In June of this year, members of the Writer's Circle were asked to choose from one of four Japanese Haiku poems and to engage in the task of using that poem as a prompt to write a short story or essay. Here are some examples of their efforts:
Stillness - by Matsuo Basho
The cicada’s cry
Drills into the rocks.
A short walk – by Fiona Pimentel
The air was still, and hot. Sweat trickled down her back and into her trousers. It was a strange sensation, as her clothes were not wet. The sweat was evaporating almost as quickly as it was being produced.
She wished there was something to drink, but all she could see in every direction were the prickly pears. The silence seemed to bounce off the surrounding hills, interrupted only by the occasional sound of cicadas.
She had thought it would only take a few minutes to get down the hill, but the further she walked, the greater the distance left, to get to the road to meet the others. In the end she had given up and turned back, but in so doing, had lost her bearings.
It was three o’clock when she had set out, which she knew, was the hottest time of day in the South of Spain. The saying “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” had crossed her mind more than once. Here she was, already English, and feeling as if she would soon be going mad, with the heat beating down on her uncovered head.
She needed to sit down or better still, lie down, in the shade, but there was none. “No, I must go on, otherwise I’ll die of dehydration,” she said to herself.
The noise was getting louder. She knew she recognised it, but what could it be? It reminded her of torrential rain on a metal roof, tantalising like a mirage, but audible instead of visual.
Finally, she succumbed to her thirst and picked a prickly pear. She bit into it, and straight away realised her mistake. Her tongue, gums and lips had been pierced by tiny prickles. She was caught between the relief from the liquid and the discomfort of the bristles.
Things couldn’t get any worse, she thought to herself. She was lost on a hill somewhere South of Granada. The only village nearby, was the one they were staying at, and she had somehow, carelessly lost it.
Without paying much attention to where she was going, she continued to walk, always climbing the hill, until, at last, she saw the terracotta rooves of the whitewashed houses, and she breathed a sigh of relief. As if nothing had happened, she casually walked into the covered terrace of the house they had rented. It dawned on her that it was locked, and she didn’t have the key. She didn’t mind, all she cared about was that there was a running tap, and she filled her mouth, cooled her face, and drenched her head under it.
There was that sound again, clear and deafening now. It was like some sort of electric drilling, as if someone was looking for water in the rocks. With her mind more lucid after the drink, she approached the sound, and saw on the stone wall, a single cicada, calling to its mate. She instinctively reached out to touch it, and immediately it flew away.
She sat down on the cool floor, and started picking prickles out of her mouth.
The morning was just beginning to unravel on the edges of the night time sky. The man, after hours of restless rolling, gave up the attempt at resuming sleep and left the warm comfort of his bed. He moved slowly toward the un-shuttered window and let his eyes penetrate the surrounding darkness outside. The creeping corners of light spoke to him in the form of friendship, made him feel welcome and alive in the early hours of this morning.
He stood at the window for several minutes, until his eyes could begin to make out the shapes of tree silhouettes in his yard set against the backdrop of expanding light. He felt grateful to be alive and to be awake to witness the unfolding of a new day. In a little while he would be caught up in the activity of life, and his moments of peace and solitude would be swept away by the demands of order and schedule. His life would be re-infused into the lives of others around him, and he would be lost in their world for the next several hours without the opportunity for reflection or inner contemplation. He treasured and savoured these last few minutes of peace and of being alone. He spent them in silent conversation with nature, the face of God he knew so well, and reconstituted his energy and his drive.
As the sky lightened, he stepped away from the window and walked slowly to his patio door. He stopped briefly in his kitchen to pour himself a tall tumbler of orange juice. Glass in hand he stepped sedately through the French doors and onto the patio stones at the rear of his house. By now there was some movement around him and occasional birdsong broke the otherwise quiet sunrise. Seating himself in wooden lawn chair, he put his head back and stared up into the sky. His mind ascended upward and his eyes closed. His ears became more acutely aware of the sounds around him. Now and then there were movements of small creatures, crabs and lizards, in the bushes and flowers that encircled the house. He listened to their activity as it intensified with the brightening of the sky. And as the sun rose up in the horizon, he knew it would not be long before the plaintive cry of the cicadas heralded the arrival of the new day.
He took a sip of the orange juice and marvelled at the wonders of nature. His mind shifted somewhat restlessly on its own caught by the growing warmth of stray rays of sunlight. He thought about his own life and about the news he had received just yesterday. He wondered how the next few weeks and months would play out, and what was in store for him long term. The songs of the cicadas were now casting their magical spell on the attentive world, and the stillness of the early dawn was slipping away again, until the evening sunset.
By: H.M. Peter Westin