Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 1, March 2011

John Brandi
El Rito, New Mexico, USA


The Malabar Express

A woman climbs in at a rural station with a basket of homemade halwah. A girl offers red bananas from a plastic tub on her head. Tagore's poems are in a stack of paperbacks left on our seat for examination by a peddler who's gone down the aisle dispersing more of the same from a zinc suitcase. The guy across from us shows us a newspaper photo of a post-operative patient's 260 kidney stones spread on a white plate like coffee beans. A screw salesman folds his undershirts into a briefcase of nuts and bolts, falls asleep and grinds his teeth to the roll of the train. A singer with dharma wheels bordering her sari jumps aboard from a station signed with: ALIGHT HERE FOR KADAMPUZHA TEMPLE. She thumps a double-headed drum, shakes her bangles, wails a Bollywood film song. On these trains one is in constant contact with another—bodily, psychologically. The ego is leveled, the inner eye made alert. For a brief journey you can let yourself dissolve into the other: a rice farmer, businessman, matronly grandmother, newlywed, floor sweeper, eager-to-practice-English youngster, bald-headed barrister, upright devotee. Their stories, plight, unredeemed reverie—whatever they have to say—is, for an extended instant, yours. You need only yield, submit. Give up notions of who they are, who you are, and smile; greet them eye-to-eye with a loose gyration of the head, Indian style.

In the hair
of the flower vendor
a plastic rose.







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