haibun
crane

| Current Issue | Contents Page - This Issue | Editorial Staff | About This Journal | Submissions |
| Acceptance Criteria | Haibun Definitions | Articles | Archives | Search | Red Moon Press |

Contents Page: Oct 1, 2011, vol 7 no 3

[return to Contents Page]

Steven Carter

Sawtooth Range

At first he's a mere blur on the horizon south of Browning, Montana, part of the Blackfoot Indian Reservation. Then I make out the cross. Driving slowly in a construction zone—the flagman is just ahead—we pass him. Then we stop and he passes us, shouldering a large wooden cross with a wheel attached.

My laconic father-in-law remarks from behind the steering wheel, "Kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think?"

Bearded, long-haired, very thin—he actually resembles the painting of Jesus reproduced in a zillion Sunday schools—the young man reaches the flagman without stopping; we still see him in the near distance, wheeling the cross north on U.S. 89 toward the mountains. As we wait, a tribal police car pulls up; the big, burly cop gets out and talks to the stranger.

Is the cross-wheeler in violation of some law? Well, so was Christ, I say to myself. But in northwest Montana, in the year 2011! Well, why not? I look up at the aptly-named big sky, stretched taut as a tent over the Rocky Mountain Front. As I watch, clouds gather—weather changes in these parts faster than you would believe—and the light begins to fade.

The cop waves the cross-wheeler on. I wonder: Is this dude schizophrenic? Demented? Plain dumb? I'm in no way, shape, or form religious; and yet, and yet. . . .

The flagman spins his sign around to read SLOW, and, just before turning off for Glacier Park, we pass him one last time. Now he looks up, adjusting the cross on his shoulder, and I meet his gaze. It's like looking at the bottom of an ocean. His lips move slowly—I can't hear him because my window is closed—but I lip read his words:

"Don't forget me."

mountain moon
spring storm darkening
peak by peak


 

Bruce Ross on Steven Carter's "Sawtooth Range"

This haibun at first seems a straightforward narrative offered in a folksy, simply stated tone, slow to access experience, and suited to the magnificent remote wild nature of Big Sky Country and the Blackfoot Indian Reservation the author is passing through. Within this recognizable framework, however, is an extended metaphor to, shall one say, spiritual mystery: "But in Northwest Montana, Christ in the year 2011!" The mystery isn't however really about an out of place testament by a possibly emotionally bent individual: "Is this dude schizophrenic? Demented? Plain dumb?"

Note how this encountered oddity places the author in an emotional space that opens up to a deep spiritual mystery. Perhaps echoing Issa's famous turn from the sadness of human loss in general and his beloved daughter in particular: "I'm in no way, shape, or form religious; and yet, and yet . . . ," Carter expresses a masterful link, echoing the weather change ("clouds gather . . . and the light begins to fade") to register this opened space of spiritual connection in a time perplexed in so many ways:

mountain moon
spring storm darkening
peak by peak

I just attended the American Folk Music Festival in Bangor, Maine. A highlight was a group of Eskimo who sang, danced, and beat a shaman's drum. We learned that when their people die they are guided by the moon to a kind of paradise. One of their songs was translated for us:

Where have I gone to rise?
Where have I gone to fly?

The same tone of mystery here in the Eskimo song is in Steven's haiku link.

[return to Contents Page]



crane