Haibun Attempts 01

Global Haiku, Fall 2020


As a kid, I played pretend by myself a lot. My favorite activity was what my family called “walking around in circles” in the yard. I would imagine a story so daring and adventurous, romantic and tragic, that I would lose myself in my world. For hours upon hours, I would walk the yard, and after weeks of walking around in the same spot, the grass would wear thin and the yard would bald, much to the remorse of my dad, who took pride in the greenery on our side of the street. Traversing the garden, I would pick daffodils as I muttered to myself the dialogue of the story—a lover betrayed, turning towards the magic mirror pond in her backyard, crying out her woes. My toes would scrunch and I would shake my head, imagining throwing my body on the banks of the water in the moonlight. I could almost smell the reedy shore and feel tears on my face. In the throws of my personal drama, I would often be rudely interrupted by a neighbor pushing a lawnmower, asking if I was alright. Then I would notice that I was actually crying. My stories moved me in that way, where I would bathe myself in drama to the point where I would lose control of my body. My parents said that I would often jump around and release energy through my arms and head. The flowers or grass in my fingers would tremble as I spun around and around, digging my bare feet into the summer dirt. After hours of playing, my feet would be green from the grass and there would be streaks of dirt on my knees and elbows.

Our yard near the edge of the road wasn't my favorite place to be (because of prying neighbors) but it had the most interesting flowers, weeds, and pebbles. Sitting by the road, I would twiddle dandelions around in my fingers, watching the lion's mane whirl back and forth, back and forth. Gathering them in my skirts, I would pretend they were vegetables or herbs I needed for a potion. I never brought the dolls I got for my birthday or Christmas into my game. I could see through their plastic, their manicured nails and smiles. They were ruined after too long outside, caked in mud. I reached out to nature for my playthings, chasing after frogs as if they were long lost friends to the fairy kingdom. My parents teased me a little bit, telling me that I disappeared from the lawn every day and some new character was trampling the grass. As I grew older it embarrassed me, and I stopped walking around in circles, no matter how much my body willed me to run about the yard. I felt like a child, ashamed of my unabashed joy in the odd. Now, as an artist, I am ceaselessly looking back into that creative mind and often finding it shut off. I've forgotten how to be careless and happy in my imaginary worlds. I wish I could go back and use some of that energy, that joy, that neverending flow of pure storytelling that possessed my body.

paths in the grass
traveled over and over

Garage Roof Sunset

My grandparents built a house in Wisconsin so they could retire there later in life, but they never got the chance before they passed away. For the grandkids, they bought a playset for the garden with swings and a slide and platforms to climb on, and it resembled a tree at certain sections. The property was on a hill, so you could see the playset from most of the windows in the house or if you were on the gravel driveway at the top of the hill.

My grandmother passed away when I was eleven. My mom and uncle were the executors of her estate, so my sister and I spent a lot of time with our cousins while the adults sorted through her possessions at her house in Chicago and prepared to sell both that house and the one in Wisconsin. Once the possessions had been sorted, we spent time in Wisconsin while we showed the house to potential buyers.

My clearest memory from that time was when my cousins taught me and my sister how to get onto the roof of the garage. There was a hill behind it, and if you jumped at the right time, you could climb onto the roof and sit at the top and look at everything below—the gravel driveway leading up to the main road, the hill down in front of us that tipped into dry grass and wild apple trees and the tall pine trees at the edge of the forest, the playset at the bottom of the stepping stones, the corner of the pond with the tall cattails all the way down the hill to the right, and the porch on the front of the house that wrapped around to the side.

We would sit lined across the ridge at the top and talk, play Pokémon games on DSi, and draw. The day of the house showings, we stayed up there while our parents talked to all the other adults. We watched everything and reflected on the good times we had had at the house and with each other, and we ended up writing a letter with our favorite memories to whoever was going to be the new owner of the house. I don't remember anything I wrote about, but I remember the drawing my cousin did of us, all sitting lined up across the garage roof in the sunset.

