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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 11, Number 3, September 2017

Keitha Keyes
Strathfield South, Australia


In 1991, I went to Japan for a conference, where I gave two presentations. One of them on Australian resources for tertiary students who are vision impaired, and another on tactual graphics. Before and after the conference I was fortunate to visit houses of some Japanese people, have a home-stay with a Japanese family and to enjoy many personalised tours, including an afternoon in Kyoto.

The photos that I took in Japan were not very good. But each night I dictated onto a mini cassette player details of what I did and my reactions to people and places. When I got home I transcribed my notes, taking care not to edit them. When I look at them now there is an unsophisticated freshness I can smile at and draw on for my writing. And there is plenty of material to write about.

I discovered tanka prose and haibun about six years ago. They offer me ideal ways to recall experiences and feelings. My main challenge is to come up with enough words in the prose component. I am very much a minimalist writer. And I sometimes find the link and shift required in haibun a bit difficult.

I submitted "Afternoon in Kyoto" for the first time in 2013. When it was unsuccessful I left it for a while, then tinkered with it on and off before my recent submission. And, with the kind polishing suggestions from editor Janet Lynn Davis, it has found a home in Haibun Today.

Afternoon in Kyoto

My Japanese host ushers me into a black taxi, and I sink into the thick upholstery with lace antimacassars. The driver’s gloved hands guide us through the winding streets.

Narrow houses and shops built of dark wood contrast with the bright orange shrines in the hilltops. Black and brown banners hang in the shop doorways. There is no English signage anywhere.

at shrines
paper wishes are left
for prayers . . .
I can’t read the words
but I feel their sorrow

While the driver waits for us, we walk unhurriedly. My host points out some houses with their own separate rooms for holding tea ceremonies. I will myself to remember every detail of the streetscape. And marvel at the tranquillity. We enter a restaurant with a window display of dolls dressed in kimonos. Tatami mats are on the floor. The owner greets us with a bow and takes us to a low table. Then she sits cross-legged on a raised platform until we decide what to have.

green tea
not so bitter now . . .
sipping it
with a sweet cake
I learn to forget you



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