Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 3, September 2010

Gary LeBel
Cumming, Georgia, USA


Dear Cousin

You were hauling lumber out of the great forests of Maine to Port au Prince that year, 1858. Was it by steam or sail you went? What an adventure it must have been, what things you would have seen, our strong granite coastline falling behind you at the stern.

Then smallpox slithered aboard while at anchor off Haiti and the entire crew, consumed by fever and madness, jumped into the sea, your captain dying alone and dutifully in his cabin, the glaring, pitiless light of the tropics both lovely and hideous beyond the porthole, a dream within a dream . . .

Between the dates
struck Roman, round and deep,
what blade no less sharp
than Damocles’
hangs above each womb?

Your kin erected a stone though nothing of your mortal coil lies beneath it here to sink back into the cold dark sweetness of New England earth.

It is said you left a young woman behind and, after hearing the news, she took her own life. As I kneel down and clear the leaves away enough to read ‘Æt 20 yrs’, dear young cousin so far removed, I mourn the days and nights the long-lived so easily squander.

Lead your dragons
to their cages;
soothe them
with the spring sea’s cold
& heartless kiss


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