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A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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December 2007, vol 3 no 4

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Richard Straw

 

Signs

I dream of a son being born with a yellow needle in his right eye. Later, it's healed over, and he's grown up, standing in a partitioned room, smiling before a framed mirror. A name is repeated, but I can't tell if it's the boy's or someone else's.

I wake to the receding sound of thunder and flashes of distant lightning on the lowered, but open and shaking Venetian blinds. The steady, heavy breathing of my pregnant wife by my side helps me focus. It's not yet time to go to the hospital. I try to picture the boy again as he stood silent, smiling, but he fades.

I stand up to look out the window. Our deck table's been blown over. Before going downstairs, I check in the next bedroom on our toddler daughter, who's still asleep. Feeling the wet pine needles with my bare feet, I lift the round white metal table and its green-striped umbrella. Lightning nearby illuminates the woodlot's waving loblollies.

After midnight now at the kitchen table, I remember rushing upstairs earlier to our daughter to play her Snow White and Sleeping Beauty audiotapes again and again for her. She was crying for me at bedtime because my wife had tried to trim her toenails after giving her a bath and may have cut one nail a bit too close.

I chain smoke, drink coffees, walk from room to room to watch a new wave of the storm approach. At the back door, I feel sheets of rain strike the screen. Our neighbor's Pomeranians, the mother Spicy and her son Teddy, bark timidly between thunderclaps from their fenced-in yard.

Unable to sleep, I open Hammarskjöld's Markings at random and read over and over his dream in which he "walked with God through the deep places of creation; past walls that receded and gates that opened, through hall after hall of silence, darkness and refreshment—the dwelling-place of souls acquainted with light and warmth—until, around me, was an infinity into which we all flowed together and lived anew, like the rings made by raindrops falling upon wide expanses of calm dark waters."

cold room
a nudge on the shoulder
wakes me


Note: In "Signs," Dag Hammarskjöld's "walk with God" dream appears in his Markings (London: Faber, 1964, p. 105).