Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 1, March 2010

Glenn G. Coats
Prospect, Virginia, USA



I am using wood that was leftover from the new front steps to build a small boat. It is more like a wooden tub, no seat, just enough room for one person. My plan is to paddle it like a canoe. Grandfather is letting me use the hand tools that he keeps in the garage, and he has given me a can of paint, dark blue like the Sunoco Gas Stations, and a few letters to give the boat a name.

orange lilies
families in flip-flops
march to the sea

One end of each side board is cut at an angle so that the bow will come to a point. I am nailing one of those boards to the bottom when my great grandfather comes out the back door. No one else is home. He is wearing a shirt and tie, waving his hands at me, and speaking a mixture of German and English. I know what my great grandfather is trying to tell me, the sides are too low, the boat will sink, and I will drown. The urgency in his voice, the fear of something, frightens me, and I drop my hammer and run into
the house where I race up the narrow steps to the attic and hide under a bed.

quiet summer
waves toss
a waterlogged ball

Great Grandfather is shuffling from room to room. “Where are you? Where are you?” he asks again and again. I do not make a sound, suddenly afraid of the gentle man who paints songbirds on velvet. His voice comes and goes as he searches each bedroom and then the front porch. Finally, I hear his shoes on the attic steps. He climbs halfway up and asks, “Len, Len, are you up there?”

“No,” I blurt out , and my great grandfather climbs slowly back down the steps.

A few days pass, my family gathers on the shore to watch the launching of my blue boat. I climb in with my paddle and a few adults shove me out on the bay. I paddle twenty feet before the salty water covers my ankles then rises to my waist as the boat sinks beneath small waves. Two cousins wade in to help me drag it back to the sand.

onshore breeze
every gray hair
still in place





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