haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2008, vol 4 no 1

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Ken Jones

 

A Bare Thorn Tree

Hour before dawn
my racked bedding
lies twisted and still

Awakened by shivering cold. A waft of sulphur, the flaming match, the steady candle flame. In the iron chamber of the pot bellied stove the shredded Cambrian News and a handful of dry twigs roar into life. Shuffling to the earth closet along the passage, A face, caught in a shard of mirror: Good heavens - who’s that? Then out into the farmyard to confront the familiar oak, looming out of freezing mist. Slowly I crank up creaking limbs into some twisting and arm flailing exercises. Back indoors, on top of the stove, a singing kettle. I light the shrine candle for further cheer, sink into the broken down arm chair, sip strong coffee, stare at the flames .

On the shrine the goddess of compassion wears her usual ambiguous smile. Wrapping myself in my black robe, I intone the solemn verse of atonement, to fix the serial fuck-ups in my life. The voice reassuringly sounds like someone else’s. Then three strikes on the echoing bowl, coming from far away. Everything begins to settle down to how it is, gathering into alert stillness.

On my cushion
the beat of a heart
the mutter of a kettle

Pale grey light seeps into the room. The iced up track back into the world disappears into the mist which fills the shallow valley below. A heavy frost, and in a filigree landscape the trees and hedges are stilled to ghosts.

Ready now to join myself for breakfast. The porridge becomes agitated -- puckering, spitting and growling. A gentle stir with the long wooden spoon quietens it down. Another day in my own company, coming and going.

A bare thorn tree
undisturbed
by any wind