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Book of the Week: The Parsley Bed

 

 

Our Book of the Week is The Parsley Bed, by Welsh poet Ken Jones. The volume contains haiku, senryu, haibun, and a Foreword by Caroline Gourlay. I can think of no better way to recommend Ken’s work   than by immersing you in one of his characteristic haibun in full. Thanks for reading.

 

Coming Clean

 

Thrillers and Romance
two worn hollows
in the sandstone floor

In my shabby Junior Library Assistant suit I go sniff, sniff, sniffing along the shelves. A quick sniff between the worn covers and the novel is either replaced or chucked onto the withdrawals trolley. The art of olfactory stock management in an East End public library. The sweet stale smell of unwashed poverty that hangs everywhere here.

For the privileged few, a sixpenny bit gets a copper geyser hissing and roaring in some linoleum cold bathroom. But for most of us, Friday night at the municipal bath house is almost as big a treat as Saturday night in the back row of the Roxy or propping up the bar of “The Waterman”.

It is a building in “the mixed municipal style”, with a bit of twisted candy Jacobean here and some crow stepping there. Built in 1893 when cleanliness was next to godliness.

 

Pouring stone water
the goddess Hygiea
displays a sooty breast

But, see, godliness has been replaced, floating up there above the pediment. It’s not just the People’s Flag that flies Deepest Red above our town hall (we do, after all, have a Communist M.P.). No, this one has a hammer and sickle in woven gold. For the Chairman of the Baths & Wash Houses Committee is a Party member. And Jimmy Roberts, the Foreman, fought in the Harry Pollitt Battalion at the battle of the Ebro, a local hero with the scar left by a fascist bullet to prove it.

 

Embossed carbolic soap
‘For the Public Service’
its sharp cut corners

A penny for the soap and tuppence for an unbelievably white towel. One of the brawny Comrades leads the way down a corridor of scrubbed unpainted wooden cubicles. In each sits a huge Victorian bath. Its gleaming taps are operated from outside, by Authorised Persons Only. My bath is drawn, and at the door the Comrade pauses to give a brisk tattoo with his long handled scrubbing brush. This gives the comrade cockroaches time to make themselves scarce.

And, of course, we sing – who could resist it ? Mainly from The Workers’ Song Book, for we are a very class conscious lot.

‘I’m the man, the man, the very fat man, that waters the            workers’ beer!’

As a member of the revolutionary intelligentsia I chip in from time to time with stuff like Bandiera Rosa la Trionfera.

There’s always a pause, however, after each song:

‘A drop of hot in no.5, please !.’

‘Mind your feet, no. 5!’

Whoosh !

And so it was –

‘Come dungeons deep or gallows grim
This song shall be our parting hymn.’

 

The Daily Worker
wrapping fish-and-chips
the vinegar seeps through

 

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published 2010 or earlier you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details.

Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by THF Digital Librarian Garry Eaton, and are used with permission

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thank you very much for your generous shares. I particularly like this one because coming from Wales a lot of things and places are familiar to me. I also enjoyed reading and learning more about longer haibun.

    1. Thanks for your comment Karen. We can all go to school on Joneses haibun. One of the best in this genre.

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