Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2007, vol 5 no 3


Stella Maris
Patricia Prime


The ginko takes place in Wellington, a city renowned for its earthquakes. The place we are staying in was once a convent called Stella Maris and is now a hotel run by Catholic nuns. A chapel stands on the hillside. The huge sprawling building, painted white, is built into the hillside and can be seen from miles out at sea. The haijin taking part in the ginko are divided into groups of four: the fitter ones hike over the hills to the next bay, some take the steep winding path down to the beach, others are happy to wander around the gardens and my group is going to look inside the chapel. The chapel has been deconsecrated and abandoned due to structural damage caused by an earthquake.

But first we seek out Mother Superior to obtain permission. She is happy for us to go inside "at our own risk".

on the hall table
a bowl of colour-coded keys
we take the red one

The convent is joined to the chapel by a covered stairway. We climb the stairs and open the oak door into the chapel. It is bright and clean with fresh flowers on the altar. Magnificent stained-glass windows catch the sun's rays. Each window is dedicated to a saint: St Francis surrounded by birds, St Agnes holding a pet lamb in her arms, St Therese of Lisieux with roses at her feet. Above the altar is a stained-glass of St Mary, Star of the Sea, "who must be followed in faith and morals lest we capsize amidst the storm-tossed waves of the sea."

We poke about in the sacristy and discover dregs of wine remaining from the last Communion service, a box of votive candles, a drawer full of neatly folded hand towels. In one cupboard are figures for a nativity, a box of Christmas decorations, and an abandoned manger. A Bible lies open on the lectern, prayer books are stacked in piles on a bookshelf and the scent of flowers permeates the air.

abandoned chapel
a maidenhair fern
still green

Making our way down through the overgrown garden and the weedy steps, we open a picket fence that leads back to the convent. How many people must have taken this steep path to services?

Back in the conference room we write our haiku on a whiteboard for everyone to read and make comments. Ticks are put beside the haiku that people like best. Our haiku don't make the grade! The winning poem is about the beach.


Patricia Prime has recently retired after 30 years of teaching and is now involved in the reading recovery programme at her local primary school. She is co-editor of the New Zealand haiku magazine Kokako and reviews editor of the online magazine Stylus. She writes short stories, poetry, articles, reviews and interviews and also enjoys collaborating on poems with other poets. Recently she completed a renku called "Saint Brigid's Day" with UK poet John Carley and Irish poet Norman Darlington, which will appear in the next issue of Kokako. One of her haibun appears in the latest edition of Contemporary Haibun, Volume 6. Patricia has worked hard to have Japanese poetry forms accepted in mainstream poetry journals and has been successful in one or two cases.