Haibun: Things I learned in the CIA

Posted for Mish’s prompt at dVerse Poets Pub – finding beauty in the ugly.

Haibun: Things I learned in the CIA
“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.” Anthony Bourdain
Many years ago, I attended and graduated from the CIA – The Culinary Institute of America that is. I was paired up with a tall lanky homely young man with curly hair and large deft hands. Unlike the rest of us, he always had a piece of rotting fruit or vegetable on his work station. Out of reach of the knives and other items, but always there. I remember once one of the instructors yelling at him to get rid of that damned piece of rotten fruit. He would but the next day, another one took its place. I think the others felt sorry for me because I was paired with him but I liked him a lot. He was dryly funny and open to everything. We became lovers after a fashion and finally I asked him the question: Why the rotting fruit? He smiled and said, “in its own way, it is so beautiful. And we all come to this you know.” I would sometimes see him lift a pear, an orange, a bell pepper and look at it from all angles before carefully replacing it on the table. After graduation and working under some excellent chefs, he went his way and I mine. I never forgot him. And no, it was not Tony Bourdain.
rotting fruit
in its season –
so must we all

Haibun: Winter Humpbacks

For Margaret’s prompt at Toads, A Whale of A Tale, a haibun.  Humpback factoids:  Humpbacks can grow to 60 feet (18 meters) long, and they can weigh a whopping 40 tons, according to the NOAA. Their flippers can grow up to 16 feet (5 m) long, which is the largest appendage in the world. Their tails are also massive and grow up to 18 feet (5.5 m) wide. Like most whales, females are larger than males.   They feed off fish and crustaceans, especially off menhaden and brown shrimp which are plentiful for their diets and migrate every winter passing by the NC coast from December to January on their way to the Caribbean.  They often calve off the NC coast with their babies following them to their summer homes. This is also being posted on dverse for Open Link Night

Winter Humpbacks
“Let faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe.” Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

My ancestors came here generations ago from England. They settled on the North Carolina coast and changed from being farmers to watermen. My great-grandfather in particular was a salty old man and often said he would stop looking at women when they screwed his coffin lid down. He would leave Durham during the fall and winter and trek down to his hometown – to live in a shanty on the beach and fish. It never went out of his blood, that fishing. He would serve as a cook on fishing boats and once cooked for Teddy Roosevelt when Teddy was a middle-aged man. Pap as we called him, loved his time on the water. He loved telling me tales of the boat going out and casting their nets and hauling in the load of fish.

But my favorite tales were of the migrating humpback whales, longer than the boat, breaching up and often destroying the nets. The humpbacks migrated down from Maine and on down to the Caribbean. They often spent a month eating menhaden and brown shrimp to build up their fat layer on their way farther down south. Pap said many a day a humpback or two would breach and often lunge up out of the water. Fishing would be forgotten as the men watched these gigantic creatures swimming along side of the boat or breaching. The calves were the size of the boat.. I loved the tales. As an adult I would always go down to the coast in fall and winter and go out on one of the fishing piers, empty now that it was cold winter, and watch the whales feeding or swimming or breaching. Like my great-grandfather, I inherited that love of the ocean.
cold winter ocean –
humpbacks lunge towards the sky
singing their songs

whale off NC coast in winter

 

Haibun: The Charity of Strangers

For Poets United – Charity.

Haibun: The Charity of Strangers
Several years ago I had to drive the long distance to Tennessee to bring my mother home. She had been staying with my aunt and my aunt could no longer take care of her. It was a hard lonely drive. I arrived and visited a few days with them and then I loaded mama and her things into the car and began to drive. She was immobile and in the throes of Alzheimer’s. I had her “rolling walker” in the car and when we made bathroom breaks I had to lift her into the transport chair and wheel her into the rest area. I then had to wheel her back to the car. I had to feed her and remind her to drink. I was frightened. I didn’t think I would be able to take care of her. We stopped halfway and spent the night in a Marriott. I was struggling to get her into the transport chair and a man who had just pulled in saw me. He smilled at us and said, “well little lady, looks like you need some help.” He reached into the car and gently lifted mama into the chair and said, “I’ll take her in for you.” I was so grateful and thanked him over and over. He told me how he had looked after his father in similar circumstances.

