March 9: What I Lost (Haibun)


“If you want to see Dad before he dies, come now,” my sister tells me. “You can’t believe the pain he’s in.” I hang up, make the flight reservations and pack. Then, jittery with nervous energy, I note that there’s just time for me to go for a quick run before I need to leave for the airport.

I put my cell phone in my pocket before I set off, in case my sister has anything else to tell me.

childhood summers —
he combs my tangled hair

The sidewalks are coated with ice. I try to run carefully. But a cardinal darts from a branch hanging across the walk, a flash of red that pulls my attention into the sky. Suddenly, I’m on my back, pain in every part of me, afraid, for just a minute, to try to move.

But I force myself to my feet and set off running again, even faster now, despite the ice, because of the ice. I’m young, I’m strong, no cancer will ever worm its way into me and break my bones from the inside out. I’m about to get on a plane and rise thirty-five thousand feet in the air and descend, alive, a thousand miles away.

Nothing else can ever hurt me.

deep inside
the snowbank —
a cell phone rings




First published in Notes from the Gean 2:4, March 2011



15 thoughts on “March 9: What I Lost (Haibun)

  1. quite memorable, I saw it first in NOTES. thanks for the details of duress. very few of us who don’t recognize something here. great piece, Melissa!

  2. I like the haibun, Melissa. You captured a special and important moment. You may know the Irish poet Sheamus Heaney. I found this haiku of his awhile ago and it has some of the same themes as your haibun.

    dangerous pavements…
    but this year I face the ice
    with my father’s stick

    Sheamus Heaney

    Dads do gives us things and values that we only see later.


    • Thanks, Steve. 🙂

      Someday I should tell the rest of this story…I didn’t even mention the tooth I chipped when I fell. (It’s still chipped.) 🙂 Or how my husband walked my running route three times dialing my cell phone number over and over until he finally heard it ringing in the snow bank and dug it out for me … Or a lot of other things about that day.

      That was some day.

      • aloha Melissa and Steve. there are days like this. i know. every 30 seconds remains a 3 hour movie in our memory. my memory. even just last year my memory.

        i’ve read your work and havnt responded Melissa because it’s too… wrenching. inside. of me.

        that’s okay. and i have nothing really like this day of yours. it just brings up moments i’m wordless about. yeah. it happens. life. …i mean, i get wordless sometimes. bwahahahahahaha. not for long tho, so no worries.

        yeah. some day. some how there is a day of mine that is snow bound and walking and brilliant with light. and i’m simply walking to work – a museum job. somewhat between 4-5 foot mounds of snow in places. and in places – crocus. how’d that happen? and why does your poetry stir this in me? bwahahahahaha. life. again. fragile teeth and all. aloha.

        • If I wrote down everything that happened on that day no one would believe it because it would just be too…terrible. It was so terrible I was almost laughing at one point because how could anything else terrible happen? and yet it did.

          that’s an amazing image that you get from my poetry, I am honored to have provoked such a picture (is it a real one or an imaginary one?).

          • aloha Melissa. yeah. it happened. i can watch me (from me as i breath) counting breath to keep warm on that walk even in heavy coat. and hat. and scarf. upstate NY. often on that walk, breathing so sharp with cold it cut into my lungs. the warming breath breathing – i liked that. i kept on it. focused. i kept going that way. a mile or may be a little more. i learned the value of warming breath on those days. other days i learned the value of cooling breath – in indonesia. valuable days. those days. every day. yeah valuable days, every day.

            yeah. a year ago happened too. to say that much clouds my eyes with water. it’s only water, yes. they are okay, yes?

            it’s only us waiting to go there. to where they are. or. what ever that is. the life clues that i see all indicate this, all of this… is only a brief moment.

            might as well dance. as it’s said. might as well have fun. as i say. in good ways. yes? bwahahahaha. yeah. it’s all true. …that is… these are all moments i remember in experiencing.

            when you open the door. you might as well walk through.

            have fun. aloha.

            • oh! i forgot. your day of terrible. (not that i want you to have a terrible for a day). the one no one would believe.

              yes. they would. only not in a moment (may be. – okay, they might. in a moment). may be in a book. because that is how those days of terrible are. a book. a long book that encompasses the all of all these terrible long 3 hour movies that are 30 seconds long in each moment. in those kind of days.

              yeah. that would be a challenge. we both know tho… what it’s like to let go and meet a challenge the way it fully is… yes. no worries. just be you.

              bwahahahahaha. aloha. and do not feel challenged by this. it is only my approach to a cycle in time that brings this up in me.

              it’s a beautiful life. i have no doubt about that. just the way it is. walk in beauty. aloha.

    • Thanks, Alegria. …
      I have to say I am actually not very satisfied with this haibun (although Ray Rasmussen helped me improve it a lot with various suggestions before he accepted it). I think I’m still too close to the episode to write about it objectively enough. Maybe in ten years I’ll revisit it … it seems way too sentimental and awkward to me as it is.

  3. This is just beautiful. Too sentimental? Awkward? How can one be anything else when faced with the loss of a beloved parent? I’ve written about my father. I think about him almost daily. Though I don’t mourn everyday, I do miss him each and every one. Thank you for sharing this.

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