haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2007, vol 3 no 2

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Izabel Ganz

Encounter

I walk ahead on an overgrown path unexpected and unwilling beneath my feet. All around lantana grows wild, bushy, flowering. The air feels wet, rain clouds had just streamed off and rays of almost setting sun pierce branches of tamarind and neem and gulmohars. Their copper threads bind twigs and bloom into bunches, with crystal rainbowed spider webs strung between.

two mynahs
flutter low—
raindrops from a tree

The path expires into a living fence of frangipanis, white five petalled starry flowers all around on the ground. Their smell envelops me like a flowing shawl, pashmina-soft and light. I press on, pushing between tree-trunks and bushes, more sensing that seeing an opening ahead. Showered with rainwater, a scratch on one hand, I stand at the edge of a small clearing. A little square temple to one side of it, almost hidden behind bougainvilleas and agaves growing wild, surely for years already. Sculptures of deities and asuras weather beaten, yet still with some color in the creases of their faces, bodies and vestments. A movement on the steps catches my eye—a leaf falling? No! A pair of unnaturally large eyes fixes me steadily, a flicker of a tongue? I feel grateful for the space between us, glad I did not approach the ruin, stand as still as the old stones, while the cobra disappears in a hole by the crumbling stairs.

My respects to both the stone gods of the temple and its living ones paid from a safe distance, I retrace my steps on the path with more care.

the sound of
the old skin
shed