We had my mom put the letter on a shelf that originally was home to a statue of the Virgin Mary. I don't know if the new owners had kids, but I can only imagine that the "treehouse" playset was taken down and either given to one of my aunts or uncles, or given away by the new owners. The garage roof was one of the last times I've been able to see my cousins without our schedules conflicting so heavily. It was under less-than-ideal circumstances, but it was nice while it lasted.

lightning storm
we push the beds

Afraid of the Dark

The first funeral I really remember was my mother's mother's. She died when I was in elementary school, but I can't remember exactly when. I think I was around 8. After the funeral, we got a lot of her stuff because we had the biggest house out of all of my mom's sisters. I learned about how much stuff someone can have and accumulate. I realized how much a parent keeps. The sisters all got to divide her belongings amongst themselves. It wasn't easy. I remember fights. I remember tears. I remember my mother being strong. I remember wanting to know more about her than I could have ever asked—trying to pull things from books she kept, clothes, jewelry—anything to bring me closer to her.

I vaguely remember overhearing conversations on what she should wear in her open casket, but she ended up being cremated. It was a small relief for my mom because the squabbling amongst the sisters on what their mother would wear was going to be too much for anyone to handle. The night after the funeral, my mom's closest sister stayed over. When they woke up the next morning, all the lights were on. They had been off when we all went to sleep, but my Nana didn't like to sleep with the lights off. Her clothes were sitting in the dining room under the light of the fan. She never left and still, I feel her love around me.

around eight
she goes to church
her first funeral


Mumbling Through Walmart

Every summer on Labor Day weekend my family would all go camping together. We're from the city and it was always a semi-big deal when we went out into the country and the only store around was the Walmart so most of my Walmart memories instantly bring me to those summers. My Uncle Glen who was always the man in charge on our trips absolutely LOVES Walmart so he always liked to make it a big deal whenever we needed anything so he could find an excuse to go to Walmart. It was always one of the running jokes of our camping trips and even this last summer we made at least eight trips to Walmart over the weekend and it was really nostalgic. Uncle Glen would mumble to himself about what we needed to get as we led the cart around the store because he is most definitely that type of person to talk to himself in the store, even if we weren't there with him. Being a loud Chicago family, there is never a quiet trip to the store either so even though my Uncle mumbles to himself, there would always be yelling about which aisle it was in or where everybody was, and it had me think about how nice it is to the grocery store with your family, even if it is a wacky time.

mom yells
where is the bread?
aisle three


Since coming to college I have become friends with some of the best people. There was a night last year when it was raining and we all dropped our homework to go run in it. It was exactly what we needed. We ran out in front of our dorm and began to twirl in the rain. It was not a summer night but I felt the freedom that summer often brings. We were loud and uncaring. After a minute, my friends started to play tag. I took a second to drink in the moment. I am getting weepy just thinking about how much I love all of them.

At one point some guys called down from our floor and asked us what we were doing. "Just running in the rain," we told them. They looked at us like we were crazy. I remember thinking that those guys could think we were crazy but I didn't care. The fact that it was a school night didn't matter. Homework didn't matter. My friends mattered. The moment that we were in mattered. This was what I had hoped college would be and now I was finally living it. After a few minutes we went back inside. We were soaked and cold but we were filled with joy. When we finally came back inside we were laughing and yelling through the halls of the dorm. We decided we should take polaroids to remember the moment. It is something we often did, and still do.

