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


First Impressions
Richard Straw


The two-storied brick building's still in use, facing west on the village's main street, about a block from an Indian-named river that every few years floods cornfields and the road going north. Little else is the same, however, in my childhood neighborhood and home, which was in a walk-up apartment above a soda shop. The meat locker, barbershop, and restaurant in the building's ground floor have all changed hands or closed altogether, their former owners gone elsewhere, some to the cemetery on the river's other shore.

The photographs at least haven't faded. In one snapshot taken half a century ago, cars are still angle-parked in tree shade in front of the restaurant's doorway where dad in his factory clothes carries my sister, wrapped in a blanket. Another shows mom on the same sidewalk with my preschool sister and me as a toddler, all in our Sunday best. Indoor shots reveal a high-ceilinged living room with flower-patterned wallpaper, a playroom with Jack and Jill painted on a wall, and a kitchen with a wooden shelf shaped like a crescent moon with stars.

Our parents often talked at meals about the past. One of their stories was about an elderly baby-sitter who roused the firemen across the street to run their hose up our apartment's stairwell to douse the curtains that caught fire above the gas stove. Another time, acting on a tip from the barber, our mom in her waitress uniform ran to find us on the nearby bridge, where my sister was urging me to jump into the greenish-brown river. One night in my bedroom alcove off the living room, where the soft light of the neon sign from the restaurant below filled the air with an undersea glow, I dreamed of fish swimming out of water, the first dream mom and dad ever remembered me telling them.

faraway stars
over a distant hometown
autumn chill

Richard S. Straw Richard S. Straw copyedits technical documents and prepares bibliographic databases on health and substance use. He has lived in or near Raleigh, North Carolina, since 1984. Before then, he lived 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).

He has collected and read books of haiku, senryu, haibun, and haiga since 1966. In the late 1980s, he served as an editor of Pine Needles, a quarterly newsletter for the North Carolina Haiku Society (NCHS). He self-published A Hiker Sees His Shadow (2001), an eight-page chapbook dedicated to the memory of his dad. Selections of his published haiku are available at, courtesy of Dave Russo of the NCHS. Along with other NCHS members, he attends monthly haiku meetings, ginkos, and the annual NCHS Haiku Holiday.