2 Haibun - Basho Fictional Responses

Global Haiku • Millikin University • Spring 2009

an oar beating the waves

Once again, I lay in my bed struggling to fall asleep, but the loneliness keeps my thoughts running. The loneliness is slowly destroying me. It will inevitably be my demise. Through the hazy room filled with cigarette smoke, I can see empty bottles strewn across the floor. These days, whiskey is my only solace; the only thing left to warm my heart during these times of loneliness.

In the distance, I can hear a fisherman out at sea. His oars beat against the waves, and it reminds me of her. She would always take me fishing, even though I despised it. The concept of sitting in a boat all day with the hope of catching a small animal that I can simply buy at the market . . . I never understood it.

And now, in my time of despair, I hear his oars beating against the waves. I feel a churning in my stomach. Perhaps it’s the whiskey, but I choose to attribute it to the constant replaying of happier times in my head. The beating of the oars monopolizes my mind. Why does he have to be out at this time of night?

I try again to slip into a deep, undisturbed sleep, but all I can think of now is her. I am so lonely. I bury my face into a pool of tears on my pillow, trying to shut out the sound of the midnight fisherman cutting through the ocean’s waves. Again, this is a failed attempt. I shoot up from under my covers and over to the cupboard in search of that something that will put me to sleep. I find a dusty bottle half full of whiskey: my only solace.

fishing – our first date
I get caught
by your line

brushwood gate

A chilly autumn afternoon – the crisp scent of burning leaves pervades the air. As I turn the corner onto my street, I notice a whirlwind of faded reds and oranges, stumbling across the gravel road – a warning of the storm to come. Under a near constant cover of clouds, I slowly clamber my way up the steep drive to the precipice of the hill, upon which my house is quaintly situated. The load I carry grows heavier by the second, for as I approach my destination, I am reminded of the wealth of work that will occupy the majority of my night . . . damn. As the storm brews overheard, my anxiety matures as well. Eventually, I find my pace has slowed, almost to a halt. The pungent odor of incoming rain overwhelms me. I stop dead in my tracks and stare up into the swirling sky – a menacing spectacle. The first drop of rain dampens my cheek, followed by several others, speckling my t-shirt and autumn jacket. It starts to rain harder now, and I am increasingly at peace. Nothing else seems to matter – one with nature, basking in her glory. I feel cleansed, rested; no longer overwrought with anxiety . . . at ease.

autumn jacket—
even the leaves
sense the chill

the man next door

I never gave up watching him, from sunrise to sunset. My wife told me to get a hobby, but I refused. The old man was up to something and I would get to the bottom of it.

He was a very unusual old man. One would never see or hear him stir in the day time, but at night, one would see him up past the wee hours of the morning. He would always have his hands full of something, something that an old man shouldn't be carrying. The items were usually covered with white sheets and the items underneath the sheets were always big and bulky.

I would watch him through the window at night, hoping he would accidentally give off a clue. To my dismay, it never happened that way.

I did have my theories however. He was a vampire, a serial killer or a cannibal. My wife said there were other possibilities though such as sleep insomnia, OCD or a love for exercise. I told her she was stupid; after all, what do women know?

His behaviors ate away at my mind and body for ten years. My wife left me after the sixth year. I wasn't unhappy with her decision; she gave me more time to observe.

Every night after seven I would stay awake until the next morning, just watching and waiting for something big to happen. Perhaps tonight, I will get lucky!

