back toJacket2
   Jacket 32 — April 2007        link Jacket 32 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

Ronald Koertge

Three Haibun


10:00 a.m. Time for a Dr. Pepper, the friendly pepper-upper, compared to the more quarrelsome brands. Outside the big window, Tony edits the lawn, going margin-to-margin with his green mower. I take him a cold drink as he stops to rake around the spring bulbs that have shot up, and when he asks what that big one is I tell him about Alteo who wouldn’t give Amaryllis the time of day. All he wanted was a flower no one had ever seen before. So she consults the oracle who advises her to pierce her heart with a golden arrow, which she does over and over until she dies and from the blood springs a flower with crimson petals. Tony says, “That’s a story, right?” Overhead, police and news copters hover, and at eye level a hummingbird looks us in the eye for a split second. Macro and micro. While Tony blows leaves around like the west wind, I inspect the edges of the lawn, newly drought-resistant like some people I know who live alone or with somebody dreadful and not only survive but flourish. When Tony’s son was sick and in County USC a Hispanic intern took him aside and said, “Anywhere but here, amigo.” Yet Anthony got well and is back in school thanks to a delicate operation performed by a surgeon with a long last name. “Not a cowboy Indian,” Tony says. “The other kind.” His cell jangles, he returns the still-cool bottle, and speeds away. The honeysuckle sticks out its tongue at me. A ladybug lights on my hand, checks things out, then rests on my ring finger where it looks stunning.

I miss the old phones,
twining my fingers around
the cord as I begged.


2:00 p.m. Driving fast, I pass Ronald MacDonald House where a woman in a yellow two-piece swim suit suns herself on the Saint Augustine lawn. Usually that’s peopled with parents and their bald children. Across the street at Huntington Hospital, many are stripped of presumptions and taken across the threshold. The lady in yellow is merely working on her tan. “Now,” said Tolstoy, “is the only time over which we have dominion.” Her cell phone lies on an obese paperback and catches the light. Uptown, the clothes in Banana Republic are lit by candlelight since a transformer has blown, and all of Colorado Boulevard is without power. It is like shopping in beautiful ruins and “all the air a solemn stillness holds,” as Thomas Gray said in another context. We pay in cash or write checks, the surly clerks soften and stop yearning to be in France or on TV. Even the traffic hums on key. Pulling into my driveway, I wait for the homeless woman who pees in the bushes by the library. Most citizens consider her an eyesore. I wonder if she’s like those ornamental hermits of the eighteenth century who were paid to be melancholy. But by whom, I wonder?

Taking out the trash,
there are those stained glass windows
too red to believe.


4:00 p.m. The last Dr. Pepper of the day, this time on the porch. Ten yards away, three high school kids have what my mother would call “ants in their pants.” They are squirming and passing the new year book around. “Dear Dwarf Star. It was fun sitting by you in Generalizations II. Stay finite, okay?” “Greetings Heavenly Bumpkin. Someday they’ll name a rose after you, man. I mean it. But keep those racy thoughts to yourself till then.” “Hey, Moonlight Staccato! I won’t forget the Sophomore Hop and the pearly gates you opened for me.” “Dear Dexterous, What can I say. Really. Wow. Such aplomb for only a freshman.” Now I am carried back into the past and my classmates: Kay with her portable radio covered in white leather like a girl’s Bible. She toted it to the plunge but kept a towel over it thus the race music pouring out of it was slightly de-fanged. Alfred who was the laughing-stock of C.H.S. compared to Joseph Lawrence, the class clown. Randy Diaz who got handsomer by the minute. Anita George who loved the Antlers in the Treetops jokes and French-kissed everybody. And more, of course – the despised and sultry, the ordinary and the immortal. Time to declare martial law on Memory and get it home before nightfall. Those kids on the sidewalk are all on their phones. Conversations drift up like smoke from separate cook-outs: kosher, vegan, and eat-what’s-on-your-plate-or shut-up.

A thousand years slip
by. Stamps are obsolete. Still,
notes get passed around.

The haibun is a form developed in seventeenth-century Japan, consisting of prose and verse mixed; traditionally a short prose passage is followed by a haiku.