues Haar, markantes Gesicht. Dann der Winter, Glatteis, der Mann verliert die Kontrolle über den Mercedes. Er bleibt unverletzt, die junge Frau, nicht angeschnallt, ist querschnittsgelähmt. Sie zeigt sich nicht mehr in der Öffentlichkeit.

bezaubernde Blumen
hinter Glas
ganz ohne Duft

Jahre später steht der ältere Herr wieder an der Kasse des Kaufhauses mit zehn Tafeln Schokolade, edelste Sorte. Immer noch sorgfältig gekleidet, noch gebeugter, das weiße Haar schütter. Um ihn herum eine Mauer des Schweigens, doch kein Erschrecken.

Er müsste jetzt über achtzig sein und seine Frau um die fünfzig …

auf einer Parkbank
verdorrte Kiefernnadeln

Zuerst veröffentlicht in Sommergras 12/2008.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I find the amputee's room. The old woman is busy gluing an orange ring of florets onto the center of a giant sunflower cut from paper. Pinned to the white wall next to her bed, larger than life cutouts of tulips and daisies—reds and yellows flourishing alongside white chrysanthemums.

in the meadow

“Do you know the old proverb,” I ask, “when you can put your foot on seven daisies summer has come?”

Without looking up, she passes me a roll of tape, asks if I would please hang the sunflower on her door. Scissors in hand, she is already cutting another.

collage . . .
faces of the sun
facing east

by Tish Davis
Dublin, Ohio

Saturday, April 4, 2009


The punch-metal gray-steel guard station looks formidable at the entrance to the intermodal station. It is cold, institutional. Two guards wearing reflective blue jumpsuits have a commanding view through the bullet-proof plate glass. A pleasant-looking couple tentatively approaches the station. They carry small, scuffed leather suitcases. Their electric-green chokers glow—alerting the guards of their threat status. Green indicates mild, yellow medium, and red’s a severe threat. The man speaks softly through the long, slender voice cone, “We wish passage to GADANK.” He wonders if he has been heard. He has. With a menacing leer, Guard A slowly appraises them, focusing his beady eyes on the young woman before sending a mild shock to her choker. “And what will YOU do to earn passage?” he asks the startled woman.

darkening office—
because he can, he tells her
to work overtime

by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ruth Franke: A DOG’S LIFE

His regular pitch is on the forecourt of a supermarket; by his side an Alsatian, into whose muzzle passers-by often pop some titbit. Quite a few coins drop into his cap, quickly to be converted into liquid nourishment.

faithful companion
the last drips of beer
from the drop-out's flask

Some time ago he must have come into some money. The second dog, a dark brown puppy, had a comfortable trailer to sit in, and that just as spanking new as the bicycle pulling it. Clothes no longer in shreds, hair cropped short. Sometimes we even saw a mobile clapped to his ear. And then he vanished for months on end.

Now he has turned up again at his old haunt, completely changed: no bike, thin as a rake, gone to seed, and looking years older. Can hardly keep control of the exuberant dog. And winter's coming . . .

foliage aglow
one week of storms
and ready for sweeping

translated from German by David Cobb

by Ruth Franke
Emmendingen, Baden-Württemberg. Germany
first published in
Blithe Spirit 17/1 (2007)


Sein Stammplatz ist auf dem Gelände eines Supermarktes, neben ihm der treue Schäferhund, dem die Passanten oft einen Leckerbissen zustecken. Manche Münze fällt in seine Mütze und wird bald wieder in flüssige Nahrung umgesetzt.

kein Hundeleben
der letzte Schluck des Penners
für den Gefährten

Vor einiger Zeit muss er wohl zu Geld gekommen sein. Der zweite Hund, ein dunkelbrauner Welpe, bekam als Sitzplatz einen komfortablen Anhänger, ebenso neu wie das dazugehörige Fahrrad. Auch seine Kleidung nun nicht mehr abgerissen, die Haare kurz geschoren. Manchmal sahen wir sogar ein Handy an seinem Ohr. Dann war er monatelang verschwunden.

Völlig verändert taucht er jetzt wieder am alten Platz auf: ohne Fahrrad, abgemagert und verwahrlost, um Jahre gealtert. Kaum kann er den lebhaften Hund bändigen. Und der Winter steht bevor . . .
leuchtendes Herbstlaub
nach einer Woche im Sturm
reif für den Besen

Zuerst veröffentlicht in Sommergras No.3/2007