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Volume 36.1
Spring 2005


sample haibun


V-ed Open on the Mantel

It’s snowing on the blue hills and the sleigh is carrying spruce trees to the one-road village with its evening-yellow windows. Five boys and girls are pulling sleds and throwing snowballs. Three dogs are having the time of their lives . . .

your neat hand
in the corner of the postcard
‘let’s meet’

by Larry Kimmel

from Apricot Tree,
a linked haibun by Ion Codrescu, Rich Youmans, and David Cobb

When I take this way in the country, I always pay a visit to my art teacher. Hearing the electric bell, he comes to open the door of the studio; I can hear the baritone voice I knew as a college student, “I’m coming. I’m coming.” After some minutes of the usual words in such a meeting, he shows me a still life he has been working to finish. We talk about shape and form, texture, foreground, and background. We sit down, sip from bowls of jasmine tea. Then he asks my opinion about the colors in the painting, telling me that he avoided using black. Suddenly, I remember his lessons about colors, and the magical correspondences of the color black. I still can’t forget the beginning of that lesson: “The Impressionists believed that black did not exist in nature and they excluded it from their palettes.” I also remember that he wrote the word “black” on a chalkboard in Latin, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, and French, and then pronounced them: niger, nero, negro, negru, noir. After a short silence in our talk, he says, “Black is a useful color but it can sometimes deaden or destroy color mixes.” Then he adds, “In the last decades I’ve at-tempted to follow Monet’s advice: when you paint, try to forget what objects you have in front of you.”

thin curtain
a familiar landscape
an unknown scent

Ion Codrescu

Looking out for miles, nothing but buttes and mesas, cliffs in shades of mauve, sienna, sun-burnt orange. So much to see in this sun-baked state, if only you know where to look for it. Below the peaks of the Sandia, the green forests cluster—piñon, spruce and fir, ponderosa pine. And “lots of blue sky,” as a friend once said. “The desert has so much room, you can get lost in it and find yourself all over again.” Beyond the pueblo’s walls, turkey vultures scrape their shadows over short grass and snakeweed. Along the roadside, an old Zuñi woman sits over her blanket of hammered silver and turquoise jew-elry, her unglazed pottery. She can see thunderheads a hundred miles away, a rainstorm that may never lay a drop on her sunken cheeks. The thunderheads race across the desert, chasing swift rattlesnakes and soaking the lizards that have become one with the boulders on which they lie; only after you adjust your sight will you see a small, lidded eye staring back.

full moon
so cool against my palm
this white clay bowl

Rich Youmans

It needed a good wash after lying in the soil for—what? A hundred and fifty years? Two hundred and fifty maybe? Perhaps not so long. I remember, in my boyhood you still saw the occasional poor working man, a navvy on the road or a night-watchman he might be, drawing on a small clay pipe like that. And of course children had them to blow soap bubbles with. But this one spoke of age.

I found it a piece at a time over the space of several days’ digging, often until nightfall, that autumn when we had moved into a new house in a village, where there was a garden to be made from virgin land. Two or three sections of long tapering mouthpiece, then finally, like an acorn cup, the little bowl. Curious to see if the sherds belonged together, I found they all fitted trimly, and with a few dabs of Superglue I reunited them.

From this some man of old, a man who measured out his tobacco in pinches, had taken solace after his labours. I even caught myself thinking it might be nice to take up smoking again, though I had given up the habit more than thirty years before, and knew it was not what my body wanted. But joining him in spirit. A sort of communion.

in a haze of smoke
the faces of two men
lighting up

David Cobb



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