Blue and gold Sunday – haibun

public domain - View of the Church of Saint Paul and Asylum

public domain – View of the Church of Saint Paul and Asylum at Remy – Van Gogh

I am writing a haibun and being untraditional by ending the prose portion with a senryu rather than haiku. This haibun is in response to a painting by Van Gogh which Bjorn, hosting our Haibun Monday at d’Verse Poets, asked us to use as our prompt for our haibun – .  I am also posting on Poets United for their Poetry Pantry  (Sunday) Come and visit me at both locations and read outstanding poetry by outstanding poets!  Those of you who write prose and have not yet tried the Japanese poetry/prose form of haibun may be interested in trying your hand.  At d’Verse Poets, the link is good for a week to submit haibun.  Try it, you may like it!  Come visit and read if nothing else for excellent reading material.

Blue and Gold Sunday
I was admitted to the Asylum at Saint Remy in August of 1889 because I had the poor taste and wicked disposition to allow my older brother to rape me several times a week after the family had retired for the evening. Even worse, after a few months, when enough had become too much, I stopped his attacks by taking a knife to him – a knife secreted from the kitchen and hidden under my pillow. What a mess! Blood spattered on the hand painted silk wall paper, the chaste white lace and linen of my bed and by a well-aimed and angry stroke, my brother became incapable of performing such an attack again. Running to find out what the screaming was all about, my parents, several servants, and my mama’s spinster sister, discovered my brother emasculated and slowly bleeding to death and me – covered with blood and voiceless. Since that night, I have not spoken and mostly spend my days staring inside myself at landscapes such as never existed on this earth. Our family doctor recommended the Asylum as a place far enough away from Paris for my parents to forget I existed. Our lawyer helped them silence the disgrace and make arrangements for my admittance. I would be surrounded by beautiful pastoral views and treated well by the good Sisters and the doctors.

And so here I am, sitting by the window of my small private room watching the morning sun gild the Sunday countryside, absorbed in the view of the Chapel. The sky is the unearthly blue of an alpine lake. Church bells begin to ring, their sound drifting over the unharvested wheat like gentle wood smoke. Last night, one of the attendants came to do his weekly visit. Klaus had become my brother in this quiet place. During a noisy outbreak at the end of the hall, I took my dinner knife, cleverly hidden up the sleeve of my kimono. I had patiently waited for such a happening. While everyone but lazy Klaus was occupied silencing the creator of the shrieks and mayhem, I took myself to the opposite end of the hall where he spent most of his time napping and smoking hand rolled cigarillos. He did not hear me as I stepped behind him and drew the knife across his throat. Stepping back quickly to avoid blood on myself, I dropped the knife and then returned to my room. I slept well. This morning, when the Sunday doctor asked me how I was doing, for the first time in four years, I spoke. I looked him in the eye and said, “I am feeling much better now” and smiled.

blue and gold Sunday –
madness departs to dissolve
into the blue sky.

61 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. writersdream9
    Nov 01, 2015 @ 18:27:26

    Wow! You had my complete attention!


  2. Mary
    Nov 01, 2015 @ 19:34:14

    In my opinion your haibun has shown that what happens to a person in his/her youth affects them profoundly as adults. This is quite a grim tale. The prose is eerie. The senryu leaves me nodding.


  3. Sherry Marr
    Nov 01, 2015 @ 19:55:31

    Wowzers! Yes, I was riveted to your every word. I love the first words the narrator spoke, LOL. The only thing is, in psychiatric facilities, from what I understand in my readings, patients are given plastic forks and “knives” for just this reason. But for the purposes of this write, we will ignore that!


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 01, 2015 @ 20:03:10

      This was written by a young woman who would have been admitted there at the same time as the painter of the view. van Gogh. I probably should have made that more clear. The asylum has not been in use for several decades. I may have to go back and insert somehow the date of admittance. Van Gogh painted this while he was self admitted there. Shortly after his release, he committed suicide, mourning the death of his brother.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 01, 2015 @ 20:11:12

      Thank you for pointing that out. it now stands as historically correct and hopefully more clear. It was pointed out that my writing was grim and eerie. sometimes we get that way. I think I was supposed to write something seasonal but all I could think of, having visited there, was poor sad Van Gogh in his small room and his view from that room.


