Haibun and Haiku

A Haibun is a combination of prose and haiku which is reputed to have been first developed by the Japanese monk and poet, Basho. His most famous collection is ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North.’

I enjoy this form and will be adding some of my own here….. single haiku are further down

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The Miner, Absolom

green hill where sheep graze
white bones and coal, buried, held
seasons all the same

My grandfather worked in the mines from age thirteen to seventy. His life was closed in by mountains, the green one at the back, the dark looming one at the front and the pit head along the valley., winding the men in and out of the shaft, day after day, dawn until dusk when they came home singing

boots ring on the road
deep valley voices echo
backyard starlit smoke

They worked on their bellies or crouched, often in water for days, water that undermines rock. Shaft collapses where frequent. Life was cheap. He came home covered in coal dust to his wife and two sons, sons he was determined to keep out of the mines. Yet he loved that coal – coal that he always polished with care before lighting a fire, brushing dust off black diamond surfaces.

water breaks through rock
with wood and straining shoulders
man becomes the beam

He saved twenty lives that day, men he had known from boyhood. When his lungs were affected they laid him off, no pay, no pension, no life. He bought an insurance book with the money he had and every day he trudged over the mountains and valleys gathering pennies that would help to secure some livelihood to the widows who lost their men in the mines. He never told his wife that when a family couldn’t pay he put the pennies in for them rather than leave them unprotected.

winter, summer, fall
the mountain hangs over all
tired to the backbone

When the mines were nationalised my grandfather went straight back to the coal face despite his age. He wasn’t going to miss those days of glory. Safety was suddenly the watchword and changes were made very fast. Hot showers were installed at the pit head and the miners came home clean at last.

