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The Haiku Masters

Martyn Halsall

Even the map had been washed away, even
the ground plan, all roads had become dredged memories after
the wave broke in, after the snow. Now
there was just the same chaos as before the world began.

    I followed footsteps
    of Basho and Chiyo-Ni,
    the haiku masters.

She had walked over the mountains to where
was once home. She had called out her mother's name.
She had come to collect some things, that kimono, a rice bowl,
the photographs. She called out a neighbour's name.

    Walk: five, seven, five
    syllables, like the white stork
    searching for the Spring.

She thought this might be the road. She called out
the name of the house, the same invocation as when
the priest came, and scattered rice and sake,
left the house blessed, and incense gentling in the evening.

    I waited till dusk
    gathered, like invisible
    ones, the house heard, once.

She turned, following the flashlight back
to the temporary shelter. She had left her mother's name,
her neighbour's name in the damp wind, on a page
torn from her notebook, wedged by a brick, on a beam.

    Nothing defined no
    things the house held fast. Nothing
    was all that was left.

She came again and again, wearing out
two pairs of shoes, to check the lists and pictures
that had replaced her newspaper, the lists and pictures
at the mortuary, to check the map, find her home.

    The day I found home
    a wind blew from the dark sea,
    calling out its name.

A bulldozer appeared, shifted aside beams,
stone, broken glass. With the rice bowl and puddle water
she worked all day rinsing through debris to discover,
for the times to come, the drowned book about the haiku masters:

    I let pages dry
    starch white in the April wind.
    I wrote new worlds there.

Martyn Halsall