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.
We show up in Moscow three months after the first gap appears in the Berlin Wall. Is the Cold War still on, or is it over? No one’s sure, but the Russians are playing it safe. This isn’t like studying abroad in France or Spain, where they find a nice family to stash you with and you learn to speak the language over leisurely European dinners. Here we have our own separate-but-equal American wing in a fourteen-story dormitory for foreign students, most of the rest of whom are from the Eastern Bloc. The wing opposite us is full of Bulgarians who are always burning their food in the kitchen we share and won’t talk to us. None of the other students will talk to us. Only the black-market dealers and illegal-currency traders are interested in being our friends. They speak perfect English and have great clothes, so we feel right at home with them. They cheat us constantly, of course, and cast a wolfish eye over our piles of amazing American stuff, but that, too, feels familiar. We came from lives that—we now realize—were mostly about wanting, and shortly thereafter acquiring, stuff. Life here is different. Life here has the slightly tinny sound of a five-kopeck piece dropping into the fare box on the tram, and the thin, fragile texture of the paper ticket you tear off with a mittened hand to prove you paid.
by the time
prose: here, now. haiku: Frogpond 38.1.
“Noun” is a noun. “Word” is a word. “Metaphor” is a metaphor.
for a kite
and your name
all the after of a rose remaining
alabaster any rose retaining
antimatter on the road he stayed on
all that matters is a road to rain on
all together as we row on rain on
on to gather any road to pray on
in the gutter a repose of raven
integers so close to heaven
“all the after”: Frogpond 38.1
all the other haiku: here, now.
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