A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2009, vol 5 no 3

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Jeffrey Harpeng


The Day After

Barely taxied from the gate and a technical problem has us disembarking. Backtracking the concourse, I offer a hand to a lady lugging an awkward hand-grip. “Just changing hands. It’s full of clothes for a new grandchild. A miracle baby. They said she could never have a child.” “I’m at the other end of the spectrum. Yesterday I went to a child’s funeral. He died at eight weeks.” Last night the little family was around for buttered chicken and rice. Not quite the Jewish physic for all that ails, but where silence opens.

last view
delicate fingers
more delicate

open coffin
mum and dad farewell
that heart of them

April cool . . .
the white box smaller
in the hearse

An hour in the air I recall the balloon-releasing ceremony. Powder blue and powder white balloons trail blue ribbons. Two young girls, on instruction from their father, are the first to let go.

meniscus of my coffee
faintly tilts

A friend of the mother, a heart-weld made while the babes were in intensive (she was never much on babies—never an offer to nurse—at forty-two became a mother). She nurses her Yael, whose name is already a story or two. She nurses her Moonbeam warm to her warmth.

First sight of land, the West Coast and the Southern Alps. Snow caps through clusters of cloud, a mountain lake and cloud thickening. Descent toward the place I called home. The umbilical of that context is severed.

I think of a small flight of balloons rising into a breathy southerly, into blue without respite, while the hearse turns into traffic and heads the other way.

across patchwork plains
the rivers braid
their meanings

Michael Dylan Welch's comments:

The first sentence of this haibun takes us to an airport, and we fly, with attendant travel frustrations, with the author. We soon discover the sad purpose for the author’s trip, yet the piece never becomes sentimental or maudlin. We know that the author’s world has tilted, just as surely as the meniscus in the author’s coffee tilts during the flight. We are blessed to enter into this experience, sad though it may be, through the gift of haibun.

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