Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
Contents Archives About Simply Haiku Submissions Search
Autumn 2006, vol 4 no 3

HAIBUN

Sanctuary
Steve Dolphy

 

I get off the motorcycle taxi at the entrance to the "Sedona Suite" luxury apartments, situated on the outskirts of Hanoi, and ask the driver to wait for me. He parks his motorcycle at a small cafe by the main gate, orders a cup of green tea, and starts chatting to the lady owner.

"Cafe Memory"
shoeshine boys spy
promising feet

I've come here to teach English to a Japanese expatriate, who is also a teacher. The security guard opens the gate and waves me in. His colleague, sitting in a corrugated metal sentry box, looks up from a newspaper. All eyes are on me. They cannot understand why I don't want to ride through on the motorcycle.

A five minute walk at most, this is the only place in Hanoi where I can walk freely, without being hassled by street-vendors, or constantly having to avoid motorbikes, bicycles, and cars. I pause momentarily to listen to the silence.

To the right I can see the West Lake. A fisherman is squatting silently on the shore, and another is in a boat he is rowing with his feet. On the far shore is the city skyline - mostly the glistening white homes of the nouveau rich.

luxury villa
from the lake mud
lotus lilies

To my right is the first of the four storey block of apartments. The buildings are named after trees with names like "Dittany" and "Mimosa". Here in the shadow of these buildings I enjoy their coolness. I pass another security guard with a walkie-talkie, and realize they have been observing and reporting to each other about me. I nod my greeting to him. A "Honda Dream" motorbike glides past me. This make of bike has become an iconic symbol of what modern Vietnam aspires to.

girl on a motorcycle
on pillion   bubble-wrapped
a bust of Uncle Ho

I arrive at "Balsam" block, where my student lives, and take the lift to her apartment on the second floor. Standing outside her door, I unlace my shoes and ring the bell. My student opens the door, and invites me in.

in her dictionary
the day's new word
already circled

Steve Dolphy was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England, in 1961. He worked in business and finance until he settled on psychology as a career. He has travelled widely, especially in Southeast Asia over the past 15 years. He studied Vietnamese at the Hanoi National University, counselled expatriates in Vietnam and taught English while living in Vietnam for four years. He and his Vietnamese wife, Hang, whose name means "crescent moon", have two daughters. They now live in the UK where Steve works as a clinical psychologist.

Steve started writing haiku in 1998 and has had over 190 poems published to date. His poems have appeared in Snapshots, Still, Time Haiku, Blithe Spirit, Presence, The Haiku Quarterly, Paper Wasp, Kokako, The Heron's Nest, Raw Nervz, The Hermitage, and Frogpond. Some of his work has also been anthologized. For example, in The Acorn Book of Contemporary Haiku (Acorn Press, UK, 2000) and The New Haiku (Snapshots Press, UK 2002). A number of his poems have also been featured in the annual Red Moon Anthology series.

Steve's debut poetry collection, The Cry of the Duck Egg Seller (Ram Publications, UK, ISBN 0 9545630 1 8), was published in 2004. It consists of 79 haiku and senryu written during his time in Vietnam.