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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 2, June 2019

Marilyn Humbert’s “Grandparent’s Lament”, A Personal Commentary by Gerry Jacobson

It’s 1st March and there’s a new issue of ‘Haibun Today’. I wonder who’s in it this time? Scanning the list of authors and titles, are there any fellow Aussies? Yes, Marilyn Humbert is a regular contributor to HT and I’m attracted by the title of her haibun: “Grandparent’s Lament”. So I read it first. Well, I’m a grandparent too.

The enchantment of a great haibun. The prose tells a brief story about a teenage grandson, and the haiku is a nature observation. But what happens in that white line between prose and haiku? The text is so understated, but raw emotion is transmitted and leaves me reeling.

When my (our) first grandchild, Rosa, was born, I was in cardiac rehab after surgery, feeling vulnerable, and I wasn’t sure that I would live very long. I determined to enjoy her babyhood and early childhood, travelling from my Canberra home to her Sydney home constantly. It’s a four-hour train journey. So it was with her brother Isaac. They’re 12 and 10 now, and I’m still travelling.

It’s not quite so easy with Emilia, who is 9 years old, and Eira, who is just 3. The Viking Princesses, I call them. It’s thirty hours in the air to Stockholm where they live, passing through ten time zones, and there’s a week of jetlag to live through each time, plus a change of seasons. I spend a month or so with them in the Swedish summer.

The princesses visited Australia this last Christmas holidays, and we had all four grandchildren together. It was a joyful and chaotic time, partly in Sydney, partly in Canberra, and at a rented house near the coast. Reading Marilyn’s haibun I find myself grateful that our four grandchildren are still ‘little ones’ and still like having us around. Her piece is a warning of what might happen as they grow into adolescence. However.

the steps of Södermalm
hot, breathless
I wonder if the light
is fading


Marilyn Humbert
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Grandparent’s Lament

Our grandson’s favourite boardgames are waiting on the coffee table; rods and reels are dusted off, lures organised, nets patched ready for a visit to the river.

He arrives to stay for a few days, 16 years old, taller, brooding. No longer willing to make conversation or go fishing or even play monopoly or scrabble with us. His mobile phone and ear-buds are his constant companion.

long days –
cicadas' buzzing
fills the hours




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