Tag Archives: Finsbury Park

‘From the Deep’ in Haibun Today

Haibun Today


I’d stopped writing haibun for a while. It was that moment thing. Every time I tried to write in the moment I found it difficult—nay, impossible—to stay in it. All sorts of ideas bubbled up: memories, associations, judgments; my need to appear clever. I wrote about the past, about objects, about regrets that sat in the heart like stones. Too much luggage, too much heaviness, too much of this world. Weighed down I stopped. I hoped for a prompt, a muse who would give me the push I needed.

Then one day, in Finsbury Park, sharing a bench with a woman talking to herself, my wish was granted. Dishevelled, wild-eyed, looking at all directions at once, thin as if she never ate, muscle fibers moving all at once, mumbling continuously. She turned and took a quick look at me, fell silent for what must have been a whole minute, and then started again. I tried to make out what she was saying. I realized she was reciting Homer’s Odyssey. In ancient Greek! I tried to follow. I could not make out whole passages, got lost in translation then caught up with her again. The holes in the recitation made by my absences did not matter. I sat with her for a long time. Darkness fell without me realising. A chill crept up from the soil. The sounds of the city surrounding the Park changed to an indeterminate, persistent buzz. Dark figures approached and slank away. Every now and then she wiped her nose, rubbed her forehead, played with her earring. I followed her recital long into the night. Long after the guards locked the Park gates and the full moon bathed us in silver.

deeper than the wine-dark sea urchins
Haibun Today, Volume 11, Number 3, September 2017

Where home is

He scours streets, bus and tube stations for newspapers. Two years since he arrived in London and he is still amazed at how many newspapers lie discarded around. Although he cannot decipher the writing, they are ideal for keeping warm.

He stuffs them inside his pullover and feels like a king: he needs for nothing. He is warm and fed: the city overflows with leftovers. He beds down whenever he is tired, wherever he finds a warm doorway from where he can look at the sky.

He loves summer best. At night, sneaking into Finsbury Park, he heads for his favourite bench, near the lake. It is cool and the sky is full of stars. Not as spectacular as the sky in his village, in the floodplains of the Mesopotamian Iraqi marshes, where the stars shine like diamonds on black velvet, but it works.

It illuminates the memories that follow him like his shadow: the rice fields and the boat he made himself from reeds, the water buffalo; his father, punting through narrow channels. The Garden of Eden.

Then he counts the stars, looks for patterns, for directions; for a sign that it is safe to return home. His heart, filled with nostalgia, trembles like a bird. Often though, he counts his blessings: here, among the floods of people filling the channels of this city, he can blend in and feel safer than in the marshes of his homeland – till it is time to return.

The End

Hot from my computer keyboard, this new short story written for the 52/250 A Year of Flash project, was first posted on their website. A story about a war-savaged, homeless man sleeping rough in Finsbury Park, North London, and the cruel strands of present-day displacement and identity.

10 December 2010 

Where is your home?

Marshes in Iraq, photo here and  here 

For photos of Finsbury Park I took myself, see here