I originally wrote this story in Spanish on April 11, 2010 —at least so it was dated. I had been reading the story of Genji translated to Spanish, in which the characters would exchange small messages with curious expressions, such as “wet sleeves” to indicate they had been crying. Along those lines, I decided to write this story with some haikus, but also, for the first time, give it a particular personal touch. Years later, on October 28, 2018, I translated it to English so that my partner, who did not speak Spanish, could read something by me.

A haiku is a Japanese form of poetry with 17 syllables (often organized in verses of five, seven and five syllables) describing mostly everyday things, such as seasons, in a beautiful, profound way (or so I’ve heard).

“In the frozen light / in silence and emptiness / a chirping cricket”, chanted the poet-spirit with a certain melancholy.

“You’re right”, said its partner in approval. “The only soul I can perceive in that house is his, and it’s sunk in despair”.

It assessed the situation with methodic coldness, hearing the cricket’s chirping echoing in the man’s loneliness.

“And do his eyes die / in the total absence of / any human life”, the poet continued, and its partner nodded.

“But I suppose that if he turns on the lights of the house he will notice everything empty, everything artificially lighted in contrast to what he’s feeling, right?”

“He is now burdened / beyond his will and control / by heavy wet sleeves”.

“Do you think so?”, continued the other one, a bit doubtful. “I don’t see him crying, but if you say so, so must be it. He’s alone, and he’s frustrated. I understand.”

“Apart and away / dances the shining fire / just by the water”, the poet sighed. There was a heavy pause before the answer, in which the other spirit made the ghostly equivalent of frowning, biting its lip and scratching its head.

“I don’t get that one”, he said finally, and went on with its voice full of admiration for its partner. “You always see well beyond… you mean she left him because they were incompatible, like fire and water…? Or… are you talking about the kettle?”

The poet-spirit made the ghostly equivalent of shaking its head, rediscovering yet again that its partner was just an impossible case. Its speech was messy, it saw as much as a mere human and pretended they were holding an actual conversation. Wasn’t the poet saying everything already with its haiku?

“Flowers are falling / leaving earth sad and naked: / it is now Winter”, it said finally.

“She, his life and his beauty, is missing”, the other nodded. “He’s by himself, and cold, like a wasteland, and… wait”.

They waited. Everything stopped. Their field of vision expanded a couple of meters.

“There she is now, she’s back… Look at her! She just walked in! She’s even turning the lights on…”

“Hey sweetie, the power is out, why don’t we sit in the backyard?”, yelled the woman as she entered the house, carrying a small bag.

“Sure”, the man answered weakly from the dark depths of the house.

She looked around the kitchen, and as she dropped the contents of the bag —croissants and biscuits— in a tray, she found the kettle on the fire. She frowned and said, feigning indignation:

“What does this mean? The maté isn’t ready yet?!”

The man emerged from the shadows staring at his hand and extended his arm so she could look at it too.

“I got burnt”, he explained. “I dropped the kettle on my hand, just a little while ago I put new water to heat”.

She examined the wet sleeve of his jumper, covering the red wrist, and kissed it softly. Then, looking him in the eye lovingly, she put a croissant in his mouth. The poet was observing the scene speechless, overwhelmed. It could feel the man’s smile, it could feel what was going on inside him, the same way he had felt it before.

“And the clouds depart / clearing the dark and cold sky / for a sweet half-moon”, he sung in admiration, struck by the effect of the woman’s arrival.

“I’m blinded by his joy”, said its partner, disgusted. “Let’s leave them alone, they have enough company as it is”.

The poet couldn’t help but nod (stunned, in awe) and follow it, speechless.

Mariana Montes
Mariana Montes
Doctor in Linguistics

My research interests include cognitive and corpus semantics and visual analytics.

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