Haibun Kukai 1

Global Haiku, Spring 2017


Because I am Irish, my family eats potatoes at a multitude of meals. Some families always have rice or certain meats with most meals. My family always has potatoes. We eat them in many different ways. We can have them baked, mashed, scalloped, boiled, seasoned, or even just with butter. Specifically this haiku makes me think of a time when my family had corned beef and cabbage for dinner on Christmas Eve. While it might not be the same as Christmas day in the haiku, it's extremely similar. On Christmas, it's very easy to get wrapped up in all the drama of family and trying to have the perfect day. Hearing the lines "at peace peeling potatoes" just makes me think of how such a mediocre task can easily bring the family together. Potatoes may not be a delicacy to many and may even be looked down upon as a poor persons food, but I don't care. Having potatoes was a staple in my family and it is usually my go to meal when I'm feeling homesick. Isn't it odd how a certain food can just take you back to a specific time and place? Weirdly enough, potatoes do that for me.

corned beef
peeled carrots
happy dad


I'm six or seven, dinner is over. Dad cooked a great dinner, but all I want to do is get outside to jump on the trampoline before it's too dark. I can see the fireflies start to light up. Chris, my brother, leaves the table in his teenager huff, so that's my cue that I can get outside. I run through the back porch and sprint immediately towards the trampoline. I have to keep practicing my front flip. The fireflies are hanging around the big tree that I still can't climb. The fireflies especially love the patch of magnolias in the garden patch by the driveway. Bees love that patch of flowers so I keep my distance. I don't go near the fireflies, I just let them exist while they let me focus on my trampoline adventures.

When it's finally time to go in, I drag myself into the house and up the stairs. I lay down in my tiny twin bed up against the window and the wall that has the puckering paint. I am resting from an hour of trampolining and try to stay awake long enough for my mom to come into the room to tuck me in. She'll sing me to sleep. It's my favorite time with her. I'm in the safest place and can fall asleep listening to her beautiful voice. She sings and hums all the same songs every night. They're about love and they're so simple and wholesome. The perfect music to close your eyes to.

she doesn't sing high
not all the words get sung
i'm safe

Growing up near the city of Chicago, I experienced a great deal of snow. But, I never experienced snow like the blizzard of 2011. I was a sophomore in high school and my school rarely had snow days. Having a snow day was really a special day, and because this blizzard was so intense, we actually had three snow days in a row. It was magical. My parents stayed home from work and my siblings stayed home from school. In the morning, my mother told me we had a snow day so I went back to sleep. But, when I walked upstairs, I could feel that this snow was different, something I had never seen before. I raised the blinds and was in awe. There was two and a half feet of snow on the ground, covering my neighborhood and yard in a blanket of white gold. It was amazing. I remember spending the days with my family, watching movies, playing video games, and snuggling under blankets. The sound of snow is special, it is one that cannot be described in words.

stands alone
protecting the house

I remember my grandparents' house back when I was younger. My grandparents had a pool that my brother and I would swim at when we stayed the night at their house. As soon as we would get there we would run inside and put on our swimsuits that were in the spare bedroom of the house. Once we were dressed we would run out to go and get in the pool. Most days we would get there when the sun was still out so the wood deck from the house to the pool was scorching hot. My brother and I would race across the deck and jump into the pool. We would swim and play and swim some more until my grandma would come to get us for dinner. She would have to drag us out of the pool or threaten us with no ice cream. On the nice nights we would sit outside as it started to get dark and eat dinner in our swimsuits. We would sit wrapped up in our towels in the floor of the gazebo as we ate our dinner for that night. In every other opening around the gazebo my grandmother had a different wind chime. We would listen to the clanking of the wind chimes as we ate and watch the sunset and the moon bounce of the water of the pool. Once we were done we would go inside to change and get ready for bed, leaving behind the floating pool toys on the calm water.

cool night breeze
wrapped tight in a towel
dinner is served

An early Saturday morning, my two friends and I wake up to the wonderful smell of my dad's special pancakes. As we wait for the breakfast to be ready, we play games while watching sports center. There is so much noise in the house from cooking, laughing, and the TV. Even through all the noise I hear my father whispering as he makes the breakfast. He takes so pride in cooking for my friends and family. Saturday's in the Smith house are always joyful. My dad finally stops whistling which means the breakfast is done. We begin to start stuffing the golden pancakes in our mouths. As we are all eating we talk about our plans for the weekend. There is tons of laughing and love going around the table. As we finish up my mom begins to start doing the dishes. She starts to whistle while she does them.

