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

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Ken Jones



In The Guide Book
keeping his place
a manicured finger

In the middle of the gallery is Marcel Duchamp’s chess board. A game has been opened. Some of the pieces are recognisable. But others are not. I move a knight. Madame responds with a feather stuck in a cork, devising her own rules. Since we are in love, the game is endless. We never reach checkmate.

We turn to the pictures. Each portrays a group of ordinary people. But none has fixed his or her gaze where you’d expect. Their slanting stares escape the frame, discomfiting the viewer. We escape to the next gallery – of classic paintings in the Permanent Collection. But – even here…

by the stare
of the nude
in oils

Overdosed on Dadaism, we hasten out down the stone steps, hoping a little fresh air will restore our perceptions. But even the guardian lions are not as when we went in.

Fierce stone lions
kittenish now
their soft paws

We learn from the guide book that a local saint, Wandrille, was a great shape shifter and miracle worker and could be reached by a no. 31 country bus. Could he be our surreal remedy ? The towers, spires, and pinnacles of his abbey have been bleached and battered by time, Reformation and Revolution.

Anointed by pigeons
the headless saint
gazes down at us

St Wandrille’s cv is impressive. A courtier of the 7th century Frankish king Dagobert, he was betrothed to a beautiful Merovingian princess. However, on their wedding night each swore to follow a separate and celibate holy life for the rest of their days. We light candles at two euros apiece and buy a good luck medallion.

Waiting for the no 31 back to the city.

Concrete bus shelter
built to withstand
very long waits

A whole hour has passed. A chance for our Saint of the Absurd to do his stuff. Madame gives his medallion a good rub. We hadn’t noticed the little Citroen stopped in the lay-by, its driver on his mobile phone. No, he’s not surprised when we ask for a lift. A tonsured Merovingian insurance agent onto Head Office. Well, why not?

Above the hotel door
a grinning gargoyle
no more than its shadow

Dadaism – An international movement in the arts. Its name was “found in a lexicon – it means nothing. This is the meaningful nothing, where nothing has any meaning.” Mock not!

From Stone Leeks—More Haiku Stories to be released in 2009. This is a sequel to The Parsley Bed. Contents: 28 haibun about lives and landscapes, love and war, backed by 58 freestanding haiku.

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