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October 2013, vol 9, no 3

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Bruce Ross comments on Steve Andrews' Haibun:
Expressing the Mysteries of Love and Death

Here is a haibun writer to watch out for. Steve Andrews easily offers the poet's vision in two haibun concerning his love for a woman, "Essence" and "Memory."

"Essence" is a meditation on life and death and ultimately love, centered on the urn burial ceremony of someone the author loved deeply. The author is in a metaphysical trance inaugurated by the sacramental incense and the liturgist's chanting which pushes the incense in "staccato waves" like some angelic speech. The author ruminates on the reality of life and death through the Greek "pneuma" (breath, spirit) both of which were given to the first human, Adam, in Genesis, as the Hebrew "ruach" (breath, spirit). Andrew's koan-line mantra encapsulates the mystery: "No spirit, no breath. No breath, no spirit." The concluding haiku continues the mystery two months later with the fragrance of the woman's clothing in her empty closet, alluding, no doubt, to the Christian mystery of the Resurrection, and justifying the haibun's title.

"Memory" recalls a walk with the narrator's loved one. They are holding hands, she through "simple affection," he because without her, he "would lose his way or simply stop, forgetting why he is there." The last phrase suggests the issue of ultimate things brought up in "Essence." Though the phrasing is deftly simple, as is the idyll presented here, the narrator's fathomless emotion hovers over the haibun, supported by a "reading backwards" of the haibun through the last line of the haiku, "morning dew," which suggests, as did the well known Issa haiku, the loss of the remembered woman and the emotional complexity of life and death.