Genjuan ’17 Winning Haibun

Grand Prix

Season of Snow and Milk

by Doris Lynch (USA)

Juneau, Alaska

Each January night the snowplow’s lights pour through our lace curtains at four, five, and even six a.m.  As I nurse my son, my finger trails the twin crimson bands on his neck, physical reminders of the umbilical cord that the midwife had to cut to ease his passage into the world.

The night remains quiet except for a snowplow scraping Calhoun Street before unloading snow into Gastineau Channel.  The driver, the baby, and I seem to be the only ones awake in this white world.

At one hundred and seventy-nine inches, the year’s snowfall breaks records. As the weeks pass, Cody’s clenched body stretches out, and looses its post-birth red.

We exist outside of time.  No moon, no stars, only white flurries float before the plow’s headlights.  In the next room, my husband and daughter sleep, leaving an empty spot on the family bed.

at daylight
tiny fingers strum my breast —
alpine glow

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An (Cottage) Prize

Trespass

by David McCullough (Japan)

A short walk downhill through the garden behind this house takes you to a point where it seems foolhardy to proceed. The way is barred by a roughly built stone wall that must be more than a century old. Behind that wall a solid green stockade of bramble entwisted foliage rises. And beyond those insurmountable barriers lies nothing but the trackless pine forest, a barely defined expanse of unused and unwanted public land that extends all the way back to Canada. Even as a child I never attempted to surmount the wall that marks out our territory, I never imagined that I could. At night my mother was wont to frighten me with stories about that dark and unknown place.

Last year, while pulling tangled knotweed away from the base of the wall I found something that I had never seen before. There was a door, far over to one side of our land, a door so old that only the merest hints of what may once have been red paint remained. I tugged at the great padlock. The heavy thing was so penetrated by rust that it fell to pieces in my hand. I pushed. Nothing happened. I pushed harder and then understood that the great weight of the forest was pressing back from the other side. Instead I pulled and the door crumbled, it fell away. Outside nothing but a mass of branches and leaves could be seen. I got down onto my knees. At the very bottom of the gap a yellowish shaft of light had appeared. I wormed forward into the light, pushing with my head and shoulders. After a full five minutes of wriggling across ferns and fungi and sweetly odorous soil my head poked through into space. I pulled out from my crawlpath and found myself standing in a vast, green cathedral. Somehow the forest had enclosed and hidden this clearing. At my feet was a carpet of vermillion moss, speckled here and there with faintly glowing violets. All of the sounds of the earth were muffled, and hushed. Far above great branches had knitted together into a kind of roof that admitted only darting flickers of blue from the distant sky. 

in clean air
a lingering scent of snow —
flutter of pigeon wings 

At the centre of the clearing stood the largest whitewood tree I had ever seen. On its branches were garlands of yellow flowers. Looking up, I saw that the top of the great tree had been struck down by lightning. The tree was almost dead, hollowed from the inside, and yet green leaves and flowers had come forth to offer one last farewell to the spring. I stepped inside the tree, I squeezed into that cavernous space. 

gazing downward
with endless curiosity
snake eyes

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An (Cottage) Prize

Soldier’s Woundwort

by Dimitar Anakiev (Slovenia)

On a winter day long gone by, at daybreak, dressed up in olive-grey uniform, I got off the train and onto the frozen platform of the railway station in Radovljica. Snow creaked under my first steps made in military boots and as far as my eye could see was mere whiteness: white tops of the Julien Alps, a white fog stretching over the frozen river in the valley… For Southerner who had travelled over a thousand kilometers in a night, this was a view of infinite yet unwelcoming beauty.

Just after having completed my studies of medicine – I was twenty-seven years old at the time – I was sent to do my military service and soon I ended up in a real war. After the victory of nationalism and the collapse of Yugoslavia I remained in Slovenia to lead an isolated life in political disfavor. People mostly disregarded me and the whole of my emotional life was filled up by a tuxedo cat, whom I called Momcilo. We survived together for almost six years. He was my closest cousin and the best friend, my teacher… Here I am now, standing by his grave.

….. Out of the grave
….. of my tomcat Momcilo
….. soldier’s woundwort

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An (Cottage) Prize

Feathers

by John Parsons (UK)

…. feathers
in a circle    remains
…………. of a wing

The garden is bounded by ancient flint walls with an arched gate, in a crevice beside it are lodged skulls of garden birds, left by the resident sparrow hawk.

The gate opens onto The Buttlands, a long narrow triangle of grass where yeomen in the past practiced archery; I can still hear their flights whistle overhead in my mind’s ear. It was these short wiry Norfolk men that rained down arrows at Agincourt.

Today, as I cross the butts I have to pick my way past the town’s air cadets, their leader bellows orders as they square bash, he seems scarcely sixteen, and I wonder what they all have in store. At the end of the green, where the road forks, is the town pump under its octagon of thatch, it is dressed with wreaths of poppies, I pass by into the church yard beyond. From the tower a scattering of jackdaws cackle out, they’ve seen it all before, having been in residence since the church was built in the fourteenth century. A short distance beyond brings me to open fields.

…. high up
a buzzard’s eye homes in
………………. on road kill

Taking the track past water meadows, a barn owl silently quarters thistles, floating then hovering; it suddenly stoops and takes off with a vole. As I draw close to the river, there is a thunderous roar which sets off the heron.

…. launched into space
a heron    one or two feathers
…………………………….. return

An old Lancaster bomber appears, flies slowly over, then banks above town; it is accompanied by an ancient Spitfire, which makes a victory roll. The deep throb haunts me with fear from way back, memories of childhood during the tail end of the war and the blitz over London, approaching war planes and buzz bombs. I plug my ears and wait for the ponderous spectacle to pass.

…… still   grey   sky
something white from above
…………………… ever falling

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An (Cottage) Prize

What’s in a Name

by Jim Norton (Ireland)

The retreat cabin would be available soon. He pointed to its location, across the valley and high up, where the mountain’s limestone became mist and cloud.

Cloud-grey hills
in their stony folds
a blueness

I asked what it was called. Ootmama, he replied. The name rang in my mind like a sweet-toned bell.
Back in the city I thought of it often, and whispered it in stressful moments.

The traffic’s roar:
when I listen closely
there it is

Several years passed before time and circumstance seemed right. I arrived with the storm. It rained and blew hard for the seven days I had. We were comfortable by the wood-stove in his house near the village, but venturing up on the mountain was out of the question. The days were not wasted.

Here we are
though I hadn’t known him well
old friends

Now the slopes and crevices of age became my trek. But again the opportunity arose and we set out. The sun was unseasonably hot. I stripped off layer after layer as we walked, but was little relieved. I could scarcely catch a breath, and my legs were buckling. I’d left it too long, too late.

Bowing to the mountain one last time, we stood and looked down instead, at the silvery fingers of the sea, a green palm of small fields, the ruins of several tiny chapels just visible in groves of hazel.

A dot moved back and forth across the fields. Borrowing the binoculars, I saw a small tractor, spreading muck.

The fertile rock
and somewhere beyond it
Ootmama

 

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