golden pancakes

I remember a house I lived in as a kid. I only lived there for a few years, but it was a significant house to me. It was right down the street from my elementary school: off Dogwood Lane. It brings me to the Dogwood trees right outside my school and the few that were in my neighborhood. The sweet smell of the trees. I can see the little pieces of the tree surrounding it on the ground. Some even blowing down my driveway. This was the last house that my whole family lived in together. My sister was finishing up college and my brother was still in high school. My mom and dad were still together. The air and the trees feel so gentle and warm. The air feels crisp and tranquil. A slight wind makes the trees stir and shake the little white pieces. I feel young and adventurous. I see my best friend and me running down the street. Our shoes hitting the asphalt. My dog panting and chasing a tennis ball in our backyard. My mom standing high on the deck chucking the ball for him.

a breeze before dawn
light-up shoes
hitting the asphalt

I remember being in the woods as a kid near my grandparents' house or even out camping as a boy scout and seeing animal footprints in the snow. I could never tell how fresh they were and we wouldn't ever see any animals around so the footprints could have very well been from a long time ago and were just frozen in the snow. In the winter, I loved going to my grandparents' house to sled in their backyard. They have a huge hill that's on the very edge of a large forest, so there's a beautiful backdrop behind their house that would always surround us when we were sledding. I would oftentimes find myself more entertained by the snowy trees or frozen plants on the edge of the forest than by the sledding. I had a very simple attention span and was easily entertained and would just wonder and stare at things that stuck out to me like that. I wish that I was still easily entertained like that, nowadays it just seems like I'm always rushing around with schoolwork or rehearsals and whatnot, and sometimes it's difficult to just take a step back and appreciate the world and nature for what it is.

winter snow
coats the forest ground
frozen beauty

My next-door neighbors had (and still have) large wind chimes hanging from underneath their deck. They're fat and a tarnished silver color hanging from a thick brown rope. I can hear them now just thinking about them. The sound is really full and resonant. I used to spend time back there during summer break constantly, because I was friends with two of the girls who lived there. I can remember playing on the swing set or just resting in the grass as the heat slightly faded while the sun started its descent, the shadows in the backyard getting longer and longer.

Even though I remember the sound of my neighbor's wind chimes, I can more clearly remember this time of day from when I was younger, because it signaled that play time was coming to a close. It was upsetting to know that soon our moms would tell us to come inside for the night, but it was a necessary part of the day.

Interestingly enough, this time of day is my favorite. I like the feeling that it brings. It's really still even though it's a time of great transition. Watching it change from the brightness of day to the darkness of night is fairly relaxing. Not only does the light change, but the overall mood seems to change, as well. The day time feels very busy and bustling, while the time just after the sun sets feels calm and peaceful. I really enjoy watching this transition and putting myself in that moment whenever I can.

backyard summer—
laughter mixed with the
sound of wind chimes

I am sitting in the dark laundry room with my sister, hearing the moans and groans from the massive matter looming above us. The radio is static and wheezing, making me feel uneasily off-balance. My phone is off to conserve its precious juice—a trauma is in the works for me, a twelve year old with a dedicated pulse for texting forced to preserve her temptation. My young and long dog lays next to me, his body stretched out like Laffy Taffy. He is quivering in fear, his entire core shaking against the pressure of the grandiose storm swallowing him. Although it is past bedtime, the sky is green and breathing. I hear the wind slam against the back of my house, rattling its submissive windows. I imagine Dorothy's house in my mind, and watch it getting ripped out of the ground like an unwanted weed. I think of a heart nearby, relaxing into the excitement its smile brings me . . . I think of Tommy, and I cannot believe he is stealing attention from the storm. I picture he is holding my hand. Since it is pitch black, I can close my eyes—I conjure up his smell from my bank of memories, and breathe in. My sister squints at me, scoffing at whatever she thinks I am doing. I retreat back to the radio, stroking my thigh as though it were Tommy's.

my house
his house
closer than before

I remember times spent with my friends just talking. When I was younger I had a ton of sleepovers so we would always talk about everything. Our conversations were always intriguing especially when we talked about what we want our futures to look like. Those were the days I remember the most with my friends. A few friends sitting around talking and listening to each other.

