I had hold of the wrong end of the haibun. What I discovered, in a number of ed's excellent sequences, is that my problem was I was reading the wrong haibun; further, that those practicing the craft might sometimes be decent haikuists but shabby prose writers or vice versa. Good haibun don't necessarily contain an explanation for anything; they may be a revelation or a sort of record of an organic process.
Be that as may be, I'm ready to sit at the feet of the master, anytime.
Which brings us to Ed's sequence, Union Men, which follows below. With this sequence, Ed's managed to coax me into new territory in more ways than one. What follows is the initial publication of this sequence, which marks the first time that Issa's Untidy Hut is actually publishing something entirely new online. Also, Ed's sort of stirred up some political sentiments hereabouts, not something that I often indulge. Frankly, as my life mate can tell you, I've been stirred up quite a bit on my own lately, specifically about what's been going on out there in the "real world" - record unemployment and, yet, lots and lots of corporate profits. Slimming down the work force, rightsizing, baby, letting the rich cover their mistakes by riding it out on the backs of those less fortunate ... again. The squeeze is on folks and you just know who sure as hell isn't gonna get squeezed.
I touched on some of this in a previous post, No War But Class War. What's at the bottom of the endless Mideast war and the collapsing economy and our self-indulgent ignorance of anyone or anything else on the planet and the disaster that passes for a health care system in our 50 glorious states I can't tell. It feels too late, way, way too late. Nobody is smart enough, nobody cares enough, nobody has the wherewithal to do a damn thing, except the haves in this have-and-have-not world.
We need a bit of that hope about now, Mr. President.
Which is a long vituperous, possibly inappropriate, and decidedly unnecessary way to introduce Ed's sequence, so I'll start it out with an apology: mine, not his. As you can see from the following, Ed's got nothing to apologize for. He stands straight and tall, as do his words, his family, his friends.
Being raised in Detroit during the 1950's & 60's
for me meant being raised in the union.
moths spin 'round & 'round
a caged lightbulb
My maternal grandfather helped organize
the Ford Rouge Plant in the early 30's. His
friendship with Walter Ruether was forged
during the street battles with Henry Ford's
He was fired & rehired three times from
Rouge. Old man Ford nicknamed gramps
"The Catholic Communist," a nickname
he carried with pride. My grandfather told
me many times, "The only place Marx
& Engels went wrong was in their inability
to see that Communism was a philosophical
& political descendent of Christ's Sermon
On The Mount. Marx & Engels didn't create
Communism, Jesus did."
--the rainbow ends
----at a union hall
My father was a steward in the United Steel
Workers Union. I can't count the number
of times our mother took my sisters & I to
deliver pea soup, ham sandwiches & potato
salad to dad & his friends when they
went out on strike.
wind blown snow the picket line holds
During the holidays we went to union Christmas
parties & our Christmas gifts were purchased
at the union toy store.
--the department store Santa
makes a promise I can't keep
At the steel warehouse, dad operated an
overhead crane. His hook-up man, Frenchie,
had fought for the resistance during the war.
Frenchie had seven fingers, one eye, a frown
shaped scar on his throat & he was an
--which side are you on
Frenchie was a down right ferocious man.
Looking back on it, had he told people that
he had survived The Paris Commune, they
probably would've believed him. Frenchie
had an aura of indestructibility about him.
He was a working class super hero & he
was Santa at the union toy store on
My grandfather, father & Frenchie were men
of great strength, courage, compassion,
& love. The men who raised me were Union
Men, & I'll be forever grateful.
the steel warehouse
filled with flowers
Ed's sequence stands on its own. As always, his imagery is impeccable, the haiku as good as it gets. In particular, "factory entrance," "wind blown snow," "half moon," and "home from" just grab me and won't let go. "first light" appears, initially, almost a cliche; yet, as with the tallest trees, the upraised hands are where the light will "strike" first, the purest illumination. The feel of "wind blown snow" is near perfect; how hard it is to hold the line on a full-force, Detroit winter morning, how it almost might give, the ambivalence of the blustery snow passing in and out of the line, yet still the line holds. Visually, it is stunning, set to the pounding pulse of all of nature. The resonance of "half moon" is a short story in itself. The intermittent prose gives a seamless,cohesive quality to the sequence, adding depth yet not gilding the lily, as it were. There is humor here and love, friendship and determination, futility and courage, above all family and, yes, it bears saying again: love. Ed, you've snapped me out of my funk, simply pointing the way:
filled with flowers
This week's featured back issue is #12, from April 1990. Here are two poems touching on the fragility of life and tenderness.
Day's WorkNot really knowing
how it got to this,
or when it turned into
the giving over,
the giving out,
the giving up.
The shovel handle, the rain.Michael R. Battram
Raw ravinesafter the rain
by wind and rain
Hearts don't break.
They weather.Albert Huffstickler
the ground hardens...
translated by David G. Lanoue