haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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Archive: American Haibun & Haiga Volume 2

[Return to Author List, Vol 2 ]

Carolyn Hall

 

Protective Coloration

On the street where i go for takeout burritos you can also buy old Wedgewood stoves and Westinghouse fridges, new and used books, old and new clothing, low-fat lattés, and assorted recreational drugs. It’s what my mother used to call a colorful neighborhood. It was there that I went to pick up the main course for a casual dinner with friends.

underside
of the red canvas awning
not faded

Heading back to my car with beers, soft drinks, and burritos and chips for a party of six, browsing at sidewalk sales was clearly not on my agenda. But there, just in my path, a homeless man was emptying the contents of his grocery cart onto the pavement, hoping to sell what he could. At first glance, I thought there was nothing   here to waylay me. But next thing I knew, I had set my bags on the ground and was sorting through his meager belongings. Just under a pile of wrinkled shirts, I found them—two trays of colorful butterflies pressed under glass. “How much?” I said—then paid him what he asked.

Later, after our dinner guests had gone, I inspected my purchases to see just what I had bought. They were scientific specimens illustrating the principle of mimicry. According to legends printed on the back, in each tray a butterfly distasteful or poisonous to birds was displayed beside an innocuous butterfly which looked so much like its noxious cousin that it was shunned by predators.

in the appliance store doorway
calling a Maytag box
home

Next time I went to the burrito shop, I looked for that man to ask how he came to possess these wonderful things. There were several men with grocery carts—but I couldn’t recognize whether the man who’d sold me the butterflies was among them.

city lights
trying to make out
the constellations

[Return to Author List, Vol 2 ]

 


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