The Haiku Foundation is pleased to announce the Short List for the 2022 Touchstone Awards for Individual Haibun. These Awards recognize excellence and innovation in English-language haibun published in juried public venues during each calendar year. In this inaugural year of an award for haibun, our Short List comprises seven haibun.
In this second round, the panel selected their top choices from the Long List. In the final round, the panel will select the haibun from the Short List that will be recognized as the Awarded haibun for 2022.
Many thanks to our distinguished panelists, Keith Polette, Renee Owen, and Marietta McGregor. Final results for the Touchstone Awards for Individual Haibun will be announced on April 17, as part of The Haiku Foundation’s celebration of International Haiku Poetry Day.
Coordinator, Touchstone Awards for Individual Haibun
After Long Absence
the wrinkles on your face have as many different patterns as a snowflake. a snowflake falls between us signaling a change in the temperature like an avalanche brewing in the teapot. in the teapot you gave me so many Christmases ago I save the letters you wrote when you loved me. when you loved me the weather didn’t matter because every day was a rainbow made of angel wings. angel wings on the snow-covered ground form a pattern made by children. children we always meant to have.
a part of me
—Roberta Beary, Contempory Haibun Online 18.3
When Candy Bars Were a Nickel
The way a sneeze comes on, my younger sister can’t stop herself. It is all about the candy bar. She slides over the front seat and leans on the door handle to thrust her hand in the grocery bag.
I am six years old, in the back seat looking at dad’s head. I say nothing. It’s a frozen silence I drift in. At first he doesn’t hear the wind gush or the scream of knowing, until some awareness grabs him.
The car comes to a screeching halt. He is wearing a cap and baggy overalls. He is running frantic right and left back along the country road. He is a scarecrow flapping. He is a stalk of corn walking. He is a spray of wheat undulating. He is an oat seed. He is invisible.
in the woodland
he won’t talk about it
—Marilyn Fleming, Presence 72
Notes from Bahrain, March 2022
scribble (verb): write or draw (something) carelessly or hurriedly
circling the airport
The taxi driver expounds his theory of everyone loves money. If I understand it correctly, it’s wives who love money and husbands who show their love by letting their wives spend the money. A four-car collision kills the monologue. At the hotel, I note the amount on the meter and add the airport fee, but, curious, I have to ask, “How much?” He rounds the total up considerably and extends an open hand. “Everybody loves money.”
There is an unwritten traffic rule in Bahrain that everyone obeys: Never stop for a pedestrian. Road construction makes crossing the Al Fateh Highway a suicide mission today. We think a dash at prayer time might be best. Sipping iced coffee, safe on the other side, I notice my napkin has an empty square on it, with the words “Scribble Away” at the top. So I do. Maybe I should write Joe Wenderoth a letter.
the way the sun hits the dome
of the Grand Mosque
the AC’s hum
that never ends
Friends arrive from Saudi Arabia. To make their short weekend in Bahrain seem longer, the drinking starts early, at breakfast. Bacon and eggs, biscuits and sausage gravy—anything with pork—and beer. Breakfast becomes brunch, brunch becomes dinner at a friend’s house. I bring Portuguese cheeses and wines. There’s more wine on the table, a cooler full of beer, a veggie tray. Stories. Jokes that won’t be as funny in the morning. Shawarma. Shamal—sand taps at the windows. Soon sand is all we see.
slipping the dog falafel
under the table
a drive-by blast
of ’70s disco
We go to our son’s apartment when he gets home from work. He shows us his wine cellar, a cupboard with a dozen Italian wines. No one’s in the mood for a drink. We listen to Ethio jazz and talk about upcoming submission deadlines. Mary Ruefle: “When your pencil is dull, sharpen it. And when your pencil is sharp, use it until it is dull again.” There’s a view of the local mosque outside his living room window. The air is full of sand, the sliver of moon a blur. Fernando Pessoa: “I am slowly filling with lackadaisical scrawls of a dull pencil, which I have no sentimentality about sharpening….” 
