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

Volume 12, Number 3, September 2018

Jo Balistreri on Mary Ahearn's "Lament"

I have deep admiration for Mary’s haibun, and it touched me personally. Losing one’s home after forty years is no small thing. And then to lose her husband! That she could write something from the heart poignantly without sentimentality, that she could write at all inspired me. She speaks of loss, but finds hope in her faith community, and in writing—as this haibun shows.

We, too, sold our home of thirty years. We mourned this place where family grew and flourished, and grandchildren loved to visit. We moved under duress. We didn’t know my husband was sick with hydrocephalus. We only knew something was terribly wrong. It was August hot when we moved into a smaller place. He got worse and worse. By the time he had his second shunt, there was little he could do. Today we are still back and forth to Mayo in MN. He is alive, but my feelings are much like Mary’s. This condo does not feel like home.

She describes so well in her first haiku, nature’s starkness, indifference, the cold glass, a spring that is the coldest she can remember, a lingering winter that mirrors how desolate she feels inside. My heart burns dry with winter’s ice. My nature was like desert heat, nothing on the horizon, stark, indifferent. Alone. And my winter was isolation, ice-slick roads, never feeling at home.

Yet today, I can feel that hint of hope that Mary speaks of—for her, it is her faith community. Her writing. For me, it is Centering Prayer and my haiku community with Dan Schwerin. Even when writing is not an option, there is reading and the redemption that comes from a haibun like Lament.

~ Jo Balistreri, Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA

Mary Frederick Ahearn
Pottstown, Pennsylvania, USA


"The winging bird longs for the old woods, the fish in the pond thinks of the deeps it once knew."
—T'ao Ch'ien

I've stopped driving by the old house, our home for near forty years. Even now, when the first ephemerals emerge and the oak buds swell there, I stay away. You didn't want to see it anymore, you had told me. You were, again, the wiser of the two of us, the more private with your yearnings, your beliefs. And your fears too, even into those last days, those sleepless nights until almost the end, that bitter end. Just a phrase once, the bitter end…

pine branches
scrape the window
shadows fall across the bed

It's been the coldest spring in years, late snow, sleet, day after day of gray skies—winter's refusal to depart, forever the season of your passing.… My heart burns dry with winter's ice.

early days
they say
every day a Jahrzeit

Notes: Epigraph from T'ao Ch'ien (365-427), trans. Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the 13th c.



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