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Contents Page: July, 2010, vol 6 no 2

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Graham High

Foreign Fish

Few things make you more refreshed and alive than leaving your own life behind. Travel and a prolonged distraction from one's own perceived realities give you back yourself in a different form. To start my narrative here and now in this village market place is like pressing the refresh button on my sense of self. I am acutely aware of being an onlooker; of feeling foreign even to my own foreignness.

I smile and they smile back. They are intrigued. What will he buy, this white man who seems discomforted, even by the sun? Will he buy a banana-leaf hat; or perhaps a woven bowl; a ladle made from coconut? Will he know how to eat the fruit we offer him?

exotic foreign fish–
the silver flash
of my camera lens

I buy some spices, and then a bamboo fish-trap whose form and ingenuity appeals to me. All the stall holders, not just those vendors I'd visited, generously bless my purchases with smiling bows and palms pressed together at the chest. In such a close community one person's luck is felt and shared by all.

blue plastic buckets
of coconut milk–
struggling insects

They try to sell me food and make the concrete gesture of hand-to-mouth. Here the means to life is tenuous and the ready gratitude for the little that they have is equally immediate. It is so lacking in artifice or complex aspiration that I feel ashamed. Like two hands making a cane basket, work and worship are synchronised.

paddy field temple–
below the meditation circle
the threshing rings

This radiance of impressions is refracted through a million faceted leaves of the jungle canopy. I look through the shreds of shop awnings to a glimpse of village dwellings half hidden in the jungle. The red earth of the walls shines out in the variegated light. There are other bright colours too.

among green palms
a washing line of clothes–
wind-torn leaves

In the vividness, sensations swamp my mind like a shattered windscreen. They shower in too fast to be assimilated; assailing the eye too sharply to be stored to memory. Instinctively I look up.

light from the palm tree–
the toddy-tapper
drops his cup

Published in The Unseen Wind: British Haiku Society Haibun Anthology 2009, Lynne Rees and Jo Pacsoo (Editors), British Haiku Society.


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