Cartonera haibun

This sanctuary
is scented with cardamom,

We gather weekly,
share book-fervor and glue-sticks,
dismantling boxes,
in the unforgettable
fragrance of coffee and books.

Peace settles on us
with silence and cardboard dust;
nothing else exists.

This tanka sandwiched between haiku (or senryu) is my attempt to capture the layers of experience in a bilingual book art workshop. The Phoenix Cartonera collective is held at Palabras bilingual bookstore, which, in addition to its wonderful collection of reading material and art, also boasts its own organic grocery and coffee bar. There, I found more than a workshop for learning the craft of creating handmade books. It’s a community of shared interests. The boxes we dismantled were the barriers between us as strangers. The biggest surprise for me was the calming effect of fine manual work. We could all leave our concerns outside and concentrate on creating something beautiful.

Note: This haibun has had an interesting few days. It was inspired in part by a dVerse challenge to write a poem in honor of the Hiroshima memorial. My idea was to create a peace poem full of contrasts. For me, the malleable cardboard contrasted with the hard surface of a stone memorial; the cardboard dust was the antithesis of the debris from a bomb. I wanted the scents of coffee and spices to counteract the stench of death. Creation was meant to contrast with destruction. All of that was inside my head, but what came out on paper, in the eye of the reader, wasn’t clear – it missed the target. This isn’t the first time I’ve written something that required the reader to work too hard. It was a perfect opportunity for me to think about communicating through my writing, and it even generated another poem. I haven’t decided yet – do I love subtlety and inference better than being understood?



  1. Very nice poems.

    Talking about bilingual poetry. a friend just had her poetry book (in the process of publishing) translated into Spanish with English on opposing pages. I’m thinking about having my poetry (after English version published) translated into Chinese. Have to hire someone to translate though, I forgot a lot of Chinese after being in the US for 40+ years.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t pay attention to it. She wrote poetry about every member in her family. She uses her own painting as the book cover. It’s very nice. One long poem flows to the second page crossed the Spanish, everything else looks good.


  2. Indeed, this Haibun has had an interesting week. 😉 After reading more closely, I can see the subtle comparisons that you make to the themes of the Hiroshima peace ceremony. Subtlety is at the heart of haikai, and your poem demonstrates that. It also witnesses to hope—that in simple, ordinary acts of creation, we become the people that choose peace, not war. Thank you Denise, and thank you for your patience. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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