Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2009, vol 7 no 3
 

HAIBUN
 

Sunday Neighbors
Wende Skidmore DuFlon

 

calla lilies
standing in low water…
our conversation

In the warmth of early Sunday morning sun, she comes through her simple wooden door. I emerge from our cool garden through the heavy portón door. We meet in the space between our houses.

Barefoot kids come and go, throwing stones at the street dogs to scare them on their way. Looking down then up quickly, my neighbor says how strong the sunshine is and how much dust there is—dust in the clothes, in her hair, crunching underfoot in the house, in their food, even masking the town's sentinel volcano.

She raises four children in her three-room house and I raise three in ten rooms. Her husband is a carpenter, mine designs what carpenters build. She links arms with her daughter to go to vespers at the colonial church in the town square built by the country's first Bishop, and I link to Internet chat rooms to ask my daughter about her spring break road trip with her new beau.

Her three girls and one boy walk two blocks to the public school with two unmarked bathroom stalls—one for girls and the other for boys, both in disrepair and equally dirty. The nearby town square is their playground. My one girl and two boys drive three hours a day to a private school in the City where they learn in two languages and play on trim grass stippled with jacaranda blossoms. She is determined to have her four finish high school because she can barely read. I struggle to nurture intellectual confidence in mine because it was stripped from my adolescent self.

She smiles wanly and says life for them is easier now—as a little girl she balanced a basket on her head while keeping up with her mother who quick-stepped down the mountain path to the main road to catch the bus to the City at 3:00 a.m. every day but Sunday. She looks down at her feet. The dust whips up into our eyes and a wedge of silence enters our chatter.

She eats black beans, tortillas and coffee several times a day and I eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, several of cereal and milk, and one of chicken or fish, a glass of red wine and a multi-vitamin. She rides the chicken bus and I drive an old four-wheel drive with tunes. I have 28 teeth and she has 20. She looks 55 and she tells me I look 30. I am trim because I exercise. She is skinny. I am strong—so is she. Her roof is made of corrugated metal and when rain falls on it, conversation is futile. My roof is of handmade sun-dried tile that makes rain patter softly.

Often, in the pre-dawn darkness when we start off on the long trek to the City to school and work, the bare bulb light is on in her front window. She tells me that some mornings she hears our car motor pass by that window: "I bless your travel and ask God for your safe return at dusk."

She scolds the street dog for kicking up the dust.

dawn mist
silent coffee pickers
in single file

 


Wende Skidmore DuFlon Wende Skidmore DuFlon lives in a semi-rural town outside La Antigua, Guatemala with her husband and three children. She has lived and worked in Mexico and Central America for the last 25 years, working to reduce poverty through improved reproductive health, basic education, and nutrition. She enjoys her newfound living through the haiku optic and relishes the learning process that comes from mutual sharing of work with other writers. Her poems have been published in Ribbons, The Heron’s Nest, and the Haiku Society of America 2009 Anthology.