The next day I finally got mama ready to go and began wheeling her out to the car. A young black woman who told me she was a CNA saw me again struggling, got out of her to car to help me. She gave me some tips for lifting mama that would make it easier for me. Later that day. A teenage boy took over my wheeling mama to the restroom. At the car, a middle aged woman helped me get her back into the car. As we drove I pointed out the mountains, the changing color of leaves, and the small towns we passed along the way. That night I was getting mama ready for bed and she lid through my arms. She dropped. I tried to get her up but couldn’t. I went across the street to a neighbor who was also taking care of her mother. She immediately came and helped me get mama up off the floor and into bed. Until mama went into the skilled nursing facility in January, angels along the way helped me. Many days I was on my own and lived in fear I would drop her. But the fire department came or the rescue squad came and helped me. No charge. When she went into the nursing facility, there were loving people who took good care of mama and also helped me to deal with her dying.
seasons come and go –
leaves change color – but kindness
flourishes through all

Mama

Haibun: Gold Day

For Frank’s prompt on dVerse – heartbreak or frustration.  This is a rewriting and reworking of an original poem.  In Japan, Friday is often known as Gold Day.  this is about my lover who left to return to Japan so many years ago.

Gold Day
The afternoon you left was a golden roux of fading autumn sunlight, spicy oak leaves – bright yellow, still holding on to the tree, not yet ready to fall, and bitter salt tears – like the oak leaves – refusing to fall, refusing to join the earlier faded maple leaves on the lawn. Under the trees, quiet and still. I allow the knowledge of your leaving to permeate my being. I am still breathing. My heart is still beating. The sky is still ethereal blue with purest white autumn clouds wafting their way to the end of the horizon. Starlings lift from the telephone wires to follow the clouds. I realize, I will continue on my way – leaves will change color and fall, snow will cover the sepia winter landscape – cherry blossoms will bud, bloom, and fade. Trees will leaf in explosions of green, leaves will change color and fall. Seasons and things will pass. inside, my soul says “Oh!” I sit as the gold day ends.
early leaf burning –
its incense drifts to heaven –
autumn’s voice whispers.

 

 

Midsummer

For Mish’s prompt for Haibun Monday – morning.Also for Tuesday Platform at Toads.

Midsummer
The morning my mother died was one of the most glorious I had seen in many a year. Birds were singing loudly, dew was sparkling on the grass like diamonds, the temperature was perfect. They called me from the skilled nursing facility that morning. I hung up the phone and walked outside, looking and hearing the beauty around me. I stood in the midst of it, numbed. A small finch lit on the grass a few feet from me and chirped then flew away. I began to weep. My mother was dead.
butter yellow sun
coats the grass – birds are singing
my mother to rest

Haibun: Rainy Day

For Victoria’s prompt over at dVerse for Haibun Monday. the kigo and prompt for today is korogi – cricket. It is a kigo for early autumn/late summer. Summer ends August 7 approximately, in Japan.  Will also be posting this for the Tuesday Platform at Real Toads.

Haibun: Rainy Day
The day was hot, humid, and tight. I knew it was going to rain because this morning, I heard the tree frog’s deep groaning. Mama always said to listen to what the insects and frogs tell you. So I listen. At about 2:00 pm the sky poured down hard rain. The humidity cleared out for about 15 minutes. Now it is humid again and still – except for the voices of the cicada (semi in Japanese) and the crickets (korogi). The sound is almost overwhelming, as if they have to make up for the time lost during the downpour. The feral cats I feed have taken shelter down at the far end of the porch, as far as they can get away from me. I love the smell of the rain – not the pre-petrichor smell but the lush liquid smell of the rain as it drenches everything. It has apparently not drowned the insects though. The lone kitten is running around, chasing something. I take a few cautious steps closer and realize she is chasing a cricket, minus one of its legs now. I sneak back to my rocking chair and sit. Listening. Inhaling. It is almost the end of summer. The crickets and cicadas tell me so. The frogs open their throats and sing. More rain is on the way.
kitten plays intent
on crippled cricket – rain pours –
tree frog groans loudly

cricket and morning glories

 

 

Haibun: Housing Insecurity

Here in Richmond, as in most cities, there are lines of cheap motels that become nominal homes to the almost homeless. At the foodbank where I volunteer time, the people with their children come in for their daily meal. They are always polite, the children often shy or charming. You learn a lot working among the poor. A quadrille from De today using the word box or forms of box at dVerse Poets Pub.  Will also be sharing at Real Toads Tuesday Platform. A quadrille is a form unique to dVerse with exactly 44 words excluding the title and using the prompted word.  Also today at Poets United, Sherry has an excellent feature about the grieving orca. I have a poem or two in it:  http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/2018/08/poems-of-week-whale-heard-around-world.html

Housing Insecurity
She and her brother from another father sleep in boxes on top of the dresser in the hotel room shared with her mother and four siblings. Roaches run over them at night.
hot summer days
they play behind the hotel –
toys from dumpsters

photo from the Richmond Times Dispatch

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