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

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Richard Straw


As a child, I thought life would go on forever. The arrival, gradual climax, and passing of each season went so slowly that the view from our living room armchair of a grove of maples never appeared to change. The vista through the elms that arched over the avenue leading downtown before we turned off toward church each week seemed to meet at an "unvanishing" point—the county courthouse clock's hands at 8. The cookie jar remained ever full no matter how many homemade peanut butter and oatmeal cookies I dunked in milk. On Sunday afternoons, we'd travel familiar country roads or cross-town, tree-lined streets to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. The sting of a coal shovel hitting a sidewalk crack buried in thick wet snow would sometimes jolt me awake. But then a last glimpse of our living room when I'd ascend the stairs and reach with my right hand for the smooth maple banister would restore order again.

After 9 p.m., the street corner traffic light outside my window flashed red for the side street and pulsed yellow for the main road. The blinking red and yellow blended on my bedroom's mustard-colored wall above the glass-topped desk and against the shut closet door. The heartbeat rhythm of its orange glow soothed me as I waited for sleep, then drifted off. In summer, through the window screen, I could hear turning tires on wet streets mixed with rain in Chinese elms. Or the radios of cars approaching, pausing at the intersection, then receding would sometimes play songs in synch with the traffic light's steady, clicking beat. Once in a while, a bird would stir above the crickets' chirring. Each night, trains would wail their horns at crossings, but the clanking of their freight and coal cars on the rails were muffled by distance. The theme songs, laugh tracks, and dialogue of sitcoms and Westerns broadcast too late for me to watch would echo off the stairwell's walls into the upstairs hallway then into my room: "Have Gun, Will Travel...Wire Paladin, San Francisco."

Now, this almost endless string of commuter traffic...

stoplight in rain
a car radio plays
"Let It Be"