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Archive: Contents of American Haibun & Haiga Volume 1

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Ferris Gilli

A Monkey Roars

We dress quickly by lantern light, standing on the crudely dried cowhide that serves as a rug. Its hair feels smooth and cool to bare feet, and the stiff skin crackles with our steps. Morning sounds drift through the unshuttered window: Dawn in the Paraguayan Chaco.

a damp breeze
the shrill waking chatter
of a thousand parrots

The cook puts supplies into a burlap sack--a few wheels of Rancho Alegre's own mellow cheese, several dozen mandioca biscuits, a box of inexpensive toys. Today we travel on horseback. For a while, our route follows the river.

Now in full daylight, the forest has come to life. Trees are bright with the blooms of epiphytic plants. My companions tell me the sudden screams and growls that startle the horses are not those of an angry jaguar. Surrounded by an abundance of wildlife, I try to take notes while looking everywhere at once.

a monkey roars
across the steamy river
red orchids

coil of vines
a slender green snake
completes the loop

An hour later, we reach an overseer's camp. The couple who live there greet us with handshakes and a horn cup of yerba mate. Passing the guampa from person to person, we sip holly tea through a metal straw that strains out shredded leaves. I give the señora portions of our supplies, along with toys for her giggling, dark- eyed little boys. This family of five sleeps in a one-room hut made of clay, with a thatch roof and earth floor. Animal pelts adorn the outside walls, and a bowl of iguana fat, for medicinal use, sits by the doorway. Palm wood is burning on the floor of the open cook shed. A large blackened pot hangs from a tripod over the flames.

on the boil
ostrich eggs bumping
a curled armadillo

At the last site we visit, a transient Guarani family has settled behind the bunkhouse. Their only shelter consists of palmetto fronds arranged over poles. Sitting on the grass, I watch the women at their looms. The child who is singing to a baby shyly lowers her voice. Brilliant colors are everywhere, in their clothing, in the handwork, and on round copper faces.

the girl with blue cheeks
weaves a rainbow


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