rabbit's foot—
secrets uncovered
from the window

a fox's howl

When I was a young girl my family took a trip to Disney World. I have never been the type to get on roller coasters, thrill rides or anything that involved heights. I didn't even like the 3-D rides because of all of the things that would jump out at us! So usually when my family and I took trips down to amusement parks my mother and I would stay together , because she was not a thrill seeks and my sister and my father would stay together because they liked scary rides. Since it was raining, we all decided that we would go inside of the haunted house. Or should I say that they all decided, because I did not want to get on, I was trying to be cool and get on even though I was shaking on the inside. My mother was really excited about going into the haunted house. I was looking at how scary it looked and I could hear the people on the inside screaming . . . The fear grew within me. The house was covered in vines and it looked just like the homes in horror movies that people would go into and then never come out of. On top of that, it was raining outside, so it really added an extra effect. Then all of a sudden there was a wolf howl . . . I didn't know it at the time, but it was not a real wolf. I took my mother's hand and planted myself into the ground and started crying and telling her that I did not want to go inside. She pleaded with me telling me that it was not a real wolf and it would be fun if we went inside. I ran off and my mother stayed with me out in the rain. Today, I can tell that she really wanted to go inside of the haunted house. My father and sister went on and they came out telling us how much fun it was. This story was not funny at the time because I was terrified, but now that I look back on it, it was hilarious!

fearless girl
is afraid
of fake wolf

daffodil leaves bend

About two years ago, we had a really bad ice storm. I, luckily, had driven the three-and-a-half hour drive from Carbondale back to Decatur before it had started. The freezing rain just would not let up, and roads were becoming very dangerous. People from around here are sometimes way too confident driving in such inclement weather. My mom had driven to Carbondale to pick up my sister. They decided to not leave until the next morning, so that they did not have to be out on the roads when it was at its worst. My father and I, however, were stuck in our house.

Shortly after the sun set, we lost power. Of course, we didn't think about finding flashlights until this time. You don't realize how much you rely on those hallway (or bathroom) lights until you have to deal with it in total and complete blackness. We found some candles, a couple flashlights with working batteries, and a radio. We set it up in the living room and sat there for about thirty minutes. We clung to every word like it was their last waiting to hear the weather report. Finally they reported that we sadly were not even close to seeing the end if it yet. We were in for a long, cold, icy night.

After hearing the weather would not be letting up soon, we decided it may be a good idea to go to the store and stock up on batteries, flashlights, ice melt, and some non-perishable food items before they lost power too. The five-mile drive to Wal-Mart had never seemed so long before that night. Traffic was practically at a standstill. Limbs and whole trees were strewn across the road like a disaster zone because they could not bear the weight of the half-inch thick ice lining all of its bark. We made it to the store, and luckily found the items we needed. Have you ever stopped to think about what non-junk food items you can eat without the use of a microwave, oven, or stove? We certainly couldn't think of anything that actually sounded good, so we stuck with buying cereal and Poptarts.

The ride home seemed to go a little faster. I think this was because I already knew what to expect on the roads, and we weren't in any hurry. I think I first started to notice how cold it was in the house when I never felt like taking off my wool coat after returning home from Wal-Mart. I figured I might as well go to bed and get warm because there was little else I could do with no power, and limited battery supply. I would wait for the sunrise like what people used to have to do.

In the morning, I really noticed how cold it was. Shortly after waking up, my dad came into my room and said he was heading to Sam's. I asked him why in the world he wanted to go to Sam's. He replied that since the power wasn't back on yet, and the temperature had dropped almost ten degrees in our house we had better think about getting a generator for the meantime. Boy was that a good idea! He got there and realized he was not the only one with that idea. The store opened early just for those sales. They only have about ten of them, and we were lucky enough to get one. My father, being an insanely brilliant engineer, knew exactly what to do to hook it up to just our refrigerator and furnace. He also helped our neighbors tap into our power to hook up their furnaces.

The event has definitely stayed in my memory, and it was actually a good memory. All my loved ones were safe, and it allowed us to think about what really matters in life. The part about this whole experience that is most memorable to me is looking out our front window and looking at this little tree my mom had planted that year in our front yard. It was completed folded in half and frozen to the ground. It miraculously recovered that Spring just to end up dying the next Fall.

holding onto every word—
we wait
for the weather report

the rains of summer

A river runs behind my house in Maine and many days I spent playing and relaxing along the bank. During summer evenings with my windows open, I would fall asleep to the soothing flow of the water across the rocks. But after a summer rain or during the winter melting, the water would swell higher and the sounds of the river would be fiercer.

