Haibun Today

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

Helen Ruggieri
Olean, New York, USA


Dead Endings

1. Whispering Justice

They found her three years back along the river when the drought reduced it to a trickle in the middle. She was last seen filling a prescription at an Akron drug store. She called her sister and disappeared. Divorced, no children, she had a record for drunk and disorderly, but never did jail time. She called and then she disappeared.

There is a 96 per cent chance the murderer is a man; a 64 per cent chance he is named after an Apostle.

The computer operator misentered the data. The girl from Akron was never connected with the girl along the river. The D.A. doesn't want to disinter the body. The sister can't afford to pay. The acid soil in this county gets to keep what it has.

Her sister recognized the small rose tattoo on her shoulder. Perhaps they updated the records; one never knows what things connect one event to another, the missing plot, the computer operator having a bad day, needing new glasses, years passing.

The yellow clay the county sits on whispers his name against the shovel. The river runs low. That shoveling noise whispers and follows wherever he goes.

whispering justice
spade against the earth
possibly her


2. In the Dead End of November

The sketch of what she might have looked like stared from the front page— dead since June they think, about the time the carnival was here. Some kids found her face down in the wild grass that grows when the water level falls along the river.

The drawing is familiar, as if I knew her in school—she was dumb and sat in back, or, once in phys. ed. we shared a locker and I saw her ragged underwear.

Maybe he let her ride free, her long fine hair shiny under the tilt-a-whirl lights, gravity throwing her against him. She was with us such a short time, so loosely connected no one missed her, so perhaps when he wrapped his finger around the ends of her hair she walked into the dark with him. Perhaps she wanted to, perhaps he hurt her, perhaps she said she'd tell.

I want to think she opened under him, licking the salt on his neck, before he rolled her over, pumped two shots behind her ear.

this autumn road
those who travel it
go alone


3. Jane Doe from the River

They found her along the river when the drought reduced it to a trickle, wedged under a fallen tree, a clatter of bones held together by rotting denim and cotton rags. A stranger drew her face from the bones, her hair brown, a small rose tattoo on her shoulder. No one came to claim her.

Authorities said she'd been dead maybe three years, maybe summer, possibly June when the carnival was in town, set up on the bottom land back from the river. There's a 96 per cent chance the murderer is a man between 21 and 35. There's a 64 percent chance that he is named after an Apostle.

calliope music
on the Ferris wheel—
water sound







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