For those brief minutes we were electric. Now we are all waiting for the first big rain on campus this year so that we can run through it and regain that sense of freedom and joy.

drunk on rain
we immortalize our smiles
developing polaroid


Estate Sale

When my great aunt died, I was pretty close to her as she had lived with us for a time before she passed away. She has been the first real loss I've ever experienced in my family. I went to her house after she died because I had to help out with the estate sale. But, everywhere I went felt haunted. I had never believed in ghosts, and I still don't know if I do, but it felt as though I was being watched by her. I felt guilty opening empty cabinets. I felt empty sitting on her couch. It was a strange feeling. She didn't feel like an angel, she just felt present. Like she always felt whenever I came to visit her. She felt like she was still a host, but I felt as though I was overstaying my welcome. It makes me a bit sick to think about, how I felt getting her things together to sell. It didn't feel like she was gone yet. It felt as though maybe she was upset with us for moving on so fast, although none of us really moved on. Those things weren't ours though, they were my aunt's. But the estate sale was a success. I couldn't make myself stay to see it happen though.

are you here
in the empty drawer
your abandoned kitchen

Lingering Fog

Scouting campouts with my father were a regular staple of my childhood. First they were with the Cub Scouts, then organizations for older kids. In Cub Scouts, campouts only happened a couple times a year, one of which was in the dead of summer. On one of these campouts, my father and I had chosen to set up our little tent in the center of a clearing, which was quickly filled up by others with the same idea. As the day came and went, I grew anxious about the night. Hearing scary stories by the campfire, about the bunyip and vampires and things that go bump, I was about ready to go home. My dad persuaded me to stay, to give it a chance before we packed up and left.

I did not sleep well. I tossed and I turned, and every shadow cast by branches onto our tent was a monster coming specifically for me. More than that, it was hotter than the surface of the sun in our little tent. Hours and hours seemed to pass, without me getting a wink of sleep. Eventually, the sandman came for me, and down I went.

When I woke up, I expected to be in the clutches of some monstrosity, or perhaps in the hottest pits Hell had to offer, or maybe both at once. But what I found was that it was cool, and slightly dewy inside our dome. My father woke up soon after, and asked me to come with him to the pond. We walked, (it felt like a mile, but it was probably just around a corner), and eventually found the pond used for catch-and-release fishing. The early morning fog hadn't gone away yet, leaving the mirrored surface of the water shrouded in pale mist. My dad had brought his fishing rod, in the hopes that maybe I'd come around and give it a try, but I just sat and watched the fog twist and curl, occasionally broken by a fish poking its head above the water, or a frog leaping in. When the time came to go home, that was the place I didn't want to leave.

an old mirror
clouded over
protecting those who live there


Sticky Fingers

My sister and I used to play in the backyard. We called our little game, "imagination." Somedays we would be firefighters extinguishing a forest fire and other days we would be chefs, gathering bundles of grass and dirt to create a fake stew. I like feeling of joy that this piece brings. It brings me back to simpler times, where the world seemed like a large place full of happiness waiting to be found and explored.

I remember my Grandma. She doesn't remember me. My family and I are originally from Chicago. For a very long time we lived with my grandparents, eventually packing up our few belongings and moving to Decatur, Illinois, a town that smelled strongly of soy and sewer waste. I adjusted at some point, but I had always missed our grandparents and family in Chicago.

We visited often, taking long three-hour rides to go to our grandparents' home for the holidays. My grandma would always take my sister and I into her room and let us reach our sticky fingers under her bed, the place where she would keep a huge tub of peppermints.

The candy had been sweet, but she was sweeter. She was kind and went out of her way to do things for my sister and I. I hold the memories she left close behind to me. I am sure she may have done the same with her memories of her grandchildren, but Alzheimer's Disease stole them away from her in silence.

After the diagnosis, our trips to Chicago became less exciting and far more tragic. Every time we visited, we had to watch our grandmother gradually declining, wasting away as the disease ate away at her memory and motor function. Eventually, she stopped walking. I watched my brother, a man as tough as a nail, cry for the first time in my life when she forgot how to use a spoon. She stopped calling me Sydney and started calling me "girl." I saw heartbreak swimming in my mom's eyes as her mother told her, "I'm sorry, I don't remember you." Years later, she was bedridden. Months after that, she passed away from complications with the disease. Still, the memory of her lives on.

grandma's house
the monster under the bed
defeated by peppermints

Piano Keys

The rain was pouring , and thousands of water drops caused the patio's roof to sound like hundreds of typewriters. A little kid and his parents were in their home, each of them minding their own business (or maybe not, perhaps they were watching a movie in the living room). Suddenly, *Poof*. No more TV, no more lights, and no more electricity. Nothing else to do than sitting in the darkness and hearing the rain (or falling asleep, which usually was pretty pleasant because of this noise).