  4. thotpurge
    Nov 01, 2015 @ 20:27:55

    Dark, dark tale indeed!


  5. Mama Zen
    Nov 01, 2015 @ 21:11:56

    Wow! This is riveting!


  6. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 00:41:47

    Oh,you really pulled me into the story. Sad and I think accurate how it once had been. The reference to Van Gogh’s own time at San asylum was clever… Great work.


  7. Victoria
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 01:09:55

    I find your story dark and skillfully told. I know similar stories are too often true


  8. Sanaa Rizvi
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 07:18:58

    Such a gripping tale!
    Beautifully executed 🙂


  9. anmol(alias HA)
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 08:06:19

    Oh my. What a grim tale! Very well-written. Attention grabbing and powerfully dark. 🙂


  10. Grace
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 14:39:16

    Dark and grim but altogether a fascinating story on the character of the girl gone crazy and addicted to killing ~ The contrasts of emotions and imagery between the two stanzas are well done ~ Yikes on the madness of the mind ~


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 02, 2015 @ 15:05:17

      Not really addicted to killing, just solving a problem the best way she knew how in the context of upper class Victorian mores. She got tired of being a victim and took control of her situation with the materials at hand. It is sad though bow society put her to blame rather than her abusers. I like to think this young girl solved her problems and lived the rest of her life in peace at St. Remy. Maybe she even met Van Gogh during his stay there – two tormented souls finding a friend in each other.


  11. MarinaSofia
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 15:47:37

    Oooh, dark indeed – and true enough, the weapons of the weak are limited but deadly. Quite a story you weave there. I hope she did meet some people who understood her there, and some sort of peace.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 02, 2015 @ 16:02:00

      I like to think she did. In my mind, I see her around 18 at the time of this story. I can see why she would decide to stay there instead of going back to her awful family or the cruel world. As she said, I’m feeling much better now and finally found her voice again. Maybe Van Gogh helped her learn to paint!


  12. navasolanature
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 16:26:55

    This is a sad tale of abuse but creates a sense of madness and beauty outside the asylum as captured by Van Gogh. Wonderfully written.


  13. Victoria C. Slotto
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 16:57:49

    This is brilliant, Toni. I’m cheering this woman/girl on. Sadly, it reflects a tragic reality that maybe only now is being talked about and dealt with. Excellent first person narrative.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 02, 2015 @ 17:09:10

      And it isn’t Japanese! Thank you Victoria. One of my independent studies, for years, has been the daily life of the Victorian era – its ideals, foibles, hypocrites, and the sexual abuse – both of family members and by the public in their use and abuse of prostitutes – ranging in age from six on, both male and female. The expectations of Society added to the double and triple standards and the layers involved in the society both in England, Europe, and the US. I am always astounded. Had this happened to day, some District Attorney from Law and Order would have had the poor girl executed or imprisoned for life. As it is, I think she stayed there in that peaceful place and made a decent life for herself. I was cheering her on myself.


      • Victoria
        Nov 02, 2015 @ 21:18:19

        Such a commentary on the mental health system since recently…in my lifetime. When I was a student nurse at a 5000 bed mental health hospital they used to have patients lie head down on their beds, pre-op them, then go bed to bed giving the ECT. Yikes. It was a horror to me. This was in the early 60’s…


        • kanzensakura
          Nov 02, 2015 @ 22:15:30

          And to think, this happened in 1889. It was a mercy her family was wealthy enough given good advice to place her at St. Remy. otherwise, she would have been under the care perhaps, of psychiatriast at the time who believed that cutting off all the hair, pulling all the teeth, doing a hysterectomy, blasting with cold water from fire hoses, doing a trephine – etc. would cure the mentally ill. And such abuse and occurances still occur over a century later to young people, male and female. Although strides were made, the Victorian era was not always known for its tolerance or kindness towards women who refused to be victims. And today? You know how it is today. And the abuse still continues there. I’ve been in a sad dark space for a bit now and I needed to exorcise some demons. I know this is a dark write, but I am not always a cherry blossom.


