Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Warrior’s Journal: All That Is Hidden by the Forest

A Haibun

The bamboo trees conspired together like the sea, my love, the sound one I wish I could put into a flask and send home to you like a drink of sake. It brought to mind those days, years gone now, when we were young. I had injured my leg in the campaigns and been sent home for almost a full year. We walked slowly, your arm in mine, bearing the weight for me. I had little skill for words or thoughts then, and I didn’t say all that those days meant to me. Perhaps I didn’t know then, anxious to prove myself, to go and rejoin my comrades in their bloody pursuits. I will say it now, though. Being with you, with no task greater than walking a bit further each day, with no tension or worry—those were great days, and made me understand my own great fortune.

A leaf falls slowly,
afraid of the earth below,
earth is grave and womb.

An owl’s glinting
eye, high in the rustling
wood, is treasured now.

Our young hands touching
within the dappled shadow,
springtime long ago.

Your brother fell ill, love, and we left him with a healer and a dozen soldiers before we entered the deeper parts of the forest. The enemy waited for us there, and I was glad to leave at least one cherished person behind before the fighting started, even leaving him to illness and fever. I know it sounds cruel, but it was for the best. If I could provide a reprieve for anyone, I would choose for them not to face what we faced within those boughs.

To me, even now, it feels unreal—just a crashing horror of chaotic shouts. I remember giving orders, desperate ones to loose arrows blindly into dimness and shifting shadow. I remember the blood as it lay dark against the low shrubs. I remember my soldiers’ pale faces as they sank to the ground and were still. One in every three men died within the space of four days. My spirit is lessened from it, and none of us will ever forget those we lost. Fate sees fit to put these awful experiences in front of us for her own reasons. I cannot fathom them. I wish only to finish this march and come home to you. No heroism or duty seems sweet or just to me now. All my martial pursuits seem hollow and meaningless. Only my family and my trusted friends seem to matter now. The silence and goodness of forests is broken within me, and only the touch of your hands upon my skin can heal these unseen wounds.

I have seen madness,
the blood clinging thick upon
summer’s green foliage.

All mankind is less,
wars eroding what spirit
our springtime once held.

The light-footed deer,
safe from us now that we lie
pale upon the earth.

Seasons will go by,
forgetting all horrors and
the debts of honor.

Only this contains
hope: your eyes, your skin, your heart,
saplings growing new.

May we meet again
when cherry blossoms promise
perfect redemption.


swiftboat said...


Words fail me - as they usually do, but more so in this case. The Haibun series is proving to be a rich avenue for your writing. I'd hoped to see another one.


Stranger Ken said...

The haibun isn't a form I know much about, but in this piece, there is a tremendously powerful sense of the extent to which individuals are imprisoned within codes of conduct which destroy their autonomy and prevent their expressing all that is best in themselves. One the one hand, their nobility of self-sacrifice becomes clear, although on the other, they are deprived of liberty,happiness, love and, eventually, life. Hence, the narrator seems to be demonstrating that what is defined as noble requires the sacrifice of almost everything else that human beings value. To suffer so much, of course, heightens the narrator's perception of the transience of all things and the ephemeral nature of goodness, beauty and so on. A fascinating piece. Do you ever feel that you might be living in the wrong age and culture?

Mushster said...

I'm speechless but it's official ~ I've turned to total mush.

Firehawk said...


I've been really enjoying the continuing story in the Warrior's Journal series. It's great that some other people appreciate them. At this point, I'm not totally sure if there are any more segments left. I think I could leave it at this, but I'm not sure. We'll see if the mood strikes me again. Thanks for coming over and saying hello.


Another great comment from you. You've grasped the philosophical difficulty at the heart of the poem perfectly. In regards to your question, I suppose I've had the hubris to think of the age as being "wrong", rather than myself being chronlogically misplaced. I'm fascinated by different cultures and time periods, but at the same time, I find myself deeply entrenched with the way of the present. Like everything about being mortal and living on this world, it becomes an intractable riddle if you look hard enough at it.


I hope your incipient liquifaction is a good sign (grins).

Thanks, all. Glad to see you here yet again.

Bill said...

Firehawk - Written like a true warrior... there's 'resolved desolation' that takes over in times of peril... where thoughts turn to those you hope will be spared this by your efforts. A hope almost, that what you, and your comrades are going through will bring a 'goodness' somehow.

As always.. nicely done.

Soulless said...

I am most impressed with the haibun prose in this piece. The first sentence alone sent me adrift onto another world. *wistful sigh*

The silence and goodness of forests is broken within me, and only the touch of your hands upon my skin can heal these unseen wounds.

Wwaaaa it's ssoooo beautiful! I feel as if my chest is about to explode as I reread this line...


You are a blend of sensations gifted with meaningful words, dear.

Firehawk said...


Thanks for the kind words. For this one, it felt more like fiction, since my primary aim was to write "from the shoes" of the narrator. Glad it came off properly.


Again, I'm honored to recieve such excellent praise. You brighten my day with such kindness.

Across Inconstant Breath

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