Carnival haibun

A haibun for the dverse carnival prompt.


We take to the streets to show we’re happy. Alone it’s not the same. Drink flows and the street vendors slap their fat thighs and hawk their wares and we buy and we eat and we say it’s good. The music deafens and the colours blink and sway—makeup, wigs, papier mâché monsters. We dance until we’re hoarse, eat until we’re nauseated, and everyone laughs. I dance with you and he dances with that one over there and we all embrace in a collective oblivion. And next day we walk on the other side of the street and the bills drop on the mat and your mother is still sick and everything in the shops is too expensive. But we had fun, you say, it made a change. I watch you walking to the bus stop, shoulders a little more stooped and the change seems suddenly unbearable.

Light splatters punch

beignets glisten—tomorrow

comes anyway.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

49 thoughts on “Carnival haibun”

    1. Thanks Priscilla. These mass festivities always make my skin crawl. I can’t help wondering about the people who seem so carefree, letting themselves go. I know nobody will be in the same mood the next day.

  1. The contrast in this haibun is so real to me it almost hurts. I know that feeling, Jane. I stay away from festivities these days. The ambiguity of ‘Light splatters punch’ is very effective.

    1. I hate engineered jollity in all its forms. It’s either bread and circuses, beer and skittles or sheer ignoring of reality. The harder they come etc etc. (my middle name is Scrooge)

  2. The problems, the bills, etc., don’t go away with the celebration. I can see the stooped shoulders, feel the misery.

    At first I thought this was going to be about your Ouija board encounter. Wasn’t that in some kind of crowd celebration–oh, maybe Bastille Day?

    1. Yes, it was Bastille Day. I don’t count that as forced jollity. It’s more of a traditional, reasonably sedate affair, fireworks and the firefighters’ ball. Why it’s the firefighters who organise it I don’t know.

      1. I don’t know. It’s not really celebrated here. 🙂
        I don’t think the event featuring the throwing of Butterscotch Tastykakes by a female impersonator as Marie Antoinette at the top of Eastern State Penitentiary is authentic. 😉

    1. These orgies of fun and good humour just don’t last even a few hours. When they’ve woken up the next morning they’ll remember that they hate the people they were dancing with.

      1. I find it depressing, but I also find it depressing how people end the holiday they’ve saved up all year for in a twelve hour traffic jam, with fractious children and there’s work the next day…

  3. I’m glad you referenced that elusive change again at the end of the prose, because when ‘you’ said, “it made a change,” I was floored by how vague and yet how common that statement is. Particularly in political rhetoric. And the caesura in the middle of the second line is effective in showing how quickly tomorrow comes, so why should we waste our days in drunkenness and feigned happiness?

    1. Thank you, Amaya. We seem to take it for granted that ‘a change’ is a good thing, yet ‘change’ as a concept is usually anathema to most people. The same ambivalence is in these high octane festivities—is is fun or violence, healthy high spirits or vicious depravity?

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