  14. Suzanne
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 17:16:24

    Oh dear – van Gogh will do that to you! I wrote about madness too but took it a different place
    I’m glad the madness in your haibun finally dissolved into blue sky – very compelling writing


  15. Kathy Reed
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 18:03:25

    Wow, you accomplished a lot with this…first person, history, madness, abuse, self mutilation (his ear)and an oddly beautiful way of summarizing a sad, sad life. And to think others are still driven to the point of killing and insanity for the same this day…superb, Toni!


  16. Candy
    Nov 03, 2015 @ 00:35:40

    Chilling but superbly done.


  17. kaykuala h
    Nov 03, 2015 @ 05:45:43

    Wow, this narration is really gripping! Morbid and frightening it achieved that desired effect. Great write, Toni!



    • kanzensakura
      Nov 03, 2015 @ 14:52:20

      Thank you. The haibun wrote itself. The prompt brought back memories of visiting there and learning history and then, my everlasting study of Victorian times and attitudes, both in England, Europe, and the US.


    Nov 03, 2015 @ 05:49:28

    A shocking story, which I read at first as being in the persona of poor Vincent. You have given us a powerful piece of writing. I don’t think that a haibun precludes the use of senryu – in fact, they rarely finish with a classic haiku.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 03, 2015 @ 14:50:56

      Nowadays, they truly do rarely end with a classic haiku. Most of them seem to be micro poetry, American sentences…I decided to call the poem what it really is instead of doing the often ubiquitous and erroneous calling it a “haiku”. I have been studying and writing Japanese poetic forms for probably 2/3 of my life. I am a true traditional writer of haiku and heaven help me, get irked at how everything nowadays has “haiku” tacked upon it. I’d like to see sonnets get picked apart and shown little respect for a change…I say that but I truly am smiling and don’t mean it to “sound” mean… 🙂 Poor Vincent I think found peace in that beautiful place. I found it still beautiful and peaceful when I visited years ago.


  19. Misky
    Nov 03, 2015 @ 06:59:33

    A shocking read. An excellent write.


  20. Jae Rose
    Nov 03, 2015 @ 08:20:56

    It may not be considered ethically ‘right’ – but i say good for her…you have to find peace however you can…and even though her acts may seem terrible..what was done to her was far worse…a thoughtful write


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 03, 2015 @ 14:45:41

      Thank you. I feel the same way. When I saw Bjorn’s prompt, it brought back the visit I had to St. Remy, seeing the Chapel and the Asylum where Van Gogh admitted himself. I thought of how things were at that time and regrettably, how they still are in some matters and the haibun wrote itself. She did what she could to survive an almost unsurvivable situation. And it isn’t up to us to judge. I think she found peace in that beautiful place.


  21. helenmidgley
    Nov 03, 2015 @ 16:48:37

    Wow, just wow, not much more to say really 🙂


  22. humbird
    Nov 03, 2015 @ 20:19:08

    I was sure…it’s about …the male….your writing rivets…..


  23. kelly
    Nov 03, 2015 @ 20:32:41

    Oof, you did a great job with this, such a disturbing tale, but very well told! Your ending is the perfect complement to the story.


  24. Susan
    Nov 03, 2015 @ 21:02:43

    Poor Van Gogh and every other artist who was so different from the world that it was a constant struggle to survive. I think Poe and Artaud and Wilde and Plath and Virginia Woolf–and so many more–though you may be the only one who suggests one release be cutting someone else’s throat! Powerful writing.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 03, 2015 @ 21:23:07

      Well, actually, the girl is just a young girl who was abused by her brother and then an attendant at the asylum. Van Gogh admitted himself due to depression over the death of his brother but yes, anyone who is “different” from the norm around them, are often looked down upon, made fun of, treated badly. The girl used the only method at her easy disposal. She refused to be a victim and stopped her abusers with the means available to her. Killing someone is not suggested for real life but at the same time, I have to wonder how many resorted to this as their last chance to be free from abuse. That is what is scary to me – how many people are at the mercy of someone in power who takes advantage of them.


