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


Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

 

Cemetery at Stillwater

Leaving the Brunner Mine, site of a disaster in 1896, we turn off the road to Stillwater where 53 of the miners are buried in a mass grave.  There is a photograph in the local museum of the funeral procession, which stretched for half a mile and was made up of 6,000 people.  Another photograph shows the mourners, mostly women and children, dressed in black from head to foot, gazing into the open pit.

the sun at noon
hangs suspended
a paper lantern
in the ragged branches
of an elm

The cemetery has an air of abandonment. The iron gate creaks on rusted hinges.  There are no fresh flowers, no birds in the scanty trees.  An obelisk, erected to the miners contains the names of the dead: aged from 11 to the early 40s, boys and men, many of them from the same family.  We walk silently among the gravestones.  One is of a family of seven children who died on the same day—no reason given—but the mother had another child the following year.  There are memorials to two little girls burned to death in a house fire, to landslide victims, to a mass drowning.

a waterfall of light
runs down the obelisk
ghostly voices
unfold from the rank grass
do they still live?

In strong, cold sunlight we leave, reliving the sight of the monument, wondering what the connection between these victims and ourselves might be about, hearing the tap-tap of our feet between each gravelled step.

twists of fate—
a conversation
comes to life
down the dark valley
towards the sunset

end

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