There were countless nights when we would get power outages back at home. They started as not so long and scheduled blackouts, but as the economic, political and social situation in Venezuela kept getting worse, they became more frequent, more unexpected, and longer. The worse one came some years ago (and when I say some years ago I really mean 2019 or 2018, but I cannot really remember), when we spent more than 5 days without electricity; my house was lucky enough to get power after 5 days, but most people did not get it until more than a week had passed.

Despite being awful situations in terms of productivity, education, and many other things, the combination of these outages and the rain's constant noise, similar to a white noise, brought moments of peace and cozy nights. Even though we were not the ones who turned off the lights, we did our best to enjoy the night. Possible options were reading a book if our lamps were charged, talk about any topic on the sofa, play a board game, or simply going to bed. A lot of times I went to the piano and did my best to play any piece from memory, or simply improvised (I'm no pianist at all, but I for sure loved spending those hours just playing what I could).

everything is black
go unplug the
TVs, computers, microwave


Leaving Our Names Behind

Being a bit better in studies than my classmates, I always felt like the teachers were a little biased in my favor. Most of the time I could get away with things like forgetting to bring my homework or a book to school when we were specifically told to. However, my most vivid memories are of the times I got in trouble for not doing so and standing outside the classroom along with a couple of my friends, copying whatever little we had done from each other's notebooks. In those moments, I would be enjoying my friends' company to the fullest and feel like a part of the group. I would be living the same experience as them and realize that one day in the distant future we all will look back at this moment and seamlessly the memories of each other will inevitably follow.

On exam days, we'd wish each other the best of luck a hundred times, and afterward incessantly talk about the different answers we wrote. The comfort lied especially in knowing they had trouble with the same question as I did. Later, we'd ride our bicycles on the way home and when the place to part ways arrived, we'd promise to meet there tomorrow at the same time in the morning on the way to school. Upon reaching the school way before the first period starts, one of the childish activities we indulged in included writing random things with chalk on the blackboard or engraving our names on the wooden desks with a compass. We'd ink the names using colored pens. I now wonder why we did that, considering our nascent intellectual capacity to comprehend the meaning behind such acts.

I think this act was related to the human intrinsic desire to be remembered. Looking back, I link that childish act with the philosophical and evolutionary reasoning behind people having kids. I once read that evolution has conditioned us to create offspring so that we can preserve our species. Along the same lines, I have read philosophers making arguments about humans wanting to be immortal. One of the ways being procreating and passing our genes to the next generation, while another being creating or contributing something of an extraordinary significance in one's vocation that no normal human is capable of. We'd be writing our names on the desks at an age without the mental capacity to think about such complex matters, but it is quite interesting that the underlying reason might have some association with the common reasoning as to why anyone would want to immortalize something. To not forgot or be forgotten.

There were a lot of desks covered in names, some that I recognized, and some that made me wonder whom the name belonged to and how they looked like. I would be equally enthused to add my own name to the list and would try to make it more noticeable than the rest. However, when the next time I stumbled upon the same desk, I would notice how the name was no longer as stark and see there were newer, more vivid engravings. This haiku made me reflect on that somewhat irksome observation, but I now see the picture more clearly and extricate a lesson about life, however cliché it may sound. I extract that time always adds novel things in our lives, and thus it is hard to remember everything. We forget some things and some people, but more importantly, we are subjected to the same fate.