  25. Cheryl-Lynn
    Nov 04, 2015 @ 00:46:41

    Reading this and imagining the time Van Gogh was there, I could not help wonder if he was aware of the abuse; my mind wandered on to Virginia Woolf and her dark depressions never diagnosed properly in those days due to sexual abuse as a child. Yep, you got me thinking and smiling at the last line that all was fine now. Senryu was so perfect tying the photo and your prose together. Truly enjoyed your writing!


  26. Bodhirose
    Nov 04, 2015 @ 10:55:41

    Back in those days women weren’t really listened to, and too how would she even tell her story to someone? Such things were even more taboo to speak about than they are now. I can see why she went mute and why she chose the violence she did. It was her way of speaking up! A gripping story you told here, Toni. I love it!


  27. Hannah Gosselin
    Nov 04, 2015 @ 18:49:06

    Holy cow…this is vivid and disturbing. Sadly this could be so true for someone some where…scary reality. Well written!


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 04, 2015 @ 19:24:01

      Back in those times, there was a different thought on such things, especially among upper class society. I know such things happen now but Victorian mores put a different spin on things.


  28. Bryan Ens
    Nov 07, 2015 @ 00:48:50

    “Poor taste and wicked dispostion” indeed…it’s shocking that victims of such horrendous crimes were ever (and too often still are) blamed for their own victimization. Powerfully written.


  29. Bastet
    Nov 08, 2015 @ 01:00:25

    This is an earth-shaking write … very well written too and that makes the feel of the story so much more horrifying. Love the opening … “I was admitted to the Asylum at Saint Remy in August of 1889 because I had the poor taste and wicked disposition to allow my older brother to rape me several times a week …” It grabs the reader and the clear concise non frilly prose keeps the reader right to the end.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 08, 2015 @ 14:52:26

      It never ceases to shock me that such abuse continues and often, with the same reaction. have a friend in a 12 step program and without naming names has shared with me how so very many of the people have been abused as children and how many times it was covered up and/or allowed to continue. Thank you for you comment. I am a no frills writer – I’ve been called unhurried, spare, elegant and now I get to add no frills. I like that!


      • Bastet
        Nov 08, 2015 @ 23:47:44

        Yes .. so much pain and sadness is swept under a rug … only to come out later more painfully than ever. Glad I could add something new to the list of descriptions of your writing .. which I enjoy very much. Bastet


        • kanzensakura
          Nov 08, 2015 @ 23:51:27

          Thank you again. I also enjoy your writing and your photography. I’m living off my tablet and phone lately and sometimes it is hard to make comments. Your writing is always flawless and always strikes a chord.


          • Bastet
            Nov 09, 2015 @ 00:32:20

            Thanks so much … it’s really hard to keep in touch without a proper computer … I see that with a lot of my friends … it’s always a pleasure to see your comments though when they arrive.


  30. mishunderstood
    Nov 08, 2015 @ 18:56:04

    You didn’t dance around the obvious evil in this story. A bold write that captured me from the beginning! I like to think that there would always be one person who would listen and believe when someone is abused, but sadly this is not always the case. You have given those victims a voice in this haibun.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 08, 2015 @ 19:48:17

      Thank you very much. When a friend of mine went into a 12 step program and I learned of so many others terrorized and molested in so many ways and so many ages. After knowing my friend for 20 years, she finally told me she had been abused and how her mother knew and allowed it be done in order to keep the husband happy. Somehow, seeing this painting and remembering my trip there about the time my friend told me, brought all those stories back to mind. It still happens and that attitude is still around. I hope my haibun made some people think and to review some of their attitudes.


  31. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade)
    Nov 09, 2015 @ 01:17:04

    Wow, what a tour de force this is! Congratulations on the tale, the theme, the writing, all of it. The closing verse is lovely.


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