Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Spring 2007, vol 5 no 1


The Longest Time
Richard Straw


They're all gone, first my grandmas, then their husbands. The tall, thin grandma died from grief by her own hand long before I was born, and the heavy-set, diabetic one from "sugar" when I was 5. My grandpas lived on, well into their 90s. The stocky tobacco chewer with a Cherokee mother had no birth record, so his life span is a guess, while the skinny vo-ag teacher survived his wife's suicide, as well as stomach cancer, and remarried.

His short, thin, white-haired lady with buckled high heels, horn-rimmed glasses, and a glad laugh was the only grandma I'd known, the last of my grandparents to leave. Sunday visits to her home in a small village north of town were often rewarded with meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, fruit Jell-O with marshmallows and white icing, lemonade, and a red apple pared by grandpa in a single spiral string.

More frequent drives across town to my other grandpa's home, next to the railroad tracks and factory, sometimes included offers to share his favorite meal of ham and Navy beans in ketchup, homemade cornbread with real butter, hot or cold chocolate milk, and a yellowish-green pear picked, with its bruises cut out, by grandpa from his tree out back.

Visiting their homes also meant sitting on worn, sun-faded carpets as the adults talked, or standing in winter astride a wide coal furnace floor grate and studying floral patterns in the drapes and wallpaper. When tired or bored, I'd rock asleep in a swivel armchair with swan-neck armrests or pull from a hall closet tubes of nicked Tinkertoys and a wobbly wooden card table for Canasta. While playing hide-and-seek with my bachelor grandpa's grumpy Pekingese, I'd climb onto a lumpy mattress atop a wooden four-poster. Walking down narrow stairs into their damp, dark cellars to look for canned tomatoes and jams or jars of hoarded pennies took the longest time.

day trip with my kids
to a restored farmhouse...
the mustiness

Richard S. Straw Richard S. Straw copyedits technical documents on health and substance use, prepares bibliographic databases on the same topics, and has lived in or near Raleigh, North Carolina, since 1984. Before then, he lived and worked in central Ohio, where he taught freshman English composition at Ohio State University, edited technical papers for a trade journal, proofread for a digest of news from the former Soviet Union, and graduated from Ohio State University (BA in English, 1977; MA in English, 1980).

In the late 1980s, he served as an editor of Pine Needles, a quarterly newsletter for the North Carolina Haiku Society (NCHS). In 1988, he compiled late afternoon bum, a trifold Haiku Canada Sheet. In 2001 he published A Hiker Sees His Shadow, a chapbook dedicated to the memory of his dad.

Selections of his published haiku are available at, courtesy of Dave Russo of the NCHS.