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

Volume 12, Number 3, September 2018
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Dorothy Mahoney on Patricia Prime’s “Twilight”

With my mother-in-law’s recent death two weeks ago, Patricia Prime’s haibun, “Twilight” was very evocative. The title touches on the mystery of dying, that twilight, the dimming as the dying woman converses with the dead and then how she seems to appear in the guise of a stranger wearing the same blue coat and hand-knotted scarf, to portend her passing.

In Prime’s haibun, the dead are gathered around the table waiting, which makes her choice of the word ‘cold’ in her haiku

mid-day meal / the vegetable soup / grows cold

about the soup so apt. There is the mid-day soup which is growing cold, perhaps because the dying woman is eating less, but also, perhaps as part of the feast of the dead relatives as they wait for her. The haiku works well as a bridge between the two worlds.

The final haiku

early daffodils / her favourite flowers / on the grave

spins on the word ‘early.‘ Her death is too soon to know her grand daughter who was just born. No matter the age of the deceased, while mourning at the gravesite, all deaths seem too soon, too early. The early daffodils have broken through the veil of winter, and the mother-in-law has broken through the veil of death to show herself to the daughter-in-law who is a distance away.

My mother-in-law held much comfort from the visits of her dead relatives as she was dying. Prime’s haibun creates comfort that in this mysterious twilight between living and dying, there is the love from the past, but also a love that transcends to the future, a sign of the mother-in-law, dressed for travel in her coat and scarf, sending a reminder to those she loves. This reassurance exudes from “Twilight.”


Dorothy Mahoney received an honourable mention in the 2017 Genjuan Haibun Contest and has been published in Erotic Haiku, Of Skin on Skin (Black Moss Press, 2017). Her book Off-Leash (Palimpsest Press, 2016) contains haibun about dogs in peril.


Patricia Prime

Twilight

My mother-in-law’s hair was smoothed back from her forehead, her eyes were closed—almost. Her hand lay motionless on the white sheet. She was doped with morphine. We sat beside her, held her hands in ours and told her we had come a long way by train to visit. Her mind was wandering and, although she didn’t speak to us, she was talking to invisible people. She spoke to her mother and father, brother and sisters (all of whom had passed). She said they were sitting around a table set for a feast. They were waiting for her.

mid-day meal
the vegetable soup
grows cold

One day a month later, I was pushing the pram with the baby I’d had since our visit—a daughter, whom she would have adored. In front of me was a lady with a headscarf knotted around her head, wearing a blue coat like the one my mother-in-law wore. My heart missed a beat as I hurried home. The ‘phone was ringing as I entered the door: my brother-in-law, calling to let me know his mum had just passed away.

early daffodils
her favourite flowers
on the grave

 

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