A Winter Walk, pt. 1

A cycle of haiku scratched mostly with a frozen pen from knee to stump along the way, December, 2014 – January, 2015.

 

snowflakes heaped

on a withered leaf…

my errors’ accumulation


felled tree —

snow clings to a spider’s

torn wisp


img_0219


Christmastime…

one floor below the barking

sobs of an invalid

 

winter wood

smiling from the highest boughs

a yellow kite

 

IMG_0220

 

mist on my cheeks

and firework sparks

New Year

Home, part 2

My sister and I had exhausted our imaginations indoors. We ventured into cold early spring to examine the ditch between our place and the highway. No place to play. Not far from the door, we met a rat that scuttled quickly to the shelter of a scrap pile. Too many shadows squirming, too many eyes.

From then on, we only went outside when it was time to go to school or Dad’s house, which before had simply been “home”. The room that was bedroom and living room to us three felt cozy — in spite of the reek of natural gas that almost put our cat Friskey to sleep. We laughed at The Pirates of Penzance, we laughed at Ray Stevens — we laughed when Mom laughed.

When she found a better place in a nearby town, she couldn’t take us with her, she said, because Dad would fight for us, and he would win.

drought dust
little strawberries grow
on a neglected vine

A version of the haibun “Home” first appeared in Contemporary Haibun Online vol 9, no 2.

Home

“It feels like home,” the stranger offered, handing me a card…

I came to Germany in May, 2014, to spend a short week with my long-time best friend and recent boyfriend, Christian. Not long after I arrived, he said for the first time of many, “You know I can’t let you go back.” Toward the end of the week I finally answered, in place of glib like sentiment, “If we’re serious about this, we need to figure out how to make it happen.”

Where is home?

I married for the first time at twenty-two. I moved from the small Kansas town where I had grown up to another small town a few hours north. In eight years it never became “home”, nor did the house in which I lived.

Home during those years was south, in the childhood home of a close friend, where she lived with her parents and son. It was an idyllic spread nestled among yucca-covered hills, where a long-legged wolfhound strode gracefully around chickens in the yard. In the evening the whole family gathered in the kitchen while dinners were prepared at leisure. Besides samples of micro-brews and chopped vegetables, what was shared was openness, understanding, and connection.

Homes present and past

I didn’t fly back to the U.S. at the end of that week with Christian. We owe much to help from my family. They never had to ask why. My dad said something about believing in love. But old friends, acquaintances, people I hadn’t heard from in years, eventually dropped notes of interest and concern. “Is it everything you hoped?” “Don’t forget where you come from.”

Christian and I were at the local post office mailing my rent check when we met an American man. With the words shared at the outset he invited me to visit his English-speaking church congregation. He was kind, but wrong in his assumptions. I felt right at home.

Two haibun this week will explore the idea of home.

Bunkhouse

A version of “Bunkhouse” was originally published in Contemporary Haibun Online vol 6 no 4.

No one answers the door of the small stuccoed house deep in the rurals. It’s hard to say if anyone lives here. There, on the windowsill, is a bird’s nest; behind that, a shelf of books, a woven green bedspread tucked tight beneath a mattress…

The crooked plank steps of my grandparents’ bunkhouse were icy even on summer mornings. The memory of Grannie’s chokecherry syrup is stilll so distinct.

She and Grandpa sang harmony on the main cabin’s front-porch swing. I remember one night when Grandpa played guitar he said the full moon was in trouble for showing up late over the mountains.

And once I woke up in Dad’s arms in darkness. He seemed to carry me forever. I was scared. We’d heard wolves howling in the hills. Safe above the earth — above Grandpa’s shop — cold sheets became warm from our bodies.

It’s been ten years since they sold the ranch. I went back to see it a couple years ago, but it’s not the same. My sister says Grandpa’s almost completely lost his hearing.

