Jacob Salzer’s intruder


You stole her computer, her jewelry, and her credit cards, and bought things from companies around the world.

Yes, they cleaned up the shattered glass you left behind. And they have a new alarm system now, with a fence that nobody can climb.

You too are bound by the laws of karma. I just hope the seeds of karma will soon be destroyed before they grow into a vast, criminal tree.

morning mist . . .
the prisoner’s breath lingers
above barbed-wire

Jacob Salzer (USA)
(previously published Contemporary Haibun OnlineJanuary 2020)

This haibun (prose and haiku) starts with the worldly possessions of a person whom he loves. The computer, jewelry, and credit cards all show the signs of luxuries that a person possesses. The word ‘stole’ means that a person has either taken away all these luxuries or made her deprived of worldly comfort.

Having only shattered glass left behind indicates the mark of a broken relationship where there is nothing left. So, when someone enjoys worldly possessions by destroying others, their own life becomes more barren and destroyed as the analogy of seeds and trees in this haibun beautifully explains.

The morning mist reflects the confusion and chaos where there is no clear picture of what is right and what is wrong, and what is beyond the thick layer of mist that becomes a barrier. The prisoner’s breath could signify the efforts of an enslaved person who is so lost in worldly possessions and mundane life that they forget the consequences and put their life at stake. The barbed wire is another way of making a person conscious of their deeds whilst committing criminal activities.

Overall, the morning mist is like a ‘pleasure’, the prisoner’s breath is like their ego, and the barbed wire is their superego. The overall imagery of this haibun revolves around seeking pleasure by wrongdoings and eventually being caught up in the web of karma, where things that come around, go around. The pleasure principle takes a person to the verge of destruction where they lose their values, principles, and ethics, which destroys everything just to gain worldly wealth and temporary comfort. But when they get caught, they find themselves merely a sign of destruction.

The title of this haibun is quite intriguing as ‘intruder’ is any foreign or outer attraction that takes our focus away from the self, and we get lost into the luxuries of life until we achieve nothing.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I like how this haibun is laid out into short paragraphs that are no longer than two sentences each. It makes the content easily digestible and stark. 

It is interesting how Salzer creates a narrative with the wrongdoing being demonstrated in the prose and the result of that action in the haiku. A lot of times, haibun make a leap of subjects and do not necessarily create a plot. Both methods are viable and in the case of this haibun, it creates pathos. 

The morning mist is free and travels where it wills. But with the prisoner, even their breath “lingers above the barbed-wire.” So, this could signify that the criminal in this story is locked away within and without. 

With an eye of sound, it is intriguing to note that each paragraph of the prose begins with the letter “y.” Also, in the haiku, we have the alliteration of “m” and a strong string of “r” sounds. The letter “r” is hard and brings about the roughness of life in prison to the reader’s mind. 

The meter of the haiku is also punchy and seems to reflect the violence of the criminal’s situation. Take the second line for example: the Prisoner’s Breath Lingers.

I feel that overall, Salzer conveyed a sense of remorse for both of the parties: the victim and the thief. An essential principle of haiku is to covey compassion, and this haibun is a fine example of this idea. 

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)


– Painting by Ria Hills

Anna Cates’ Dreamsicles


Shopping for orange dreamsicles at Dollar Tree, I found myself in the checkout aisle behind two young men, dressed like handymen. The one closest to me suddenly declared, “I love you!” to the cashier, a large, middle-aged woman with mousy hair.

“He always embarrasses me,” the other guy laughed.

“Why shouldn’t I say something positive?” the man defended himself before turning to me. “I love you!” he said, a sincere smile on his face.

“I love you too,” I replied with a grin.

I left the store with my dreamsicles, thinking how it isn’t every day that two complete strangers look each other in the eye and say, “I love you!”

a daisy’s
yellow joy . . .
warbler trills

© Anna Cates (USA)

It seems the idea of this haibun is to make readers think about themselves and about today’s people. What does it take today to be human? It is very complicated. You smile and a guy thinks, “she is hitting on me.” A man gives you compliments and you begin having wrong ideas.

The prose part in the haibun is very clever and good. In my opinion, this haibun could have two more haiku: one after the description of the cashier, and one more after the guy said I love you to the other guy.

Laughing Waters (USA)

This haibun is versatile in many ways, as I can see various elements of our daily thoughts, the shopping spree, chitchat with people where we exchange smiles, and helping out strangers—the strangers we are connected to strongly for our needs, for our daily requirements.

I liked the way the poet composed the prose in a delightful way, which basically tells us about the dilemma of human beings. We usually bring our conscious filters when someone chats with us unexpectedly in a friendly way. In this era, if people try to connect with each other publicly, it is almost always taken in a suspicious way.

The haiku part of this haibun is well embedded with the emotions of a person who really wants to feel a deep connection with strangers, who are none other than human beings. The soft trilling of a warbler depicts the sincere and lovely feelings of a person that she/he shares through words like ‘I love you!’. But, we perceive it according to our mindsets and in a specific way. Unfortunately, we want to connect with each other as human beings but, we cannot, as we start defining every single gesture, feelings, and words and categorize them according to our set perceptions and experiences. But, deep down, we want the opposite—we want to be heard by others, we want to be accepted unconditionally by others, we want to be connected without any barriers, and we want to be appreciated by others. All this is just a simple wish we want, like a daisy’s yellow joy—the center of it—and in our case, the heart that is the center of joy, that usually fades away due to our thoughts and perceptions.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I like the realness of this story, and also its uncommon situation. When I read the prose, I could tell right away it was from reality. I have also been in similar circumstances when people in public are goofing off or acting in a unique way that is positive. It gives a certain vibrancy to life.

Besides being able to easily identify with the story, I like the slightly surrealistic haiku accompanying it. It connects nicely with the unusual, but very ordinary occurrence in the story.

Touching upon the technical stuff, the ellipsis works well to illustrate the warbler’s trill. I also enjoy the economy of the language, with the haiku being only six words. The rolling of “l” sounds and “y” sounds make the poem musical as well.

In terms of the prose, I enjoy the descriptions of the people and the naturalness of the dialogue.

A haibun that explores the extraordinary in the ordinary in a delightful way.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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John James Audubon (1785–1851)