When I was about 13 or 14, I walked down to the river alone for a cool swim, like I have many times before. It had recently rained, the water level was higher and the rapids were rushing quicker than usual. I normally would have swum in the deeper section, but I wanted to sit among the rocks in the rapids. If you sat just right, it felt like hot tub jets against your back, quite relaxing. I should have known better.

As soon as I sat down between the rocks, the rushing water picked me up and dragged me along the river bottom scraping flesh as I went. I hit several large rocks with my arms and legs. The water was too strong, flowing too fast for me to hold on. I struggled to catch a rock or something to stop me from going further down the river. After a few moments, I was able to catch myself on a large rock underwater and pull myself out of the water. Unfortunately, I was on the other side of the river. There was no way I was going to be able to cross the river again to get home. The banks on my side were steep cliffs and would take me miles from my home if I were to climb them. I sat on the rocks stranded and alone, staring at the water and thinking what a fool I was for going in the water right after a rainstorm.

On top of everything else, as I was sitting on the rock, I vividly remember the biggest spider I have ever seen come crawling up the side of the rock right next to my leg. The spider must have been the size of my fist, as I will never forget it. I didn't even think we had spiders that big in Maine. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs, which turned out to be a good thing.

Down the river a short distance, a few of my guy friends from school were swimming. I must have gotten their attention because they came over to help me out. After a few embarrassing remarks were made, they formed a chain and helped me wade slowly back across the river. I never lived that one down, believe me. After all these years, the swelling river in summer still strikes fear in my heart and brings back interesting memories of my time spent along the banks of the Sandy River in Maine.

summer rain
waters swiftness holds me—

devoured by the horse!

I have always enjoyed riding on horses. It is such an intense feeling riding on such a strong, powerful, and graceful animal. They are beautiful animals and I love observing them and riding them. As a child I was always jealous of a couple of my friends because they volunteered at a local spot that had many horses. They were able to take care of the horses and could ride them for free. I love watching horses, but taking care of them is a different story. Although I wanted to volunteer with them so that I would be able to ride the horses I would not be able to stand taking care of them. I knew that if I were to clean up after them that I would loose my fascination with them and they would loose some of their beauty in my eyes.

Since growing older, I haven't ridden many horses but, I am still fascinated by them. The last time I rode a horse, a year ago, I was on vacation in Texas. My sister and I rode horses along the beach while our parents waited around for us. My horse was beautiful but was older and made weird sounds. I had a really hard time controlling this horse. When I wanted to trot with a group of people my horse wouldn't trot for me. Instead it walked and stayed behind with the riders that wanted didn't want to trot. When I would tug for it to trot it would for about fifteen seconds, and then would stop and walk. Not only did it not follow my directions but it fought with other horses. I would try to stay away from certain horses, but it would just go right to them. It was pretty scary to see my horse and other horses biting each other and getting angry. Falling off a horse is something that definitely scares me. Fortunately, there were experienced riders that helped me control my horse and keep it away from certain horses.

Even though I had a horse that I wasn't to fond of, I still really enjoyed myself. Both the animal and the view were beautiful. My horse would run on the edge of the ocean and the sand and water would splash up. There was a lot of seaweed and other things in the water that the horses liked to eat, which is why this haiku reminded me of this experience. My horse would bend down and eat things. I remember being surprised and didn't know what to do the first time it bent down to eat. I didn't know if I should stop it, even though I had no control over the horse, or just let it eat. The part that I really hated was that it would stall the horse and make us stragglers behind most of the group. An experienced rider would always have to hit my horse or make their horse make my horse move forward. For some reason my horse seemed to only follow this one horse. Like I said before, I was fascinated by this horse, but was scared and frustrated that it would not listen to me.

