Can I Get A Haibun Over Here?

Thanks to my pet friend, Sean Wright, I have been experimenting with haibun. It is a Japanese form utilising haiku and prose. The haiku is meant to be stand alone as well as illuminating aspects of the prose. They are brief and focused.

I wrote a few to play with the form, a way of practising. 

I have included two of them here. I used a third on Storybird as a picture book experiment and have had some good response to it. You can read it here: Pendulum


In the silent moment before the alarm makes its declaration of the birth of the day, I wait, awake. Outside my window the main road is silent, a petulant child trying to see how long she can hold her breath as if it can stop the day from starting.

spark of life
measured in two movements
light follows dark

The fanfare of the hourly news is followed by the burst of exhalation: the rapid, rasping, laboured breath of rubber on bitumen. It is a too-quick heartbeat, and if I lie here long enough I hear the rise and fall of cars. They lumber away, wheezing their way up the hill hoping the lights turn red to catch their breath again.

If I hit the ‘snooze’ button, I can pretend the news never happened and the breaths taken outside my window are nothing more than the wind playing with the trees shaking their thoughts onto the ground.

I want to see how long I can hold my breath until I find a pencil and a scrap of paper to keep tally. They will be filed in pockets of jeans, jackets and shirts, ensuring the stipend is not exhausted, and hoping the remainder can be carried over to the following day.

receipts kept in pockets
fall with autumn’s grace
kindling for the fire

Gunning Station

I only met you once in real life, officially, when I stood on your platform, my toes deliberately hanging over the edge, uncertain if a train was due to arrive.

Our first, formal introduction, where the firm handshake betrayed the frailty of the weatherboard spruced with a fresh coat of beige and capped with terracotta coloured corrugated iron. The blue Countrylink sign on each of the matching seats announced your name.

I felt the awkward familiarity of meeting a robust memory known only from photographs and second hand reminisces, seeing the aged decrepitude beyond. A faded discolouration, a tea-soaked sepia superimposed over the glare of a late winter’s afternoon.

shadow obscures
the printed timetable
a faded memory

A place as familiar as a Sunday lunch of roast lamb and vegetables, gravy thickened from the pan, linen napkins, silver cutlery and the lingering scent of tobacco rolled through your fingers. The smoke drifts up in curls like the steam engines who once waited on shunting lines now no longer connected.

Five generations of my wife’s family including her lived at some point in the stationmaster’s house on the hill overlooking the station. I look at the corrugated iron, rusting in the silence while paint peels off stone walls in a town redefining its face with brick veneer, upmarket cafes and gentrified real estate.

I walk the length of one platform, descend the ramp to cross the tracks and feel the rebellious rush of stepping over the rails. I half expect, even want, a passenger train or freight train to crest the curve and suggest that the pulse, however thready, exists for at least one more day. But none come.

I walk the length of the other platform and reach the boundaries of a circumscribed world defined by memories that are not my own.


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