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January 2017, vol 12 no 4

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Angelee Deodhar


Wind over fences,
intoning by fits and starts
its old, old story
-Seishi Yamaguchi

A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. It was dark by the time I reached Bonn, and I forced myself not to succumb to the series of mechanical actions which had taken hold of me in five years of traveling back and forth: down the station steps, up the station steps, put down my suitcase, take my ticket out of my coat pocket, pick up my suitcase, hand in my ticket, cross over to the news stand, buy the evening newspaper, go outside and signal for a taxi.

Here in the middle
of a swirling maelstrom,
I know I exist
-Seishi Yamaguchi

The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P----, in Kentucky.

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Where now? Who now? When now?

Note: In this haibun, only the first lines have been used from the books listed below. The haiku are by Seishi Yamaguchi, from his book The Essence of Modern Haiku.
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
1984 by George Orwell
The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett)