A recursive echo in my thinking about haibun is what I call the ghost.
The ghost is evoked by a kind of triangulation, by two viewpoints or images which direct the reader to a third that is not stated. The most successful haiku, tanka, renga and haibun are all haunted.
I hear cries of ‘subtext, subtext.’ Subtext, for me, implies a knowing intent on the part of the writer. The ghost, on the other hand, is what experience has prepared the writer's and reader's heart and mind for, not what they already possess. It is a glimpse rather than an engulfing gaze.
The points from which triangulations are carried out share with subatomic particles a fluctuating disposition. Sometimes they are particle and sometimes they are wave. At times, transitions between states are so rapid they can be taken for both. They begin to also sound ghostly. But the thing is, most often they present themselves as particle. They shift states more in the intense gaze of haiku and its kindred ways of looking.
In the past tense, the ghost could be the remembered side-glance, that country road that was not taken. Even if you were to revisit that spot you would be out of place by the measure of the nostalgia you have overlain that time with. The ghost is the possible, maybe even the probable, and yet in its mordant ecstasy, it often can have a sense of the unattainable. Unattainable except, that is, with a fairly awkward and somewhat fairy tale proviso, unattainable without either a magical gift of love or a sacrificial transformation of self.
My haibun Ghost takes its dance steps from the music of these notions. It journeys from one ghost story to another. It opens with wakeful questions within a dream and concludes with a dream’s intrusion into the wakeful world. A series of one line haiku are weighted ropes to take depth soundings along the way.
In the first haiku, a humanized landscape only adds another layer of silence on the mystery of death.
The second haiku has hospital and chimney as uncomfortable twining strands for a meditation. I feel cloudy mordant apprehensions of childhood rise through a dark history to challenge even the sunniest day.
The third represents a slight rise for hope, the unfurling of new life. That New Zealand emblem of rejuvenation, the black koru fern, uncurls among the gravestones in the shadow of Grafton Bridge.
After some carnal playfulness, with the drift of content and continents in the prose, haiku four questions the weight of our considerations. It rattles the coins and gets an I Ching glyph with changing aspects. Clouds floating high above the trees could tomorrow be the river down which a fallen tree floats. The position of the haiku here is akin to the placement of the turn or volta in a sonnet; it moves the narrative from one kind of ghost story to another, leading to an undercutting of both.
The final haiku is a riposte to the ghost who walks in the waking world. Ghosts now face a concrete world, where the ectoplasmic footfalls of the dear departed leave no prints.
The last sentence focuses on the continuing difficulty of throwing any real light on the situation, 'There is never direct sunlight in the kitchen.'
I fear I have given the impression of this haibun being a charted construction. It was really a journey without chart or compass, like a sea voyage in the ancient world hugging the coastline, like a journey upriver looking for Mr. Kurtz or a trip downstream on a raft with Huck and Jim, like an expedition with Darwin to the Galapagos.
Like most journeys, a fortunate few end up with a dollar or two more in the pocket, but most end up losing another skin while getting better acquainted with the ghost.