Renga Link Haibun Responses

Renga Writing Roundtable • Spring 2011

Note that the following stories start with a link from "As the Fog Thickens" from:
Sato, Hiroaki. One Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku to English. Weatherhill, 1995.

A Pickle-y Duo

inspired by "the short day /letting the cat out / letting the cat in" (Sato 195)

The sun shines into the window, penetrating Jacqueline's eyelids, and she rolls over to escape the irritating brightness. Drifting back into sleep, she is reawakened by a dry, scratchy tongue on her hand.


Jacqueline's eyes open, and she squints at the fur-ball attempting to rub up and down her outstretched arm. Another dry, scratchy lick on her forearm.


"Okay, okay," Jacqueline murmurs as she begins to stretch, letting out a ferocious yawn. "Gee, Pickles, stop your gripping. I know you're hungry."

"Meoooooow," Pickles responds.

Jacqueline sits up in bed and scoops her little puff-ball of a kitten into her arms. Pickles purrs in a way that seems to signify contentment. Jacqueline nuzzles their faces together, breathing in the fresh scent of a kitten. She begins sputtering as kitty hairs crawl up and tickle her nose. Frantically wiping at her nose to quell the tickling, she drops poor Pickles, but Pickles lands on cleanly on her feet and begins entwining herself around Jacqueline's legs.

"Come on, Pickles," Jacqueline says once the tickling's subsided. "Let's get some breakfast."

Jacqueline and Pickles move around the kitchen together, almost as if they are performing a well-rehearsed, choreographed dance. They eat their breakfast together, side-by-side on the kitchen counter. And they leave the house together, going to the backyard to spend a lazy Sunday morning, reading books (Jacqueline's favorite hobby) and napping in the hammock (Pickles' favorite hobby).

a well matched duo,
Pickles and Jacqueline—
two lives out of nine

by Kate Eagler



opening blinds
the rush of sun, the crystal vase
suddenly full

Little, OF, 196

Her heels clicked across the linoleum as she walked across the kitchen and thew open the curtains.

He had forgotten their anniversary. Again.

Or at least, that was the most likely answer. The rummage sale vase sat empty on the kitchen table with late afternoon light nestling into the corners of the etched glass. Dust danced in the air. Outside, a few finches tried to get the last of the seed at the bottom of the bird feeder.

Faintly, she heard the sound of cat beating on a door. With a sigh, she went to the bedroom and opened the closet door. "You think you would learn after a while not to run in there..." The cat ran out between her legs and made a beeline for the food dish.

His side of the closet had been cleared out, all but for the shoe whose mate they'd never been able to find.

fresh lilacs
I mash the stems
of the bouquet

by Aubrie Cox

feed the fish

it would have made sense
this speeding ticket getting home
rather than to work

Wills, OHF, 197

The ambulance lights flicker as it speeds down the freeway. Cars are stopping on the side of the road and watching to see what happened. Glass is scattered all over the road with blood spattered on the concrete.

The entire situation is a blur. I am rethinking it over and over as I lay parlayed in the ambulance, floating in and out of consciousness. I was talking on my Bluetooth when someone else was calling me. I reached down to switch over to the other call and the next thing I knew--SLAM! I don't know what hit me, but I was spinning through the air and finally when my car hit the ground, it tumbled and tumbled down this hill. I can't even count how many times I slammed my head against the roof, or steering wheel, or window. I blacked out until I finally woke up in the ambulance. I thank God that I at least couldn't feel pain for that time.

My body kept telling me to give up. Give in to the light and feel safe again. But something was holding me back. I knew I wasn't ready to die and I wasn't ready to leave this earth. I still had so much to do! I had paperwork from that Johnson case last week, at least 20 phone calls to return, vacuum the living room, feed the fish, tuck in Lily and read a story to Cooper, kiss my wife good night, help Lily with her homework, and chaperone Addison's school dance. Finally everything clicked and I knew what was more important.

Just then, I felt my phone begin to ring.

my vivid memory
of glass shattering—
and a life changing

by Becky Smith



"I think back to that morning
we shared an old toothbrush"

Up, up, and away

She closed the blinds; it seemed she always woke up before the rest of the planet. Although, sleep only came with memories and she didn't think she could handle much more of that. Daily routine commences, starting with the familiar ring of her tea kettle in perfect harmony with the grandfather clock. Ding, ding, ding, ding….only four this time, she might have broken a new record.

Sighing, she sat on the couch and stared out her newly waxed windows. Even the birds weren't alone; this was something she had realized lately.

A shiver crept up her spine as she recalled the previous evening's dream. Another precious moment with him, the love of her life. What she would have given to take back any and every fight they had…but she knew their love was true and real; that was her only piece of mind. She was never one to put her problems on others, always conscious of their own feelings, problems, and emotions she did not want to be any extra stress but today was different. Today was the day she had to face that he was gone, forever.

She slipped on a black dress with a taste of disgust in her mouth, he would have liked to see her in the little red dress she wore last Christmas. Formalities…she hated them. They never followed formalities, after all when does love ever make sense or follow rules?

Ignoring her messages, she picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number. Answering machine; she only needed to her that sweet voice one last time. "Be strong," she reminded herself.