Well, unless one is Newton or Einstein or Faraday or Da Vinci.

we do homework
standing outside the class

Joining the Club

When I was younger, I did a lot of crafts with my grandmother (I call her Baba) that involved some form of needle and some form of yarn or thread. It started with those wooden shapes that would have a design or a picture in the middle and holes all along the sides, and you would take the thick, shoelace string and thread it through the holes the way one would thread a needle and thread through fabric. As I got older, I moved on to more advanced projects, such as weaving potholders on a square loom using a crochet hook and what I can only describe as colorful, stretchy, elastic loops of fabric, almost like fabric rubber bands; needlepoint work using this little turquoise square thing with square holes in it, through which you would thread the different colors of yarn to make a cute little picture of, say, a dolphin jumping out of the water; and finally, learning how to knit. Baba got me a couple different knitting needles—one pair was thicker and had a red needle and a blue needle, and another pair had two red needles that were connected at the bottom with a little white attachment thingy. I remember learning to do a garter stitch with this purple ombre yarn that transitioned from a deep royal purple to a light lilac or lavender to a soft white. I think I ended up making my mom a scarf out of that yarn because her favorite color is purple. Anyway, the branch of the St. Louis County Library that's near Baba's house would host a sort of knitting club on Tuesday nights, so I would go over to Baba's house and she would drive me up to the library and we would go in and join all the other ladies for knitting night. I was the youngest one there, of course. :)

soft purple yarn
between my fingers
baba teaches me to knit

Blow Out the Candles and Make a Wish

For my 10th birthday, I do not remember what I got or what we did that day. I remember watching the news that night with my family as we started getting multiple weather reports about a dangerous storm coming in. I have never been afraid of storms; I have always found them fascinating. The way the lighting strikes are unpredictable and how they light up the darkest of nights so you can see the variations in the shades of grey the clouds are. I was not scared of this storm.

We started getting ready for bed like usual, while still keeping a close eye on the radar and the warnings. Soon the lights started flickering on and off in quick bursts, until they turned off and did not come back on. My parents grabbed our candle-powered lanterns (I had always assumed these lanterns were for decoration because they looked much too old and rustic to actually work) and lit them along with regular flashlights as a precaution. There was so much happening, I was overwhelmed by the suddenness of it all. Next, I heard the sirens.

The sirens cut the silence of our home like a knife. Without the TV on, all we could hear was each other, the sirens, and the static from the battery-powered weather radio. Being a cautious kid, I was prepared to run as fast as I could to the basement like I had been training for my whole life in the Midwest. As I bolted towards the door, my dad stopped me worried that I was scared of the tornado. He walked me to the glass door to our patio and we stood there watching the lightning intensify. My face pressed against the cool glass and I realized that I had been crying. Not from fear of the storm, but from the sensory overload I had experienced. I watched the storm with him as the sirens cut out. Our town and neighboring villages got hit by an EF2 tornado that night. It is one of the reasons I want to become a meteorologist.

birthday party
a pony?
no, a career

New Friend

As the youngest of three children, I grew up idolizing my brothers. However, because there is a six- and eight-year difference between them and I, it was difficult to capture their attention. I always followed them around with the hope that they would reciprocate my desire to play. To them I was just an annoying sister who could not possibly be amusing enough to entertain. Outside of my family, I never really had a friend close enough to play with either.

I can still picture myself waking up on a cool, bright fall day eager with the anticipation that I will get to play outside. In front of our house are two massive trees that create a canopy over our entire front yard. Each Autumn, when the leaves begin to fall, it blankets every square foot of our yard; the sidewalks, the grass, the driveway, even the porch. I would stumble outside wrapped up in my favorite two-layer purple coat with matching gloves, ready to waste the day away with imaginative stories lines, absurd characters, and whatever toys I had available.

The detached garage was where I kept most of my toys, so I would spend some time rummaging through until I found a particularly intriguing toy. Most of the time I would choose either a bucket of chalk or skip ball. Sometimes being alone was tolerable because I would simply pretend as if I was surrounded by friends, but other times I remember feeling like there was a part of childhood that I was missing out on.

