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A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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Contents Page: March, 2010, vol 6 no 1

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Ken Jones

Things to See and Do

He declaims:

Autumn again
the crazy paving
stained with rain

“Oh dear, how can we evade mortality, my love?”

“I know ! Let’s go to Belgium ! Surely ten million people with five different governments and three hundred different beers will take us out of ourselves.”

Flushed with enthusiasm, she is still a good looking woman. He rattles the ice in his Campari and soda, throws another log on the fire, and riffles the bible paper of the guide book:

The cathedral is a tad lop sided … The crypt is stuffed with religious bric à brac of mild interest …The interior is a disappointment – an empty shell displaying a few old bells and statues … Tours of the Stadhuis are mildly enjoyable … A lugubrious 15th c. cannon … The blackened remains of an antique torch snuffer.”

She claps her hands. “How perfectly ghastly ! Do let’s go, darling.”

(Later, the same month)

Another coach load of tourists has discharged outside the cathedral and joined the queue for Van Eyck’s altarpiece.

“Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”
cameras flash
in lieu of adoration

The torture chamber in the castle of the counts arouses less inhibited enthusiasm.

Municipal guillotine
a waxwork tourist
lies beheaded

A group of elderly Germans is more interested in the mechanism. The rack is a full-sized working replica, elegant in polished oak. Vorsprung durch Technick. For three euros you can try your spouse out on it and get them to confess. A family photo opportunity. But a phlegmatic Englishman says it’s nothing like as good as the Gestapo torture chamber near Mechlin.

A fitting end to the holiday, the Psychiatric Centre is reached by a high speed elasticated tramcar. At the admissions desk a tiny grey paper disk is stuck on each tourist. Otherwise any attempt to distinguish between the madness in the Museum (from exorcism to Prozac) and that outside – in the courtyards, corridors and cafeteria of the hospital, (and beyond the tracks, for that matter) – has been abandoned. Everyone steals a shifty look at everyone else.

He mutters past
trying too hard
to make sense

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