Turning from the stranger’s place, sleet glitters down through sunrays onto a withered pasture…

a fallen leaf
blows the peeling shed
into storm clouds

 

Welcome to Belize

Belize City is everything the guidebook warns it will be: Alive.

We fall asleep with soccer players shouting in the field across from our inn. A rooster crows in the morning. Through the open window of the the common bathroom I see dazzling sunlight on a red tin roof. Below, a thin, stiff dog sniffs the dirt. I can smell the sea a couple blocks away

dark canal —
tossing grapefruit seeds
to draw bats

In the heart of the city, an old man leans bare-chested against a wall. His white dreadlocks rest on his jutting hip bones. Uniformed school children run across the street.

Driving south, Hummingbird Highway offers us sweeping panoramas of palms nestled among deciduous trees. They rise toward a horizon of hazy, rounded mountains. Most villages still have huts with thatched roofs. Hut or house, most every home has a clothesline strung with fresh wash

barefoot neighbors . . .
the rose garden
bigger than the house

Mid-afternoon we are stopped while welders repair one of the highway’s single-lane bridges. A bus stops behind us, and its passengers mingle on the asphalt. A young Rastaman approaches our rented SUV. After a chat, he offers to fetch us grapefruit from a roadside orchard.

Thus we arrive in Seine Bight, four miles north of Placencia. Here our hosts and others of North American and European descent maintain walled paradises, complete with servants’ quarters, in the backyard of abject poverty. The grocer holds the unblackened bananas behind the counter for us tourists. Our waitress does not talk, does not laugh, does not look us in the eyes; just comes like a dog when they call her from the kitchen

carpet of seagrass,

carribean stars . . .

what the ocean doesn’t know

A version of “Welcome to Belize” first appeared in Contemporary Haibun Online vol 6, no 4.

Moving to higher ground

“Those things were a mild comfort to me. Now I think I would rather have had his anger…”

 

Welcome

My name is Erika Triebstein, a.k.a. Lilly Coyote. I’m happy that you’ve stumbled into my den. I am a poet practicing mainly traditional Japanese forms. I invite you to stay and discover what the things you read here may bring you.

An invitation to higher ground

My grandfather was a poet at heart. Yet, I don’t know when he last wrote a poem. I believe that’s why he sought so actively throughout my life to inspire me. He was, in a way, seeking his own salvation. As Richard Wilbur so beautifully expressed, writing is, for a writer, “always…a matter of life and death.”

(Read Richard Wilbur’s poem “The Writer” here.)

Regretfully, my grandfather and I had been alienated for some years before 2014. When we started talking again, it wasn’t really ever clear to me if he knew who I was. He died last April. He gave me, in his passing, a tremendous gift, though one I would never have asked for: a peculiar perspective on love, on work, on what it is to be human. Hopefully it is wiser.

From here I recognize the limits of anger, like the isolated storms one could track crossing the great plains where I grew up. From here I would further draw upon Richard Wilbur to say to my grandfather if I could:

I wish what you wished, but harder.

Higher Ground

This tanka prose piece is taken from my reflections on my grandfather’s death. It seems a fitting way to begin.

…Those things were a mild comfort to me. Now I think I would rather have had his anger. I am, perhaps, most grieved over what was robbed from him. He couldn’t choose to hold a grudge against me. He couldn’t choose to carry resentment and anger to his grave. He couldn’t choose not to forgive me. I took his hand, he held mine. I said, “I love you,” he said, “I love you, too” — reflexes of a man frightened, not of death, but because his own mind had betrayed him and he could no longer make sense of his surroundings. He buckled the seat belt of his wheelchair and said, over and over again, “I’m ready” — a man made gentle by his fear of abandonment.

I thought of the way he had grieved his own father’s submissive passing. His tears as he angrily recited, Do not go gentle…

(Read Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” here.)

I wanted to begin sending him love letters with his favorite poems. I knew he wouldn’t recognize my name on the envelopes.

He deserved his rage.

 

1455887599268

In memory of Edward Earl Mitchell, 1935 – 2015