I was that little girl in the haiku playing in the leaves by my lonesome self, that is until I met my best friend in 4th grade who just so happened to live less than a minutes' walk away. Then my days were filled with happy memories of eagerly waiting after school to see when she got home so we could play together. I was able to share all the things I had enjoyed doing by myself with her, and although I did not recognize it when I was younger, she was able to fill in that part of me that had been missing for so long.

skip ball ritual
imaginary friends
cheering me on


In middle school, I was on a Boy Scout trip to a really small town in Southeast Kansas to visit a massive electric shovel and its accompanying museum. After touring around both the shovel and the museum and the following afternoon of goofing off and cooking dinner, we pitched tents and began to settle in for the night. We were out in one of the many “rolling plains” sections of Kansas—being able to see for miles in any direction, flat grasslands expanding out all around. The winds began to pick up as we were finishing dinner and cleaning up, noticing heavy clouds rolling in as the sun set. While we kept valuables and kitchen supplies in the troop's trailer, the rest of us returned to our tents for the night. I was one of three inside a tent, two friends of mine who were each a year older lay on either side of me. I won't ever say sleeping bags and inflatable sleeping pads are comfortable, but the situation that night didn't seem as uncomfortable as always. I remember drifting off to sleep, but being awoken a few hours later by my friends, as well as by the storm. It finally arrived, with rain pelting the tent's rainfly and the various shelter structures around. I have a specific image in my mind of staring up at the pale green of the tent's roof as the lightning illuminated everything around us. Nowhere else I'd be able to go, but feeling oddly content and safe watching the sky light up, it was an image I'll never forget.

sleep on air
inches from dirt
inside a bag

Reaching the Bell Rope

Even though I was terrified of storms when I was younger, my family had some pretty standard, yet special traditions surrounding them. My grandparents, rain or shine, would spend their days sitting in their garage watching the small world of our cul-de-sac pass them by. My cousins, my sister and I would often spend our days together with them playing in their front lawn or drawing with chalk on the driveway. On rainy nights all of our respective nuclear families would gather in their garage to watch the storm. They had a bell attached to the outside of their garage where a light would normally be (bells in our family are a whole thing, and a story for another time) that we would ring every time lightning struck. In the first memories that I have of these times I am too short to ring the bell, and I remember the first time I could reach the short rope being so excited that I could now be put into the rotation with my cousins and sister for ringing it. When I was in third grade my grandparents moved permanently to their summer home in North Carolina, and although they were halfway across the country our family would plan to visit all at the same time throughout the summer. The tradition lived on out there, with the addition of trying to catch frogs that had come out while it was raining.

lawn chairs
cigarette smoke cuts
through petrichor

Driving Home

My great-grandmother passed away when I was eight years old. She lived about twenty years of her life in a retirement apartment complex before being moved into a nursing home/rehabilitation center (she fell and broke her hip) for a year and a half before she passed away. She was a woman very set in her ways. Every morning she would get up and take the bus at 10:00 AM to go to the McDonalds down the road, where she would get a sausage egg and cheese biscuit and a medium coffee. She was one of those people who knew anybody and everybody. You couldn't go the grocery store with her without stopping and talking to at least three different people. She was kind-hearted right up until her last breath.

Grandma Liz passed away five days after my eighth birthday in May of 2007. One of the last things she did for me was give me money as a birthday present so that my mom could take me to ToysRUs and get a brand new Ninteendo DSi. I had been wanting one since they had come out for Christmas the previous year. The morning that my grandma passed, my entire family came to the nursing home to see her, but my mom thought it was best for me to sit outside in the hallway. I remember sitting there trying to play my new videogame through the tears in my eyes. I don't think that I fully understood what was happening at the time, but I saw my entire family all upset at once and I couldn't figure out why. I sat in that hallway for what felt like an eternity. Eventually my mom came and got me and brought me into her room for me to say goodbye. Once I entered that room, I have no recollection of what happened. The next thing I remember is driving home in our minivan staring out the window, with my hand pressed against the glass, fingers widely spread.

sending flowers
to get well soon
didn't help

© 2020, Randy Brooks • Millikin University
All rights returned to authors upon publication.