the grittiness of fresh-squeezed
I’ve had no luck finding underwear with a y-front in Portugal. No problem here; briefs with “key holes” and “functional openings” are still in vogue. Late lunch. Across the room a Bahraini man with three young women, two East Asian looking and another with an Eastern European accent. I’ve been watching too many crime shows. I’m trying to wipe all thoughts of sex trafficking from my mind when the European woman stands up and grabs several paper napkins. When she bends over to cover her chair with them, her dress slides up to her lower back. The evidence is not circumstantial: she has not been shopping for underwear.
the wail of sirens
Formula 1 flags ripple
in the breeze
bits of mint
in my teeth
If I were to be executed, I’d order fugu sashimi for my last meal in hopes of cheating the state out of the pleasure of murdering me. We’ve been eating South Indian food almost every day. What if this Mysore masala dosa were my last meal? At my age, I should treat every meal as the last. Eating deep-fried shrimp a couple nights ago, I thought of my mother, comfort food, craving, memory, and heart attacks. I could die happily without ever eating falafel again, but my dying words might be “Hashem, Hashem…stuffed falafel….” At that point any wine would work.
A Portuguese wine, a Lebanese wine, a Californian wine, and a bottle of single malt scotch. “My friend, this will be a night you won’t forget or a night you won’t remember.” A feast of roast chicken and potatoes, grilled asparagus salad, and moussaka. One guest is dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Discussion of the war is fragmented by school gossip, Middle Eastern politics, philosophy, updates on grown-up children. Everyone agrees that Eric Clapton is an asshole, but they’re going to the concert anyway.
singing the blues
the slow burn
of a single malt
in the souk
an unanswered prayer—
We visit the synagogue, which was shuttered for decades, and meet some interesting people, Bahraini sisters from the Canary Islands who still have connections with the Jewish community here. Note the Torah gifted to the king by Jared Kushner—my wife’s snide comment about the donor doesn’t go unnoticed—and the shofar by Israeli PM Naftali Bennett; admire the prints of Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows in Jerusalem; and ignore the plainclothes policemen in the parked car outside. Our son is invited to return for Purim—there’s a promise of donuts.
Some days the sun rises with an empty calendar. A coffee here, a coffee there, a chapter of Samantha Irby, a chapter of Max Porter. Too windy and sandy to sit by the pool and sip a $10 can of Singha. To celebrate our son’s 30th birthday, we go to Wolfgang Puck’s CUT. “Don’t look at the prices,” my wife says. Wonderful Zinfandel, but not the wine served with the prato do dia in Portugal. No talk of our son’s job search, no mention of the war. I think of the taxi driver turning my fare over to his wife and the many ways we spell love. We split two desserts three ways.
the taste of homesickness
in the cheese bread
1. “When your pencil is dull, sharpen it…” is from “Lectures I Will Never Give” by Mary Ruefle (14 March 2013), an excerpt from her book Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Books, 2012), which is published online at The Rumpus.net; link retrieved on 3 May 2022: https://therumpus.net/2013/03/14/lectures-i-will-never-give/
2. “I am slowly filling with lackadaisical scrawls of a dull pencil…” is from page 112 of Always Astonished: Selected Prose by Fernando Pessoa; edited, translated, and introduced by Edwin Honig (City Lights Books, 1988); text available at Google Books.
—Bob Lucky, MacQueen’s Quinterly Issue 13
dream in a long night
my dead friends and I
dancing in tree-tops
In the black of night, woken by the calls of my father; he has borrowed the voice of The Wind God, yet I recognise him, his reaching cries. He calls me by my forever name; the one I had before mother and father were born.
Naked, I move through the window, then the hedge outside, feeling it brush me, soft as lanugo. Over dew-forming grass I walk, following his appeal, until I feel him and know he gestures for me to bow down low, crawl into a tangle of briars whose thorns do not cut, but somehow salve and ease me through a tunnel of dense growth above rough earth.