One of my most memorable moments with my friends always involves the beach and the summer. In the summer my friends and I would always ride our bikes to the beach to swim and hang out. If we weren't swimming, we were most likely playing volleyball. After a long day at the beach we always got food and ended the day by watching the sunset. One time we meet this girl who was playing her guitar and singing. We decided to approach her and sit down to listen to her sing.  After she finished singing we all had a great conversation with her. We sat talking to her until it got dark out, which showed how we lost track of time, because of the depth of the conversation we were all having.

sandy particles below
hidden feet
a stranger singing

Growing up I always enjoyed being outdoors, playing in the woods, hiking mountain trails, etc. My favorite trail used to be the Hanging Rock trail about 30 minutes from my home, a solid hike with a gorgeous view. I remember a day that I went to hike the trail, but instead of the sun beating down on me, there was a brisk wind with a very cloudy overcast. The trees weren't glimmering off the rays of the sun like they had in my memories, instead they had a slightly blue tint to them. In fact, the entire mountain had an effervescent shade of blue to it, a sight that I wasn't all too familiar with. The hike wasn't all that different: the trails felt the same, the crunch under my shoes didn't change, the smell of mountain still filled my nostrils. But the stone walls and rocks weren't as bright and as captivating as I had remembered them to be. They were gloomy and casted shadows all around them. At the top of the mountain there's a huge overlook, that when sunny, illuminates thousands of trees, a lake and mountainous formations. On this particular day however, the big rock cast a shadow over this land I had never seen before. I stood at the top of a throne, looking down at things instead of looking at them. It was a feeling far from any I had felt before standing on that rock. I much preferred the beauty that I had come to know and love, and so ever since that day, I have never gone to hanging rock on a cloudy day.

standing at the top
looking over a sea of trees
king of the world

I have so many wonderful memories with my mom in Michigan as a kid. Where I live at home it is very congested and right in the outskirts of Chicago so it's not a normal thing to see a farm stand so if we are away and we see a farm stand we take advantage of it by exploring the insides and outs of it. In Michigan there is a specific farm stand that I use to go to with my mother to get many fruits, vegetables and flowers for the house. This farm stand was right off of a dirt road in the middle of woodsy michigan where it was so clean and the air was so fresh. This haiku really made me think of all the wonderful times I have had with my mother and how precious these moments were and my mother and I seem to never really have these special times as much as I am getting older and always away at school. This farm stand was always such a peaceful place to go and walk around and enjoy the fragrance of fresh fruit and flowers which surround you as you walk down all the different paths arranged for you. Even when you left the place you carried the fragrance with you because the whole car would be filled with flowers, fruit and vegetables.

dusty bumper—
flowers and memories
left on the seats

I am the type of person who constantly asks questions and wants to know more, and that was no different when I was younger. Although my dad typically did not accompany us, my mom, brother, sister, and I would go to Sunday school and church every Sunday. I can recall being very confused whenever I heard or read a new passage in the Bible. I would ask my mom to try and she would try to explain as best as she could. In particular, I never could grasp the “3 in 1” aspect of God. I didn't get how it all worked and so I asked my mom to try and explain this. Just thinking of being in the church as a kid brings the sense of smell to mind. The church's congregation was mostly older people, so the church and pews smelled the same as well. Another thing that instantly comes to mind are the glass windows. Our church had these beautiful murals painted on the glass. When the sun was out and at the right spot in the sky, it brought a very elegant lighting to the room. 

dust settling
coats are hung up
the preacher begins the sermon

After 4 o'clock church on a Saturday our family always goes to a small unique Chinese restaurant called “888 Bistro” and definitely look forward because it is probably my favorite restaurant back at my hometown. The Chinese restaurant is down the street from the church we go to, which is segregated from the rest. The place we eat usually doesn't have customers dining in, sometimes it is for carry out only. It is not a very busy place and I am surprised how they are still in business. My and family and I walk in and it is not a surprise to us that no one else is there to eat. I, personally enjoy it because no one is there and it is kind of like my family is eating dinner at our own dinner table. The place is a tiny restaurant, not many tables or chairs. You could hear what the people in the kitchen, and dishes being dropped, or the sizzle of the meat cooking on the pans. There are two televisions up against the wall, near the entrance. The shows they air are usually FOX News or CNN news. Our waitress, who we have known since the time they have been here takes our food but also we talk to her about what is different or new in each of our lives. I always notice that there is a young asian girl, who is sitting across the restaurant from us. She is either watching little kids shows on her IPad or snapping beans for the vegetables. The young girl is the waitress' daughter. It is easy to tell because the mother would yell, or demand the child in “Chinese” on what to do. It is basically small talk.

empty childhood
chinese restaurant
slave woman

I chase my sister around in the bright green lawn. We make a dash under the tall weeping willow. When suddenly, my sister's feet came to an abrupt stop. I slow down and stand beside. We both sat still in that moment, listening to the humming of my grandmother. She hums a tune I recognize form a long time ago, one of those songs that came out before my birth, but I somehow still know the words. After the moment of stillness, we continue our play and hunt for materials to make more fairy houses. We put together the fairy houses right at the edge of the forest, listening to the hums as we work.

