Category Archives: haibun

Haibun: Suddenly a Stream

“It is hard to say good-bye to beloved flesh,” Madeleine L’Engle writes in Two-Part-Invention. It is also hard to say good-bye to beloved places. One of the tiny public schools where I taught was no longer able to retain all the teachers on staff. Funding was scarce. Because I was one of the last to be hired, I was among the first to be let go. There was no last-minute reprieve. As I prepared to leave a place I had come to love, I found myself humming a plaintive tune, first sung many thousands of years ago by a disconsolate group of displaced persons: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4).
 
suddenly a stream
refreshing weary pilgrims
in the wilderness

 
 

Haibun © by Magical Mystical Teacher

Haibun: I Am a Gardener


Several years ago excruciating back pain kept me out of my classroom for the three days. Much can happen, not all of it good, in three days.
 
According to the biblical story of creation, green growing things appeared on Earth on the third day: “…the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind…” (Genesis 1:12).
 
I thought of my students as plants that needed to be watered with praise and nourished with kindness so that they would grow and develop. But for three days they were without water and nutrients. For three days, they had to fend for themselves.
 
Plants that have to fend for themselves often don’t thrive. Weeds may creep in and suck away essential moisture and nutrients. Careless passersby may trample delicate plants. Thieves may jump over the garden wall and steal fruit. Untoward things are bound to happen when the gardener’s away from the garden—even for three days.
 
I remember thinking: I don’t want my students to wither. I don’t want the weeds of apathy to steal their joy of learning. I don’t want their knowledge to be stolen like ripe fruit. I am a gardener. I belong in my garden.
 
Overcast morning—
a blackbird in the orchard
stealthily pecks plums.


 
 

Haibun © by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
More Midweek Motif at Poets United: “Gardens”

The Gift of Words: A Haibun


Words are the building blocks of thought—and stories. Words spoken by a blind poet around the campfires of old celebrated the cunning ways of a rogue named Odysseus. Words written by Hebrew poets on parchment still tell the tale of the origins of our world: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
 
My special education students use words every day, not to tell stories, but for far more mundane purposes: “May I go to the restroom?” “I need to sharpen my pencil.” “Can I get a drink of water?”
 
My students’ vocabularies are limited, and one of my jobs is to help them increase their vocabularies, because words are the building blocks of thought—and stories.
 
I select five words at random from a list—wrinkles, envy, odyssey, untidy, falcon—and ask my students to find the definitions, and use each word in a sentence. When that task proves too daunting for more than half of them, I make up sentences, write them on the board, and ask my students to copy them.
 
“Get acquainted with these words,” I say, “because tomorrow we’re going to use them to write a story.”
 
And we do:
 
Once upon a time there was a falcon named Julian (although sometimes he called himself Joshua). He was a very confused falcon—probably because he lived in an untidy nest. One day he decided to start an odyssey. The odyssey would take him to a magical land where the phoenixes rise every morning. The odyssey lasted so long that wrinkles appeared on the falcon’s face. He grew wise, and became the envy of other birds who lacked wisdom.
 
“I like that!” I exclaim as we finish our story. “I think I could turn what we’ve written into a book.”
 
Even if I never expand the story of Julian the Confused Falcon into a book, this little writing exercise engages every student—even my non-readers. Like the blind poet of old, they eagerly share their ideas orally as I write them on the board. Unlike Homer, however, my students tell their tale briefly.
 
Who’s to say that a long tale is better than a short one—or vice versa? What’s important is giving my students the gift of words so that one day, without my help, they will be able to tell their own tales as their eager children gather round to listen.

 
Overcast morning:
I search for a new story
in the blackbird’s beak.


 

Haibun © 2019 by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
 
More Midweek Motif at Poets United: “Gift”

Airplane

Conner.plane
My grandson’s battered airplane no longer flies.

 

My 9-year-old grandson came home from school and said to his mother:
 
“I got this airplane from the treasure box today. It’s the first time all year that I had enough tickets to get anything. I spent some on lunch with a friend. It’s the first time I got to do that too. So I spent all I had left on this neat airplane that did loops.
 
“Then at dismissal, a 5th grader grabbed it from me and pretended like he was going to fly it, but he scraped it against the wall and bent the wings, so it doesn’t work anymore. He was a Purple Folder kid, so I know he has anger issues.
 
“Maybe I can earn some more tickets….”

 


A grounded blackbird
looks longingly at the sky—
three clouds bear witness.

 
Haibun © 2018 by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
 
More Haiku My Heart at Recuerda Mi Corazon

Hyperbole

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A section of a church bookshelf

 
Many years ago I was invited to teach an adult Sunday school class. I read the text that we were supposed to discuss, the words of Jesus from Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
 
“This is an example of hyperbole,” I said. “Jesus is exaggerating for the sake of emphasis. He doesn’t really expect you to hate those who are near and dear to you.”
 
Willard bristled at my statement. “My Bible says that you have to hate them,” he said.
 
“It’s a figure of speech,” I countered. “Can you follow Jesus and hate your wife?”
 
“It’s not a figure of speech,” Willard insisted. “It says hate and it means hate.”
 