I straighten up, my father’s Wind God voice always before me, the ground dropping downwards increasing my speed, till I am running and faster propelled by a gravity beyond the pull of earth. I feel no more the pound of ground, and nothing around me, but darkness, air.
black winter moon
unseen waves crashing
the taste of sea spray
Flung out, falling, a sense of heaving water way below. Eyes stream in the salty air and, thumbling forward, the coming into focus of hands reaching up to me, out of the ocean, the hands of everyone I ever met, who died.
Young Kevin’s hands, Mikey’s too, Old Man Grace and the fiddler Donaghue. The hands of grandparents, uncles and aunts already gone; cousins, school friends, buddies and lovers, the longed for, the lost.
Watanabe-sama, felled by cancer; the girl who dropped from the Seto bridge, broke the inland sea, and her stillborn child, never named. The hands of dead patients whom I washed in mortuaries. All of them and each of them, reaching up to cushion and comfort, so I may be free from fear to answer the call my father makes, on his and their behalf.
into the non-moon
warm on the horizon
our ship of ghosts
—Sean O’Connor, Contemporary Haibun Online 18.3
The man who keeps each season in a box is spring cleaning. He polishes the silver box that winter is kept in. It is cold to the touch. Autumn’s box is fashioned of driftwood. If you shake it you can hear dryness rustle. He gives it a little dust. You have to be careful with summer; it’s hot to the touch now. Hold it too long and you’ll burn your fingers. He leaves it alone on the high shelf. Ah, but Spring is his favourite box. Open its cloisonné lid and the buttercups will make your chin glow yellow. There are too many shades of green to count. Ask him politely and he’ll point out Crested Dog’s tail and cowslips and Yorkshire fog. Look closely: there, inside the box. Can you see the young boy with the basin cut? The one who is holding his dad’s hand? They are walking through the wildflower meadow in Muker. Soon they will reach the river with its banks of celandines and oxeye daisies.
faded as a haircut
in a barbershop window
—Alan Peat, 2022 Samurai Haibun Contest
Spatial Concept: Waiting
The first time I saw it was at the Tate and I was
with you for the first time you wer so young and
beautiful and your skin was perfec then when you
asked me to go with you I bough ome books from
the salvation army the kind wit ots of photos so I
didn’t come across as a some nd of dick or stupid
even recognized a few p tings before reading the
label each time I said tist’s name you’d turn and
smile even if I got wrong made me sometimes
wish I’d stitched mouth shut And then suddenly
there it was ha g alone on a white wall the beige
canvas slash I could almost hear the right arm
stabbing th dragging the blade down and across
though lat things moved on to multiple wounds
and differ t tools—bare hands, nails, chisels, even
screwdriv s by then I’d lost track of you after the
first scars appeared your way of cutting off an older
deeper p in you said I’m here lost lost you lost
old prison cell
the final tally-mark
* Spatial Concept: Waiting (1960), one of a set of paintings by Lucio
Fontana (1899–1968) in which the canvas is sliced.
—Lew Watts, Frogpond 45.1
(NB: Online formatting deviates slightly from the original publication.)
In the Time of Refuge
These are days when home becomes a dream whispered from ear to ear, when each hand carries what it can. A family Bible, pages of favorite psalms folded at the corner like wings. A green-eyed cat peering from a parka’s fleece lining. A silver ring that once meant forever. In the distance, heavy thuds—another weight to carry—and then explosions that turn the air to a single high-pitched note, the streets to acrid smoke, to fire. The cafés, the schools, the churches all tilt and collapse into their own histories. Footsteps fall and fall. Along an alley’s cobblestones, a mother wheels a denim suitcase with one hand, keeps her daughter close with the other. Now both palms lie face up among rubble, an offering to the sky.
the way clouds drift
and split apart
—Rich Youmans, Frogpond 45.2