Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 2, June 2010

Dru Philippou
Taos, New Mexico, USA


Broken String

seagulls rise above
the cries and applause
at the pink-striped booth
Punch scuttles across stage,
bowing low

in a costume
of scarlet and gold
Punch sings the tune
Marlbroug s’en
vat en guerre

Children abandon sandcastles, leave donkey rides behind and settle down to watch Punch and Judy. I sit apart from them under a sun umbrella and turn the pages of my script to this tragic comedy, harking back to medieval times. The play, from Italy, made its way around Europe and eventually to the shores of Britain. Whatever names the protagonist donned in the past, Pulcinella or Guignol, he’ll always be Punch to me.

the marionette
in the attic searches
for ground with her feet
a broken string
strays through the air

I open my satchel and expose my papier-mâché Punch to the light. I slip my hand inside the puppet, controlling his arms and head. Mr. Punch in one breath calls his baby, “pretty littel thing” and in another bashes her when she cries. I smother him with my petticoat and grind his hooknose in the dirt. The children scream with laughter—Punch has tossed the dead baby into a girl’s lap.

“Who’d be plagued with a wife
That could set himself free
With a rope or a knife,
Or a good stick like me.”

When the final curtain falls, mothers take their children home. I close my book and wait. The Professor’s bald head soon rises on the stage. He blinks into the sun to see if all the children have left and then steps out. The Professor stuffs the puppets in a suitcase, folds the booth, and vanishes in the light of a late afternoon.

a candy hawker’s
hair impaled with
combs and glass
wherever she walks
myriad reflections

Quoted text by John Payne Collier as told by Giovanni Piccini, 1827




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