Later, we come in and kick off our shoes and I throw a bright red leaf back outside. I wouldn't dare bring an outside object into my grandmother's prestine white lacey home. We run into the kitchen to tell grandma of all our magical adventures and tell her that we heard humming. She goes on to tell us a story of her teen-hood and how she has whistled while she was doing chores for as long as we can remember

a granmother's hum
grassy green meadows

The snow covers everything like a thick blanket, and still it continues to fall. Thick, heavy flakes that look like powdered sugar. Everything is cancelled today; school, work, even the very concept of going outside is off-limits on a day like this. My sisters find ways to entertain themselves, but on days like this there is little that I want to do other than sleep. Not in my bed, but in the living room, where I can still hear and feel my family's presence. The cold is so isolating already that I don't want to further it by locking myself up in my room. So I curl up in the chair in the living room, buried under a soft throw blanket and the layers of my clothing. It isn't enough though. I'm still cold, still tired but unable to fall asleep.

I don't know what it is that I'm missing until I see a walking ball of fur jump up onto the loveseat and crawl his way over to my lap. He settles down on my legs almost immediately, taking barely any time to knead my flesh to his liking. He never was much of a kneader, now that I think about it. He just curls up wherever he wants and that's that. His purr is the rumble of a boat on a lake. His fur is black and brown and long and he reminds me of a tiny lion with the way it puffs out around his neck, like a mane. Once he settles in and I can feel his warmth and the gentle vibrations of his purring, I no longer feel isolated by the cold. I no longer feel the cold at all. I feel love and warmth and I feel his fur between my fingers. This is what I needed.

a cat makes his way
across the room
to my legs

August 2003 my grandmother passed away from cancer in my bedroom. February she moved into our home because she got sick (at that time I did not know and there were no signs) and I moved into my little sister's bedroom. At first I was upset, the twins were about 6 months and shared a crib and I wanted a room to myself. However, I eventually got over it. I remember the day she died. It was my mother, the twins and myself in the bedroom. The rest of the guests were watching TV outside, enjoying each other's company, as always. I kissed her on the cheek like I've done so many times before and left the room, not knowing that would be my last time seeing her alive. Minutes later all the adults ran into the room. I think my mom yells and all the smiles and laughs are gone. Now everyone is crying, all over the floor and just that quick the whole atmosphere changed. I remember not crying; I wanted to be strong for everyone else that was so weak. My cousin told me to go outside with the rest of the children, that we didn't need to be around, he told me not to look when they brought her out the house, but I did. For months we watched her lose her memory, her ability to care for herself, her whole life wasted in a matter of months and in that moment watching them carry my grandmothers lifeless body, covered in a black cloth out the house I lost it. Cried until I couldn't breathe, head hurt and almost passed out. At the age of 9 years old I experienced my greatest pain.

darkness is coming
fear not my friend light comes soon
just hold on my friend

I went on for a mission trip for my church and we stoped in Pennsylvania. It was a summer day and we were staying at a ski resort which was no longer in use due to the hot temperatures. I remember walking up and down the hills which were surrounded with beautiful green trees. In the distance, you could see the mountains and if you looked closely you could see houses from the nearby city. I remember it being a lovely day so we decided it was perfect for walking long distances. We got about half way up a large slope when you could feel a cold breeze come out of nowhere. The trees all around us shook from the wind and you could see in the distance dark ominous clouds approaching at an alarmingly fast pace. We started to make a break for it to try and get under cover before the big storm hit us and we were stuck on top of a slope close to sky where it was so easy to get struck by lightning. You could hear the thunder in the distance getting closer and closer. We ran as fast as we could to get to a group cabin at the top of the hill. We got about half way to the cabin when it started pouring down rain. This rain was heavy and it was coming down fast. I remember just thinking how bad of an idea it was to not check the weather app to see if there were any storms coming. We got to the cabin eventually, but we paid the price of not listening to mother nature. Everything we brought got completely soaking wet. Our clothes were 3 shades darker than they were to begin with and they looked like we had stretched them out when really it was just the weight of the water. We did make a lot of bad choices that day, but that story and memory will always bring me back to Pennsylvania and the good times that I had there.

ski resort
green with summer
dark clouds in the distance

© 2017, Randy Brooks • Millikin University
All rights returned to authors upon publication.