"I love you," she whispered as she kissed his photo and stepped outside.

spring flowers
seem out of place
at her front door

by Elise Scannell

eating noodles and thinking
"let me weep for once" p.195

Dining at their favorite restaurant, they've picked the same table again. The effort to find the perfect spot in the back, away from prying eyes seems pointless. They don't have secrets to share or moments of cuddling, anymore. Ten months into the relationship, with no finish line, has left the couple subject to routine. Why hasn't he asked her yet? She knows. The late nights in the office and the disguised phone calls has left her with little to be determined. The question now was, how much longer was she going to put up with this? The application of truth and sincerity is almost mandatory of two adults that spend their life together. Is it because she loves him too much, or doesn't love herself enough? She didn't know anymore. All she knows is that she'll order Chow Mien and he'll order Pad Tai and the two will eat in silence with the occasional glance at each other or at the waiter. The silence is suffocating. Why can't she just let it out? Tell him that it's over and she leaving him to go live with her sister in Texas. Because she's scared. She's scared of having to live with herself after she's spent so much time under his thumb. Maybe tomorrow over breakfast she'll muster the courage. Maybe she'll fling her cup of hot coffee across his strong, work-hardened face and say, "this is it, the end for me, for us."

Or maybe she'll just cross the room and refill his cup, again.

Little swallow
the tiniest bird
with the loudest cry

by Jennifer Kibbat



in the bar
under rippled reflections
ashes on the hearth

The funeral home isn't an awful place to work. It could be worse. That's my rationale, the magic words that get me through my days. Day in and day out the bodies pour in. Men, women, mothers, fathers, daughters, firefighters, rapists--the history is unknown, and to the business, unimportant. Just keep them coming, make them look nice, fluff the hair, cover up the waxy skin with rosy powder, and dress them in their eternal Sunday best.

Sometimes, though, the thin layer I've painted over myself cracks. Like when my old teacher from first grade passes through. Grandma's friend from church. The woman who gave me my one and only manicure. These bodies come through and their history is unknown, lost in a fire. A library burns down when a person dies without warning. Their thoughts, epiphanies, lovers, failures . . . gone in a flash, doused out with formaldehyde.

Sometimes I have to work in the bathing chamber. The people look so peaceful, floating under the surface of the water. I walk in to the damp tiled room and head towards the bath. "One waiting," my boss had snarled. "Make her up nice."

The breath evaporates from my body as I take her in. Just a child. No warning at all. Expecting some middle aged anonymous face, but no, here is the girl that's been all over the news, the Amber Alerts wailing, and the hope driving forward. And now, all gone. Her blonde hair cradled her face like a halo, and her tiny white hands cup the warm water. I gently dip my hand in the pool, draw a cross on her forehead. A blessing. I wash her body clean, and towel her off like she's my own sleepy daughter. I brush her hair a thousand strokes, keeping the strands of golden silk that fall out, like some precious treasure. Nestled in her new bed of silk and glossy wood, the child looks like a porcelain doll. Her limbs waver in the candlelight, and I take one last look. A kiss on the cheek . . . and then I clock out for the day.

window shopping
searching for the perfect

by Susie Wirthlin

deja vu
finding oneself in a position
one was once seen in

Kelsey sat up on the counter in the bathroom in silence. She never thought she would be here again. At least not until she was out of high school. She was supposed to have learned her lesson. At seventeen, she had a two year old son. Babies were supposed to be the best form of birth control. Yet, here she was, two weeks after Joey's second birthday, in her bathroom staring her watch.

It was three in the morning. No one in the house was awake. She wanted to do this in total privacy. She hadn't even called Cole. He was with her the first time she took a pregnancy test, but she didn't want him there this time. Joey was the center of her whole world. She loved him more than she thought she was capable of loving another human being. But even that love couldn't make up for the fact that her life was extremely difficult. She had every advantage. Her parents were very supportive, and Cole was determined to be a good father and stand by Kelsey. But even with all that, she couldn't imagine going through it all again. She couldn't imagine having two children. She just couldn't do it.

Therefore, no one could know about this test. She had only told her parents about the first pregnancy after she decided against an abortion because she knew they wouldn't tolerate it. When she discussed it with Cole, he said he would honor her choice, but she knew how it would have broken his heart. She didn't regret her decision to have Joey. But she thought about how he would suffer if she had another child. She loved her son and wanted to give him everything. But with another baby, she knew they would be left wanting for so many things for their whole lives. It was bad enough with just one.

So Kelsey's mind was made up. If she saw the pink line on the test, she would abort the pregnancy and no one would ever know about it.

Just as the test was about to be complete, Kelsey heard Joey moan. Of his small vocabulary, "Mommy" was his favorite word, so he began to call. She walked into her room and scooped him up into her arms. His forehead was hot and he cried. He was coming down with something and Kelsey knew she wouldn't sleep that night.

"It's ok, Sweetie," she cooed. Joey settled down a little as she carried him back into the bathroom. "I love you." She kissed him on the forehead as she looked down at the pregnancy test.

waiting for the test
crying baby
in the next room

by Nora Kocher


© 2011, Randy Brooks • Millikin University
All rights returned to authors upon publication.