Haibun for an outsider

For the dverse prompt inspired by this Mondrian.


Never wandered beyond the riches of the familiarly foreign, the jewels hidden in pine-forested valleys, arid olive covered hills, slow rivers and golden stone bridges. I am the red square on the edge looking in at the seething geometric movement and quietly turning away.

Pigeon flurry

a fountain in a square

a pot of basil on a window ledge

and the smell of tomatoes cooking

take me home.

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.

44 thoughts on “Haibun for an outsider”

  1. I love your haibun for an outsider, Jane! That is exactly how I feel now. My one foray outside of Europe was enough to last me a lifetime. I adore the familiarly foreign, especially ‘pine-forested valleys, arid olive covered hills, slow rivers and golden stone bridges’ – and everything in your haiku!

    1. Thank you. Memories of Italy are pretty strong for me. It was a familiar country though I haven’t been back for years.
      I actually assumed the painting was meant to represent a subway map 🙂 Either that or an electrical circuit.

  2. Big cities are for young people, who are still under the spell of their big dreams. As an actor, I had to choose between NYC and LA–I chose LA, more’s the pity.

    1. They’re where the schools and the jobs are. I know I didn’t even think about the negative aspects when I was younger. It’s only now when I look back I realise how many years I spent gritting my teeth and hating it.

  3. You do not seem to be a city person. Still, I’d like to point ou that New York is much more than lights and big buildings…it’s a loosely connected group of small distinct neighborhoods for the most part. Which is where we spend most of our time.
    I always feel uncomfortable in a place I don’t know whether its urban or rural.

    1. I didn’t mean you to think I was knocking NYC. I’ve never been there, only ever seen pictures of it, Manhattan, skyscrapers. It’s cities in general that have that effect on me, like something out of Blade Runner. I lived in London for a few years, and that’s a city made of lots of different villages/boroughs, but to get to work you have to travel for miles along arteries that are noisy, filthy and ugly. It’s too big. Makes me shudder when I think about it now. Even Bordeaux got too much for me to handle and that’s low rise low density, 240,000 people.

      1. Blade Runner…that was a frightening film. I think parts of the city can be like that, especially when it’s unfamiliar. I agree about commuting too. That’s why I was so much happier, if poorer, freelancing instead of working in an office. Perhaps a better balance will be reached for workers in the wake of the virus. Many places do seem to function ok without an office.

      2. I think we need to completely rethink urban environments, integrate all ages and social backgrounds into the same space. The way everything revolves around wealth is so immoral, the city centres where all the amenities are have become rich ghettos and the poor who make the amenities function are shunted out to the suburbs like the servants in big houses. A bit of what they call social mixity wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      3. I keep trying to work out a plan for towns where everyone had a place and no one suffered in isolation, but you’d have so many people opting out, grabbing a bigger space around themselves.

      4. I feel like things could be a little more inclusive at least. But people feel so entitled. They are always talking about what they “deserve”.

      5. It’s a meaningless notion. Unless you accept that the market sets a price and a value on everything. For splitting logs with his engine, our neighbour charges us almost twice the hourly rate my husband earns for teaching at the university. And that’s cash in hands, no bill, and husband has to pass him the logs. Deserve?

  4. I find Mondrian appealing; I’m not sure why. I don’t think I’d seen this work before. I appreciate your depicting it as urban complexity. Cities are impressive, though I tend to feel I’m visiting some kind of exhibition. Smelling basil and tomatoes in a smaller place sounds grand.

    1. If you don’t actually live in the city, it is like walking round a museum or a zoo.
      My mother liked Mondrian too. I’ve never understood it myself. My failing, I know. I do like basil though.

  5. I do like the idea of you identifying with the red square, and then looking at the rest lying out before you. I am a sucker for red tomato sauce with lots of basil and oregano so I enjoyed the sense of your tanka. Although I thought a haibun was to have a haiku?

    1. Simple pleasures 🙂
      It’s a gogyohka not even a tanka. I’m not sure how to write those, or haiku for that matter. You’re probably right that the haibun is supposed to include a haiku. I prefer gogyohka.

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