men stripped to the skin
hot water, steam, baptised
brothers singing hymns

~~~~~~~***~~~~~~~~

A Souvenir of Shakespeare

In a bay window, at a dark oak table, my grandfather sits after breakfast, in a room that smells faintly of pepper when the sun shines in and warms the white table-cloth. My grandmothers green breasted budgie repeats and repeats good morning as he gazes at himself in a tiny mirror. A laburnum branch taps on the window, glossy dark stem and yellow flowers.

The smell of bacon and egg lingers as my grandfather puts on his glasses and reaches for the newspaper. By his hand sits a heavy glass oval ashtray and under the glass, in the centre, a face gazes out, oval too, bearded, in sepia. The ashtray is always there and never used. Age four or five I ask,

‘Who is that man?’’

‘’That’s Old Will,’’ says my Grand-dad, as if it’s his best mate he rubs shoulders with often.

‘’Who is Old Will?’’ I ask, because I enjoy a story and I like to keep my Grand-dad talking to me.

‘’William Shakespeare, the worlds greatest Bard,’’ says my Grand-dad.

‘’What’s a Bard?’’

‘’He wrote wonderful plays for the theatre and poems and he told about all the things people think and feel and do and why.’’

‘’What did he say?’’ I ask, impressed because that sounded very clever.

‘’Oh, lots of things,’’ says my Grand-dad with a smile.

‘’But what things?’’

‘’All the world’s a stage and we but players on it, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, to sleep perchance to dream, to be or not to be that’s the question.’’

‘’To be or not to be what?’’ I ask, falling into my Grand-dads well laid trap.

‘’Well that’s the question, isn’t it’’ he says with a grin. ‘’Now go out and play and let me read my paper.’’

To be, to not be.

How can we ever not be?

Would we be again?

To be or not to.

Was I not before now then?

What if I wasn’t?

Being, not being?

Do they feel very different?

Could I switch between?

My head starts to hurt.

I think I am glad I am

here, now, being.

I run out to the garden to play.

*************************************

From Acorns, Oaks 

I was an acorn, many years ago,fallen from an ancient tree to the earth below.
One day Arthur came, dreaming of the land and his ambitious plans. Absent-mindedly he stooped, bowed down to me, reaching out a hand.

with heavy footsteps
men will come, their battle plan
disturbs the forests

He held me in his palm. I saw him softly smile. He placed me in his pocket
where it was dark and warm. He was not a king to me, he was just a man. I stayed with him throughout his golden age.

here amongst blossoms
they sit and speak of glory
petals softy fall

When Arthur fell,I fell too. He fell into his long sleep of death. I fell to my birth, pressed into the earth by a careless foot, an unwitting gardener pushed me into mud. I was cradled by the earth while the country still mourned.

cradled by the earth
in knowledge of high branches
I reached up to light

I reached up to light and became a sturdy oak. Now we are a forest. We whisper this old story as wind sighs through our leaves. My children tell the tale.

************

Mud Child

My first true love was earth, dry earth and water mixed, piling dirt in mounds, trying to shape the mud. Digging, digging, digging, squatted on the earth, pouring water in to make a captured pool. I watched it soak away.

Broken finger nails
Scrabbling at resistant earth,
Burrowing with worms.

Alone I worked day after day, shaded by the Yews, until the puppy came, near as old as I, and just as keen to dig. We worked on side by side, driven by curiosity, searching for the truth or an ancient bone. The earth flew out behind us as we dug the hole.

When would water rise?
Could we find the fearsome fire?
Could we reach the source?

Stopped by tangled roots.
Water ran between my palms,
Mud sucked at my feet.

We ran off to play,
Covered head to toe in earth.
We’d dig another day.

**************

Magical Mystery Tour ~ India

Early one March morning I step from my door into a chill spring day. Flocks of birds are gathering, swooping and swirling in hieroglyphs overhead. I lock the front door, adjusted the bag on my shoulder, wave to a neighbour and stroll through the well known streets to the station. The smell of strong coffee hangs in the air. This walk leads to India.

bright morning so clear
new day, new way, a journey
i walk with no maps

The train takes me onward to board a plane on a long-haul flight. Beyond the Black Sea I am crossing a desert at night. It all looks so empty down there below. It stretches for miles and miles with barely a light to shine out. The hostess hands out peanuts and warm damp facecloths as the Germans and Afghans start to argue in the seats behind me. They can’t agree on a price for porn. By the time the flight circles across the ocean to avoid Pakistan, it’s a fight.

a patient woman
dividing warring nations
just part of her job

i see only stars
a dark sea moves beneath us
i await the peace

At last I see India spread out beneath us, a planet of coloured lights. Pink, gold, green, red and blue lights in circles, stars and winding snakes wink up from rooftops and roadways. It’s a magical sight in the black velvet night. The plane sinks slowly lower and lower. I see palaces, rail tracks and slums as the heat rises to meet us.

city of beauty
brave delusions, illusions,
mandalas of light

Leaving the plane we enter an underground concrete hall, a subterranean world of passports and guards. At the airport exit at last, surrounded, encircled by a throng of staring faces and out-stretched arms, I smell the thick blue smoke of burning oil mixed with incense. A thousand taxi drivers want my fare to Delhi. I deliberately choose the worst car. I have my reasons. We bounce along over pot holes into the back streets and empty markets of Paharganj, near the train station, where I wake a porter in a cheap hotel and find a welcome bed for the rest of the night.

asleep to strange sounds
i am flying and falling
starlight into dust

I wake to the cooing of pigeons outside my window and the blaring of truck horns in the streets. I look out onto rooftops full of colourful washing, carpets spread over walls and women crouching,cooking. A secretive cat slinks past. I go out into the day of the crowded market, seeking breakfast and find an elephant. I have never met an elephant face to face in a street before. It’s ears are painted in patterns of pink and yellow. The man who rides it tells me to give the elephant a coin in the flat palm of my hand. The elephant gently takes the coin and passes it up to the man. I buy the elephant a banana and pass that too. The elephant eats it, gives me a long serious look and moves on.

the elephants trunk
three tender probing fingers
in a grey skin glove

