I’m an Aquarius, not that that matters, I don’t believe in that stuff. I’m not good at believing in stuff in general. This is not, as some people believe, a depressing way to live. It’s an exhilarating one, especially in February. You get to dig past the frozen earth on the surface, past the frost-heaved rocks, deep, deep, deeper, deeper still, until finally you fall into a cave where the temperature year-round is fifty-four degrees and thirty thousand years ago someone drew a picture on the wall to let everyone know what he had killed. You can just stay there for a while, breathing air that’s not frozen and believing devoutly in the evidence of your own eyes. It’s not a trick of the light. It’s not a possibly spurious argument. It’s not the deception of a charlatan or the ranting of a madman. It’s a buffalo and the paint—my God!—the paint is still wet.
an abandoned footnote at the edge of the canyon
Hey, so that issue of Haibun Today that I’ve been editing for the last few months is on newsstands now. Um, I mean, of course, it’s on the Internet free of charge, right here.
I read something like 180 haibun in the process of making selections for this issue and I found some amazing work, really some of my favorite haibun ever, so thanks to all of you who made it very difficult for me to make decisions this winter.
As you might have noticed, I’ve also been writing a ton of haibun myself lately. All in all I’ve probably thought more about haibun in the last three months than I did in the previous 4.5 years, which is about how long I’ve been aware that haibun existed. I’m not completely sure I understand what it is and how it works any better than I ever did, but I have many swirling and complicated thoughts about it, which I might even write down some day.
In the meantime, you should head over to Haibun Today and read all the great haibun, as well as all the great tanka prose (edited by Claire Everett).
And then maybe try writing some of your own, because we all have some stories that are waiting around impatiently to be turned into something rare, and valuable, and poetic. You’re welcome, and thanks.
“Noun” is a noun. “Word” is a word. “Metaphor” is a metaphor.
for a kite
and your name
I was told that nowhere was the place to go so I Googled it and found cheap tickets. A cruise on a tramp steamer, followed by a balloon ride, followed by a stint on a rickshaw, ending up, naturally, with a five-hundred-mile walk into the interior of nothing. That’s not nothing. I spent six months getting into shape for it because sometimes we just have to challenge ourselves and push beyond our limits if only to have something to talk about at parties. The website mentioned packing light. I emailed them and asked, Wave or particle? No one answered, because that’s how customer service works on the Internet, am I right, so I rounded up half a dozen candles, a flashlight, a box of matches, a lighter, and a flint and steel, and I put them in my rucksack and then I took them out and packed three novels and my two favorite T-shirts and don’t tell anyone but this very tiny carved rabbit I’ve had since I was little, I get anxious if I’m away from it for too long. Who am I kidding, if it gets down to needing a flint and steel I’m going to die anyway so I might as well have something to read while I’m waiting to do it.
even this cell phone
may be transformed
into a passenger pigeon
I printed out the tickets, took them down to the dock, got on the ship and first thing I met someone else who was going nowhere so we decided to go together. He had a pocket knife with a million attachments (hyperbole, hello) which he spent three days demonstrating to me, carving things and measuring them and unscrewing them and taking corks out of them. Now we’re on the rickshaw, I’m still feeling airsick from the balloon, it’s getting darker and the rickshaw driver gets very winded going up hills. I’m wondering if we should get out and walk to spell him but it’s not time to walk yet, my companion tells me. How will we know, I ask him. We’ll know, he says, when we’re exactly five hundred miles from nowhere. I ask him if he wants me to read to him from one of my novels and he shrugs. Is this not enough of a story for you, he asks. Nothing is enough of a story for me, I say, and I take out my tiny rabbit and hold it cupped carefully in my hands, facing forward, so it can see where we’re going.
and the journey itself
…the detective’s wife is knitting. Because no one notices her sitting in the corner knitting, she’s picked up on a number of clues that the detective himself missed. He’s running all over town interviewing people and occasionally becoming needlessly involved in gunfights. The killer, whenever he sees the detective coming, either puts on his smoothest and most innocent face or slips out the back door and heads down to the river to dispose of the evidence. The detective is pretty sure that the guy with the naturally guilty face is the killer, but naturally, the detective is wrong. The detective’s wife wonders how it is that the detective has managed to be a detective all these years without learning how to sit down and think once in a while instead of spending all day riding around recklessly in the squad car or lecturing his subordinates on how to conduct a proper investigation. She knits the clues she’s found into the sweater she’s knitting for the detective, but when she give it to him for his birthday he glances at it pityingly–doesn’t she have anything better to do with her time than knit odd sweaters–and says he’s sorry he can’t stay for cake. He’s just gotten an important call about the movements of the innocent man with the guilty face. He says he’ll be back later but the detective’s wife looks at the sweater, finally sees how all of the clues fit together, and knows he won’t ever be back at all.
three new flies
in the cobweb
When the world ended I didn’t get worked up, because who was around any more to be impressed by my getting worked up? Nobody, that’s who. I’m not actually positive I’m the last person left on Earth but I am positive I haven’t seen any evidence that I’m not. As I say, though, I’m not entirely downhearted about it. For the first six months I commandeered a series of really lovely cars and road-tripped around the country, sleeping in the kinds of houses that could comfortably accommodate an entire African village or two American hedge fund managers. Took picnic lunches to museums; touched everything; removed paintings from the wall to examine them more closely; stroked the flesh of statues and set mobiles spinning; walked off with a number of the smaller works of art, which, there’s a good case to be made, are all mine now. I’ve inherited everything. Now that the roads are starting to crumble I’ve settled down in a conveniently located neighborhood of a major metropolitan area. There’s still plenty to eat–half the food we invented never really goes bad. I have time, finally, to read everything. I run in ever-widening circles, ten or twenty miles a day. They say human beings evolved to run long distances and I feel that to be true, but I also feel it to be true that we evolved to destroy ourselves. And, of course, to talk, even when there’s no one around to talk to. I assume you agree. You always do. The lack of argument is what might kill me in the end.
of the tin-can telephone