Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 4, December 2010

Ruth Franke
Emmendingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany


Hollow Willows

It is the same path I used to go along with Father, holding his hand: from the outskirts of Brunswick through Prinzenpark towards the ponds. In the space of sixty years, the green belt has steadily shrunk—now there are houses where Grandfather’s garden, with its bower between the fruit trees, used to be. In this arbour, the little girl sat at Father’s feet and absorbed those words: “The soldier let himself down carefully through the hole into the tree and found himself standing in a large hall lit by hundreds of lamps . . .” I just have to find the hollow willows.

loud gaggling
of geese flying off—
this fear again

Nowadays hundreds of grey geese live here, no longer at all shy. The largest pond — Kreuzteich — comes into sight, now very close to the busy main road. A notice-board “Nature Reserve Riddagshausen” with information about rare species of birds. Although it is getting late in the afternoon there are still many walkers about. The spring sunlight sparkles through the foliage of the trees.

street noises
moor frogs croak

Peace reigns at the smaller pond, Schapenbruchteich. A reed warbler, almost invisible in the thicket of rushes, is building a nest. Coots and tufted ducks paddle around under low-hanging black alder branches, cranes strut in the shallows. I sit down on a little bench, the child’s favourite spot.

At last, along the Fischerweg, a narrow path by the stream, I find the willows. Pollarded trees, regularly pruned, several decaying from within. Inside every hollow trunk the little girl suspected those huge dogs on the witch’s treasure chests: “…and on the second chest sat the hound with eyes as big as mill-wheels.”

I come to a halt in front of one ancient willow. The wood is rotten, overgrown with moss and fungus, the massive trunk pitted with many cavities. I peer inside. Insects swarm in my face, creepy-crawlies scurry in murky darkness, from one small cleft the stare of a Little Owl.

shrouds of fog
Erlkönig’s daughters
dance no more

Translated from the German by Celia Brown.

First published in Schwerelos gleiten / Slipping Through Water (Schweinfurt, Germany: Wiesenburg-Verlag, 2010).






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