A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2008, vol 4 no 3

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Jane Whittle

Beside the Lake Again

alpine sunset
crimson mountains lift the sky
and fade too quickly

As visiting grandparents we take a back seat. Who are these creatures of our blood and bones, speaking another language and yet so strongly linked to us?

I feel older than usual, climbing three flights of stone steps with difficulty, falling asleep after meals, limping on cobbles. No one minds at all. We are cared for, off and on, by four busy people, each with a separate life to lead, but still interactive and co-dependent. And our presence alters subtle balances, opens up unspoken tensions. Sometimes we all speak our minds, sometimes we just listen. Mostly things happen in the gaps between our words and hugs. We forgive each other's failings and let small irritations pass.

the ducks float by
brushstrokes on the empty page
filling spaces

We have time to stand and stare. They do not. We get up late and read novels, taking longer to recover from celebrations.

When I catch sight of myself in the long mirror, reflected by the cruel light of the lake, I feel suddenly fearful of shopping in French, of fumbling, of forgetfulness, of the future. Now no longer the person my daughter must remember, I watch her run her complex life with amazement. And her daughter, alternately a sophisticated young woman and a petulant child—how has all this happened? Everyone is fragile sometimes. Taking turns to reassure each other, we re-forge loosened links, are rested and restored to life again before we part.

beyond the water
another country becomes clear
now and then

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