Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 2, June 2011

Ingrid Kunschke
Porta Westfalica, Germany


Beneath the Waves

stay awhile,
stay, it seems to say,
this forest
of tangled kelp
that sways with the surf

off the coast,
awash with
greenish light:
a haven

in swarms
they drift by,
their frailty and grace

without fail
does it end
well before dawn,
this sense of floating?

Reluctant to surface after this refreshing dive, the mermaid slowly opens her eyes. Of late these dreams press her more urgently and she isn't going to resist. It's her fate to sit on this boulder forever, yet she's a child of the sea and eager to give in to the tidal force.

the weight
of life ashore,
its lack
of buoyancy,
cannot be eased

And so she sits looking out over the harbor at daybreak, the sun's first rays caressing her tresses, and she still sits there at dusk with the afterglow putting a blush on her bare chest and maidenly face. She sits in the scorching heat, dreaming of the spray that would wet her tail. And she sits in the cold, when snow adorns her flowing hair, her stiffening limbs.

People come, people go. They flash blinding lights at her. She hears them speak languages she vaguely remembers from foreign shores. Some are reminiscent of waves lapping against a pier; others mimic the murmur of a creek. Why then can't they see she belongs to the sea?

her hair
known to spark
when stroked
is truly a mermaid's
with its tinge of green

Tired of being stared at, she turns away, turns to the water for comfort, finding nothing but regret. And so she feigns gazing at the waves until darkness falls and fewer people come by, couples who've only eyes for each other. That's when she enters the realm of dreams.

reflections of
the city's dazzling lights—
they barely hint
at the untold treasures
this gaudy mirror conceals

beneath the waves
there's a face
young and yearning
for that world beyond



First published in Modern English Tanka V3, N2, Winter 2008.

Copenhagen's little Mermaid statue can be viewed here: Little Mermaid.

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