Haibun Today

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

Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand


Imperfect Travellers

she is studying
the map of China
while I read aloud
the menu for the day
in the train to Bejing

days and several stops
before our destination
she can't stand the food
rice and noodles
bits of unknown meat

the dirt sickens her
the other passengers
are uncouth and loud—
close quarters in the sleeping car
with two Chinese men

outside snow falls
on a desert landscape
as the antiquated train
makes its slow procession
past humble villages

My companion doesn't like China: people coughing and spitting, skinny gun-toting soldiers in baggy green uniforms, meat stalls covered with flies, live chickens hung upside down from handle bars. She adds: song birds in cages, the way people lean in around her; she feels she can hardly breathe the dense air. We talk about New Zealand where you can drive all day past the same farmland and there's the scenery of forest and ocean on either side, chanting past the windows. She loves the immensity, she says, and the way she can lose herself inside it. But I feel lost already, I want to say, in the small crack that has opened between us.







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