The rest of the class grew increasingly uneasy as Willard and I traded verbal blows.
 
At last I said, “I guess we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.” And I moved on.

 


one way to the light
goes through the house of darkness—
I open the door

 
Haibun and photo © 2016 by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
 
More Ruby Tuesday Too
  
More Midweek Motif at Poets United: “Hyperbole”

Songs

Photobucket
A dry wash in Apache County, Arizona

 
“I hear America singing,” Walt Whitman wrote, “the varied carols I hear.”
 
I too hear singing, but instead of songs coming from throats of carpenters, masons or boatmen, I hear the songs of sky and star and stone. The songs of weeds and wind and wild things. The songs of crow and cricket and cottonwood. All these songs come from the high desert, and like the Siren songs that seduced Odysseus and his companions, I cannot ignore them.
 
I hear them as I help a student proofread her essay. I hear them while I confer with a parent about his son’s behavior. I hear them while I am grading papers.
 
At day’s end, I slip into comfortable clothing and walk into the nearby wilderness. The stones and weeds and dust greet me with rejoicing. They knew I would come.

 

a cricket chirrups
three stones confer with the wind—
my house is too small

 
Revised haibun © 2016 and photo © 2012 by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
More Poetry Pantry #323 at Poets United

Dessert

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Red walls, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, México

 

So many walls in San Miguel!
 
There is the wall painted the color of sunrise just down the street from the casita where I am staying. Even on overcast days its brightness lifts my spirits.
 
There are the walls of stone surrounding the little plaza where lovers hold hands, old people rest their weary bones, and pigeons boldly draw near, demanding a treat.
 
And there are the towering walls outside the homes of the rich near Parque Juarez. No one can see over them, but behind those walls I imagine feasts for Dia de los Muertos, cooks toiling in kitchens, and servants ushering guests to their places at the table.
 
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” Robert Frost mused in one of his poems. But when it comes to the walls of San Miguel, I love them all.

 


Sunday afternoon
another page of Kafka
served up with dessert

 
Text and photo © 2015 by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
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More Carpe Diem: “Synesthesia”

Butterfly

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Butterfly gathering nectar at Rancho Los Alamitos, Long Beach, California

 
“I hear America singing,” Walt Whitman wrote, “the varied carols I hear.”
 
I too hear singing, but instead of coming from throats of carpenters, masons or boatmen, it comes from sky and star and stone. It comes from weeds and wind and wild things. It comes from crow and cricket and cottonwood. It is the singing of the Desert Southwest, and like the Siren songs that seduced Odysseus and his companions, I cannot ignore it.
 
I hear it as I help a student proofread her essay. I hear it while I confer with a parent about his son’s behavior. I hear it while I am grading papers.
 
At day’s end, I slip into comfortable clothing and walk into the nearby wilderness. The stones and weeds and dust greet me with rejoicing. They knew I would come.

 


the shadows lengthen
a butterfly lifts its wings—
my house is too small

 
Text and photo © 2015 by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
More Macro Monday 2
 
More I Heart Macro at Shine the Divine
 
More Carpe Diem: “Kala Ramesh’s ‘Taking Flight'”

Witness

Photobucket
Wasted wildflowers, northern Arizona

 
As I shuffle through the arroyo, I keep dropping to my knees. An onlooker might mistake me for a pilgrim making my way to Lourdes. But the healing I seek cannot be found at some distant holy shrine. It is here in the dust at my feet: cedar twigs snapped off by storms; summer’s leftover flowers; small stones trying in vain to fatten themselves on wisps of winter sun.
 
I aim my camera at a clump of wasted wildflowers, remembering words from a letter written long ago: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…” (1 Corinthians 1:28, RSV).
 
Low and despised is winter’s detritus in the arroyo, but it heals my battered spirit as I kneel in awe and wonder before it.

 

Kneeling in the dust,
I search for underground streams—
three crows bear witness.

 
Text and photo © 2014 by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
More Carpe Diem: “Ghost Writer, Hamish Managua Gunn”

Snooze

September prickly poppy photo SonoranpoppySept_zps340521b0.jpg
Prickly Poppy (Argemone pleiacantha) in September, Sonoran Desert, Southern Arizona

 

To know a place you have to walk it again and again. Slowly. Eyes open. Expectantly. I walk the wilderness daily. Even on the same paths and in the same places there is always something new. I know where to find the ironwood tree and the indigo bush. I know where a young saguaro shelters in the shadows of its nurse tree, a palo verde. And I know where the prickly poppies grow, blooming in snowy profusion in April and May. As the desert days become hotter and hotter, the flowers go to seed. September is not a prickly poppy month. Yet something draws me to the place where I saw them in the spring. A single white blossom clings to one spiny, bedraggled stalk. I fall to my knees before this wonder, weeping for joy at my good fortune.


on poppy petals
darkness arranges itself
for a midday snooze

 
Text and photo © 2014 by Magical Mystical Teacher
 
More Macro Monday 2
 
More Carpe Diem: “Dusk”
 
More I Heart Macro at Shine the Divine