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October 2018, vol 14 no 3

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Lew Watts and Charles Trumbull

Men, Spreading

Apart from size, we’re remarkably similar, though we do have our creative differences – my love of assonance to yours of alliteration, an obsession with rework versus first-out spontaneity. But we’re always on time at the bookstore for our monthly coffee, and we’re always polite – today, we spend ten minutes talking families and the weather before the typed sheets appear and are exchanged.

triple, venti, soy,
no-foam latte …
some poems rhyme
bran muffins –
chuckling over the banter
of Bert and Ernie

I’ll go first. I pick up on how your early life informs your work. A childhood in Wales is very exotic to this high-desert rustic from the American Southwest. Shades of Dylan Thomas or the sobriety of an eisteddfodd. Why, then, can’t I resist circling unfamiliar expressions in your poems and scrawling “Britishism” in the margin?

wolf moon rising
the lives of others observed
through a glass darkly
mam’s new bloke …
gran’s ten bob note
starts the betting

Interrupting is always a gamble, but I know you can’t resist a new word. “Bollocks,” I say. “Easy, ‘testicles’ or ‘nonsense,’” you reply in your Merriam-Webster voice. “And ‘the dog’s bollocks’?” I savor this rare victory. “It means the opposite, Charlie – ‘brilliant’ or ‘outstanding,’ ‘the bee’s knees.’”

blood draw
at the first flick of the vein
that old rush
shopping around
for something different
– pyjamas for the cat

You propose that we try to write something together. “How about a collaborative haibun? One of us would start with a short piece of prose, and we’d each respond – separately, without seeing the other’s work – with a haiku. Then the other would do another bit of prose, and we’d go on like that.” “For how long?” “Well, till we’re done.”

your place
my place
two supermoons
blind date
we unfasten
the falcon’s hood

“Okay, let’s suck it and see,” I say. As you choke on a large sultana, two women at an adjacent table scrape their chairs further away. You clear your throat, and the voice returns. “That’s the problem – the older I get, the more I need to masticate.” Scrape, scrape, mutter, mutter.

again, that damned cramp
in the adductor magnus
running my tongue
around my new partial:
off and on soreness

Marked-up sheets of haiku are scattered all over the café table. I crunch up our outtakes into balls and lob them into the wastebasket. ”Two outa three ain’t bad. So, are we ready to move on this, or do we need to digest it some more?” Wordlessly, you click your pen closed and make a javelin-like gesture through the air.

your haiku paper:
I mistook that coffee ring
for an enso!
3-dart finish
two triple twenties, bull
and out