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A Hundred Gourds 5:3 June 2016

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On a haibun by Terri L. French


by Marion Clarke



I was immediately drawn to this amusing haibun by Terri L French:

Appearances



I don’t remember the name of the movie  but I do remember its most famous line — “I see dead people.” Fortunately, I do not see dead people. I see faces. Just about everywhere—on a stone, a cracker, a ceiling tile, a mildew stain.  Faces everywhere.  Not famous faces, not cartoon character faces, and certainly not the face of Jesus.  Just faces.  The kind with two eyes a nose and a mouth.   Sometimes a frontal view and sometimes in profile.    Smiling, yawning, sneering, crying, wrinkled or youthful. I read somewhere online that this qualifies me as neurotic. I don’t know about that, but the last face I saw — on the leaf of an artificial fig tree in my psychiatrist’s office—winked at me.

life drawing class
the model’s face
deadpan

Haibun Today, Volume 9, Number 4, December 2015

The opening statement is a little like coming across a crossword clue in a newspaper or overhearing a question in a pub quiz to which you can’t help providing the answer – in this case, the title of the film Sixth Sense.

The narrator goes on to reveal that rather than seeing ‘dead people’, like the character in the film, she sees faces. For a second, this appears almost as strange as being surrounded by the deceased, until the reader discovers that it is really the shape of faces she sees. Ah, now this sounds familiar, as I sometimes see shapes that look like faces in the clouds, for example, or in a wallpaper pattern (and I hope I am not neurotic!)

The last line of prose is intriguing as we question how an imagined face on a fig leaf can wink –especially since it’s an artificial leaf. Because this takes place in a psychiatrist’s office, we might even start to doubt the narrator’s sanity a little.

Then, suddenly, we are transported via the haiku to a life drawing class where a model poses, with her deadpan expression. I get the distinct feeling that the narrator is playing with the reader and has transposed her face to that of this model. While trying not to laugh, she is saying to the reader, “honest, that leaf really did wink.” – just as this haibun really did make me smile.


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