(non)

year's end / I run out / of disbelief

 

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Where We Live

It’s a tiny motel: four rooms, two tacked on to each end of our house like the spreading wings of a Southern plantation. But we’re the opposite of a plantation, we’re the site of endless uprootings. Poor soil for weak vegetation. The less successful variety of traveling salesman, in cheap suits, bearing leatherette briefcases and expressions of bewilderment at how fruitless their lives have turned out to be. Men who’ve been kicked out of the house by their wives and aren’t quite sure yet whether they can go home tomorrow. Drifters who’ve scrounged up enough money somewhere to settle down in one of our nineteen-dollar beds for the night, often leaving behind them the evidence that they had enough left over for a good-sized bender. Even hippies sometimes, though there aren’t a lot of them in this blue-collar, conservative town; maybe they’re just passing through on their way to someplace more congenial — a commune, a city squat, a rock festival. They arrive, unlike most of our customers, in clumps, too young yet to want or need or have to be alone. Most of these people don’t stay long; the wind blows them to us and then blows them away.

Then there’s Miss Knight. June comes and so does she, in her sky blue VW bus, crammed to the ceiling with everything she owns. All summer it sits in front of the motel, down by Room 4, which is her home for the summer and always has been. (As far as I know, anyway; my “always” isn’t very long.) She fills the room up quickly. She’s not the kind of wanderer who travels lightly, who pares down her possessions. She likes things. Not luxurious things but things that are her own, that make her feel at home. Her room feels like nothing so much as a nest, lined with bits of fluff and feathers and string, trifles that seem worthless on their own but make excellent insulation. She wears layers of clothing too, shapeless skirts and sweaters draped around her tiny thin body, even in the heat of summer. She coddles herself, but she thrives this way. Nothing blows her away; she’s rooted.

We don’t know how old she is. Seventy-five? Eighty-five? Her hair is pure white and scant, her spine bent, and sometimes her mind, to us, seems to travel on illogical paths — but maybe it’s our minds that are at fault, too limited to follow her flights of fancy, her mental travels into the less explored regions of the universe. She’s energetic, her eyes sparkle, she takes good care of herself and her dog, the Chihuahua that goes with her everywhere: so whatever age she is, it isn’t too old. We’re not inclined to be critical anyway; the place seems entirely different with her around, less like a dreary way station for the desperate, more like a bucolic paradise, a fit resting place for any respectable elderly woman who spends the year driving around New England in a VW bus. It never feels like summer until her bus arrives, to remind us that we have an acre of land out back, filled with fruit trees and shade trees and flowering bushes. Miss Knight takes daily constitutionals around it, looking at everything with appreciation and curiosity.

She’s friendly, even ebullient, but guarded. She looks hazy-eyed past questions. We don’t know her story, her past or her future. It’s as if she only exists here and now, in the summer in a small motel in Connecticut. The only indication we have of her life away from us is the one postcard that arrives every spring, in advance of her own arrival, letting us know to be on the lookout for her. It sits propped on the dining room table for weeks, while the weather grows warmer, the school year wears on, our other customers come and go, our own lives mutate and progress inexorably. It’s our surrogate for her; we read it over and over, day by day, until she pulls into the driveway again, and then we put it away in a drawer with the ones from every other year.

The year it doesn’t arrive, we all start wondering whether we’re any more real than she is.

summer solstice
how much of my life story
is invented

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Haibun Today 5:3, September 2011

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Little girl waving goodbye on the first day of school

Across the Haikuverse, No. 20: Summer Solstice Edition

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The first day of summer, and already I’m wondering where the summer went. It was a day that skittered between sunshine and rain, not fulfilling any promises. In the evening the sky turned green for a while and we kept an ear out for the tornado siren. Some lazy thunder rumbled by. I remembered later that I’d forgotten to eat for most of the day. It hadn’t seemed necessary, the way it never seems necessary in dreams. Around bedtime I finally got around to asking my husband where the rosebush that had suddenly appeared on our doorstep a couple days earlier had come from.

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that shade of pink
I wonder if I’m
blushing too

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Haikai That Caught My Eye

Wow, people were writing haiku on a wide variety of subjects the last couple of weeks. Underwear and the universe and tomatoes and dinosaurs…maybe I am dreaming after all.

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I am alone
for week-long Spring rains
singing loudly to
the computer screen just how much
you are my sunshine

— Donna Fleischer, word pond

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housework
an old song in my head
over and over

— Catherine J.S. Lee, Mann Library Daily Haiku

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森のごときをんなが眠る夏電車  平井照敏
mori no gotoki on’na ga nemuru natsu-densha

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a woman looking like
a forest sleeps
summer train

— Shobin Hirai, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
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universe
a collection of numbers
that rhyme

— Rick Daddario, 19 Planets (this is a great haiga, go take a look)

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the waning moon-
  a hole
in my underwear

— Aditya Bahl, dipping butterflies
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tomato—
sometimes even stars are not
enough

— Stella Pierides, Stella Pierides
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temporary relief –
while the pears ripen
I’m stuck on Earth

midlertidig lettelse .
mens pærerne modnes
sidder jeg fast på Jorden

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger
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January thaw—
the garden exposed
to my dreaming

— Adelaide B. Shaw, DailyHaiku

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what they tell us
about the war
ornamental poppies

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

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step back into the fragrance our histories mingling

— Susan Diridoni, Issa’s Untidy Hut, Wednesday Haiku
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not awake enough
to turn the swifts’ chitterings
into a haiku

— Patti Niehoff, a night kitchen

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incessant rain
falling on ferns and dinosaurs and
on my eyelids

— Taro Kunugi, quoted on Donna Fleischer’s word pond

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cicada song
the cat stalks
fat robins

— Angie Werren, feathers

The epigram to this haiku: ““There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet)

This is part of Angie’s unbelievably cool project this month to combine NaHaiWriMo prompts with random Shakespeare quotations…what? How does she think of these things?  Who cares — just go check it out, it will blow your mind.

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Journaled

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A bunch of journals came out this week that I hadn’t seen before and was mightily impressed with, like for instance…

Lishanu: an interlingual haiku journal

Online journal, full of, oh joy, oh bliss, haiku in multiple languages, all translated into English. Or vice versa. You know what I mean.

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ripe moon –
my pale hands
in the berry bushes

зрела месечина –
моите бледи дланки
во малините

Elena Naskova, English/Macedonian

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lumière d’aube –
rien d’autre
dans la toile d’araignée

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dawn light –
nothing else
in the spider’s web

Damien Gabriels, French/English

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American Tanka

Another online journal. Very minimalist, but very high quality. Twenty tanka, one to a page, click on through and enjoy yourself.

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years of buttons
in a glass Ball jar
the blue one on the top
so far from the blue one
on the bottom

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Eucalypt

This also counts as Dead Tree News, because it’s a print journal only. And a really nicely done one — glossy covers and paper, and lovely ink illustrations. More journals should have illustrations. In my humble opinion. Someone get on that.

(Oh, it’s all tanka, did I mention? And Australian. But you probably could have guessed that from the name.)

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when what might happen
happens
the earth is turned
as if the planting
might begin again

— Kath Abela Wilson

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The shortest night of the year has started. I’m tempted to see it through. Skip the dreams for once. Try making my own.

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what dreams may come…
black ink dripping
from rain-soaked leaves

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