ocean view
splashes from horse steps
bring me back to real life

spattering of the hail

I had been driving for a year or two when I decided to travel to a house several towns away to visit some friends. I slammed the door to my Ford Mustang and headed toward the highway, failing to notice the ominous clouds overhead. I had barely reached the highway when the skies opened up and began to spatter my windshield with hail. I turned up my windshield wipers to the slowest setting, then faster and faster as the hail began to fall more and more heavily. By this time, my fingers gripped the steering wheel tightly and I was hunched over it completely in an effort to see the road. I saw a semi-truck just in time to avoid hitting it as it slowed to pull off the highway into a random parking lot. After a few more futile moments, I did the same. I turned off my windshield wipers and my car, and waited for the storm to pass. I listened to the hail fall in thick chunks on the windshield and hood of my car. After about ten minutes, the storm subsided and the hail tapered off to nothing. The rest of the journey to my friend's house passed safely and smoothly. Later, though, it began to rain. This time my friends and I did not hide from the storm: we walked through the neighborhood until we were soaking wet.

the sound of hail
softer and softer . . .
I turn off the radio

the scorching sun

I have never liked summer. Most people do. Probably half of the people I know think summer is their favorite season. Those people have never been to Tennessee. July days in the Cumberland Mountains are disgusting. None of the Appalachian Chains are very tall. Only the very peaks are rocky. The rest of the slopes are covered with thick, green timbers. The heat beats down on the rocks all day, and waves of it rise up into the forests, so heavy with moisture that you feel as if you are going to drown. The summer air is filthy with gnats and dust and sweat.

At nightfall, the air cools a little — slowly. Just before dawn, it is cool enough that the stony peaks release all the heat that they have gathered all day long. And thick, white steam rolls up out of the trees, as if the mountains were on fire. The billowing smoke chokes out the morning twilight. When all the heat and humidity of the day has been surrendered to the sky, the first rays of the sun peak over the furthest mountain and break across the mist. The air lights up. The colors of the spectrum streak across every mountain top and reflect off of the cloud through the leaves onto the floor of the valleys. Not one bland swatch of sky or dull patch of turf is left unpainted. It is as if the mountains believe they can shield themselves with fog, or that they can fool the sun by splintering its harsh beams into harmless streaks of color. For a brief moment the earth is refreshed.

The Tennessee sun, however, is undaunted. It burns the mist away slowly as it rises. The rainbows disappear one by one. By the time the sun has risen fully over the horizon, every rainbow and drop of mist is gone, devoured by the swelter.

Every summer day — since before anyone was there to see it — the sun has pounded its heat against the mountain tops. And every summer morning — for just as long — the mountains have responded with fire. It is a feud so ancient that the mountains themselves have forgotten the purpose, and so bitter that it will continue whether anyone watches or not.

I know of only six people who have ever climbed Devil's Backbone on the hottest day in July to watch the sun. The whole of Cumberland County houses only about five thousand people. Very few of those who claim to love summer will ever see the southern Appalachian sunrise. Yet, it is the single most beautiful thing about the entire season.

smoldering sunrise
Devil's Backbone
a match

straw sandals on my feet

After my long trip visiting the exotic places of this world, I returned for my homecoming party in my apartment loft; seeing old friends who have changed in the year, new haircuts, new people, new family members, updated bodies. Talking to friends and telling them about my safari in Nigeria, allowing for my story to radiate the heat of the sweltering desert lands. My story from the South Korea sparked questions of worry, fear, and culture shock. As I retell these now memories to my dear friends I think about all of the life lessons that are painted in my mind. I recall my maturing process whether in the cold of Russia or in the busy town squares of India. I sat like an aged Grandmother on a couch with all of my grandchildren going through pile and pile of photos. I knew they hated it, but my friends are so wonderful they listened attentively and asked questions. The picture of me sitting in front of the Covent Garden Opera House in London sparked a remembering of how the beautiful music of Mozart touched my heart. I discovered new ideas and theories because of my trips reflection and stories. I knew I would never want to leave this party, my friends, or environment because I would miss my travels, but then I came across my prized possessions; a hat given to me from a rice worker named Sumi in Vietnam, and my sandals I was given from a merchant in Morocco. As I took another sip of wine, missing the taste of true Paris flavor, I thought these special gifts have stories, but more special one that are private and will only is mine. I set them aside and being my conversations about pile number fifteen, friends still listening and drinking and laughing, I truly am glad to be home but have gifts that allow me to travel again.

nigerian sand
in mind and toes

© 2009, Randy Brooks • Millikin University
All rights returned to authors upon publication.