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Haibun: Tabanca

“Here, try this word,” my friend says, and gives me tabanca. She says it means missing something beyond words. How does she know of my longing? Even though there are parades and music and family gatherings during the holidays, I ache for something more. How can I describe it? While grocery shopping, I reflect on being a teacher. I wonder if students everywhere will be safe from gun violence. After so many school shootings, it’s hard to know. I move through the store, picking out things I need: sugar from the bottom shelf, cinnamon from the top. My indescribable longing increases. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” blares out from the store’s sound system, directing my thoughts back to a baby born in a barn in Bethlehem long ago. Love incarnate, the story goes. Love made manifest in human flesh. A Love that never ends. Could it be Love for which I am longing so deeply that I have no words?

My next-door neighbor
makes his house cozy with lights
for the Holy Child.

© 2022 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More The Whirligig #400
More Haiku My Heart at Recuerda Mi Corazon
More Friday Writings #56 at Poets and Storytellers United

Haibun: The Trip

After my father dies, I make the trip to his house for The Great Cleanup. I wonder how he accumulated so much junk during his lifetime. I open a drawer. Old razor blades. A piece of turquoise. A broken thumb drive—probably filled with the advice that my father liked to give, unbidden. I can see his face: “Listen, child, no one’s going to pull you out of the water. It’s sink or swim. So, you swim, hear?” And then he’d hug me fiercely, as if he’d never let me go. But he did. And here I am.

Autumn’s first nightmare—
all the oceans in the world
shrink into puddles.

© 2022 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More The Whirligig #393
More Haiku My Heart at Recuerda Mi Corazon
More Friday Writings #49 at Poets and Storytellers United

Haibun: ‘If My Friend Comes’

My friend might come to eat dinner with me. We could sit by the window and wait and watch for the first star. We could toss down shots of apple juice, and retrace our long, sublime journey of friendship in story and song. If my friend comes to dinner…

In a dusty ditch
a few sunflowers still bloom—
first days of autumn.

© 2022 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More The Whirligig #390
More Haiku My Heart at Recuerda Mi Corazon
More Friday Writings #46 at Poets and Storytellers United

Haibun: Exposing the Lie

As we build our life, we will tell each other stories about books that held us together when we thought we were falling apart. Over and over, we will say the authors’ names, for they are sweet as chocolates in the mouth, or shiny red apples. Outside, on the street that runs by our house, hardened people will swear that no one has a choice about anything, that all of us are puppets of the gods. But our tales of love and courage will expose their lie.

Why should we pretend
to know what the white lotus
murmurs to the moon?

© 2022 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More The Whirligig #386
More Haiku My Heart at Recuerda Mi Corazon
More Friday Writings #42 at Poets and Storytellers United

Haibun: Books

My bookshelves are full. Here’s the music book that touched me as a child. I still remember many of the lyrics. A ponderous volume on the bottom shelf claims to have all the truths in the universe, but really, it’s sprinkled with lies. Oh look! Right next to the book with lies is one about silkworms and how they like settling down at night on beds of mulberry leaves. I had forgotten that. And then there’s the book about wolves. The dust-jacket photo shows them with bared fangs and unblinking eyes. Knowing they would eat me if they could, makes my skin crawl. Why do I keep it? Why do I keep any of them? Because they are my grandmothers, my mother, my sisters, and my aunts. I too am meant to be read, the Sufi mystic Rumi reminds me: “You are a volume in the divine book, a mirror to the power that created the universe.”

I do not pretend
to know what the white lotus
murmurs to the moon.

© 2022 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More The Whirligig #378
More Haiku My Heart at Recuerda Mi Corazon
More Friday Writings #34 at Poets and Storytellers United

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

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”


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


Dried and battered 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 nature’s detritus in the arroyo, but it heals my battered spirit as I kneel in awe and wonder before it.


I kneel in the dust,
searching for underground streams—
three crows bear witness.

Revised haibun © 2016 and photo © 2012 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More Poetry Pantry #324 at Poets United


 photo SonoranAug2013890_zps84bb4c88.jpg
Sonoran Desert, Southern Arizona

“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 Sonoran Desert, 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.


three crickets chirping
stones conferring with the wind
my house is too small

Text and photo © 2013 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More Ein Stück Himmel
More September Heights 2013: “Chirp”