Beshrew That Heart

It’s easy to be a monk on a mountaintop. Or a penitent in prison. Or a travelogist on that long, lonely road to the interior. Basho said, “every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” But what if home is in lockdown and each journey, a misprision? 

Early summer sun griddles the roof two feet from my forehead. The air conditioner clicks over and rattles until my ears ring in time with it. The water treatment plant to the north farts fumes until the wind itself breaks. Televisions gong and gasp and punch and pundit my brains to pudding. Something under or around my skull stretches and kicks and creaks to escape until my eyes push out against their lids.

Every prison’s got cellmates, some you love and some you hate, some mad as Bess o’ Bedlam whose music shall be a groan. In Sonnet 133, Shakespeare wanted to take a bullet for the one he loved  –  “Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward”  –  but a bullet in the heart’ll kill the one you love. 

And every prison’s got a warden who holds the key and says with a smile I hope you like it here, it’s gonna be your home, for ninety-nine and a year.
“Oh Warden,
Oh Warden,
Have mercy on me please.” And that’s about as likely as tears in the eyes of fishes

……………eating dried chickpeas
……………in time with each step –
……………I’m sated with miles


Posted for dVerse poets pub’s Haibun Monday 4/27/20: A Portrait of Two Masters posted by Frank J. Tassone

11 thoughts on “Beshrew That Heart

  1. Glenn A. Buttkus

    I really enjoyed this piece. It is contemporary and topical, but it includes influences from both masters. It is, in fact difficult to perceive tears in the eyes of fishes. Your refrain with “Oh, Warden” reminds me of “Oh, Captain, my Captain” A captivating and clever bit of word-smithing.

  2. I really love this, and I see the connections back to the solitude of monks and prisoners. So many parallels to the past, yet entirely contemporary… can we learn something from them? maybe in poetry lies the key to the prison?… BTW I just had chickpeas for lunch…

    1. Jedediah Smith

      Poetry is often a form of survival. We’re eating a lot of chickpeas here – cash is short and dried beans and grains are our best staple.

  3. Haibun’s a weird torque of prose and verse, and most I’ve read at places like D’Verse are monologues capped off with a snare drum roll at the end. Da-da-dum. Some how your haiku precedes the prose, is the keyhole of Basho which the prose finds difficult to call home. “What if home is in lockdown and each journey, a misprision?” But its difficulty is its possibility, as Wendell Berry would say: And lockdown is the new Fixer Upper. Trudge on, gashopper. (PS, check out my poetry challenge blog when you get the chance, Monday a new weekly challenge.)

    1. Jedediah Smith

      Thanks for the observations. I’m finding in too much of what I read a satisfied observation of the world – “here is how things are.” I find it in my own as well, part of the nature of shaping into a pleasing form, but I don’t want it. I know very little, have mainly questions, and want my writing to be accurate to that confusion. Thanks for the earthweal info. I will definitely look into it.

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