I wander on into the bustling city. The traffic fumes, the scents of spices and the noise besiege all my senses. I pause at a second hand bookshop and buy poetry. I see children living in gutters beside street stalls festooned with flowers. I pass out coins and gather a crowd. Too surrounded I have to hurry away. I am bewildered. When dusk falls I find a tea stall by a temple away from the noise. I share tea with a sadhu and a peaceful white cow. The cow has kohl outlining its gentle brown eyes and a necklace of marigolds with a tinkling bell. I become lost in its eyes. It is as if we had met before in some other time and place. The crescent moon hovers above the temple.

my doorstep one day
now far away from my home
the journey begins

*****************

Behind the Walls 

They may think we are richer than they, we in a great big mansion, surrounded by a garden and trees, they in their warm terraced houses, stretching off to the distance hills. But we who live here lead another life, as poor as any church mouse, while the mortar crumbles around us, we watch the demise of the house. We have never been rich. No one ever knows what goes on behind the walls.

The rooms are cold and draughty
We conserve our power
And wait for that fateful hour

I look from the kitchen window along the line of the street. Two cars to every house. They drive away early and come home late or walk, burdened with shopping bags, with their children in pushchairs,on skates or running, healthily on ahead. Lives and loves are portrayed on the streets. No one ever knows what goes on behind the walls.

Grandma came every Sunday
Grandma is no more.
She died of cancer last week.

I watch the students come and go, like a yearly flock of birds, to the house at the end of the street. Laughing and joking, carrying bags, the girl and the boy, their arms interlinked nudging against each other, smiling. But I haven’t seen the girl for weeks. No one ever knows what goes on behind the walls.

The boy with the broken heart
Walks slowly today
The girl preferred his best friend

Now Christmas lights fill their windows, their houses welcoming, warm, waiting for Santa Claus to fulfil all their childhood dreams. My dream is to be back in a time when our house was full. The chimney was blocked long ago. No more flickering fires. Now we await the Christmas ghost, the spirit of Christmas past. No one ever knows what goes on behind the walls.

I saw Santa Claus one night
Through a curtain chink
Sleigh bells, snow and winter stars

Every house tells its story. The streets are full of lies. No one ever knows the things that are hidden by the walls.

*********

My Fathers Sword

In the mornings at breakfast my mother would ask ”Who are you being today? What should I call you?” It was an arrangement we had. I was an imaginative child and she humoured me. I would answer Robin Hood or Peter Pan or Galahad who needed his breakfast before the quest. She kept to my names very well, but she much preferred her dogs.

you can’t go far in this life,
or do any good,
without a fantasy horse

My father never asked such a question. I was his carpenters mate, whoever I was. We didn’t talk much as he sawed and I held the board steady or passed him nails. I am sure he knew what I thought. He made me a wooden sword. It could strike a mighty blow.

in a powder of sawdust,
companionship
was always more than enough

i rode my fantasy horse
in the realm of dreams
but my father armed me well

************

Twenty-Four Lost Ships

How many wrecks in the uncharted depths? Century after century of shipwrecks, seaweed shrouded and armoured in barnacles, iron ribbed rusted skeletons of the vessels they were.

Sea born we are by that life giving ocean that can swallow men whole, drowning in storms, when dark clouds are broiling.

Lost sailors bones rest on the bottom at a depth that is deeper than the height of the highest of mountains ~ fish eat their flesh, their bones a part of the sea ~ they rest there from war, work, exploration ~ they rest there now in water rocked graves where no sunlight, starlight nor moonlight can ever reach in the ebb and the flow and the sway of deep tides.

 

stars hidden in cloud

winds howl darkness, no mercy

a wave wall, a void

 

sea throat swallows, whole,

spinning, deep to sea grave,

sand grains their worn bones

 

wind drop, empty light,

nothing there on the surface

tranquil cloud mirror glass

 

 

(the title Twenty Four Shipwrecks refers to a figure I saw online when reading about Trawler Fishing in Britain – twenty-four was stated as the number of trawlers lost each year)

 

HAIKU *****************************

 

Cloudy With a Hint of Tears

 

Here come the dark clouds

Unpredictable weather

at the start of Spring

 

**************

 

Pastoral

 

throat of a blackbird

opens to sing the morning

dew sparkle on lawns

 

Gone

 

A rose by the chair

In the overgrown garden

I know they were there

 

*****

 

 untitled

 

what breaks the silence of the early morning

what shadows will the evening bring

a choir of angels, distant, softly sings

 

*****

 

Tumbled

 

transformed by strong waves

cragged rock is smoothed to round stone

grit becomes pure pearl

 

*****

Five Haiku to start Five Stories

 

a girl surrounded by fairy wings

sees what others don’t see

the gate stands open

 

guarded by ravens

the tower stands in the forest

twigs snap in the dark

 

a man hurried past

his breathing heavy

shadows obscure the path

 

the bus is surrounded

bright eyed boys in the dusk

starlings flock to the rooftops

 

after a hot day

silver crack on the horizon

a line in the dark

********

Fireflies

how many fireflies

are one too many at night

when the stars compete

********

Spring

sap rising in spring

daffodil and crocus bloom

drainpipes applaud as they burst

********

India 

bells jingle softly

sandlewood by the peach trees

i know you passed by

********

The Clock

the clock shows the time

solitary dandelion

sowing seeds of summer

********

Souls

we are souls of light
our bodies are illusions
wandering in the night

******

Be Kind

pity the poor worm
that eats the heart of the apple
unformed butterfly

******

Awake 

in awoken dreams
there is no further waking
until we must sleep

******

Smoke 

in winters coldness

caught in coal smokes skyward drift

my heart flies to home

*****

Boxing Day

a cold empty box
wrapped in silver foiled paper
left outside in snow

*****

Kiss 

two hearts meet on lips

tender, deeper, lingering there

in a goodnight kiss

*****

Doubled wishes

goodnight to you now

sleep softly in moonlight

with warmth wrapped around

when morning dew falls

may the song of the robin

bring joy to your day

*****

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