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Winter 2008, vol 6 no 4


Bitter Joy
Ken Jones


Perhaps it is the rare east wind that shuffles the cards and puts a spell on this day. For here it is the westerlies that have shaped everything – even states of mind. There's something unnerving about smoke blowing backwards. And my neighbour's Red Dragon worn to a frazzle with flapping all morning in the wrong direction.

Through loud woods an arthritic climb to the Llew Goch – our two-tongued Red Lion. Smoke down the chimney and the regulars quieter than usual. Lunch at my corner table.

The cawl's so thick
my spoon's bolt upright
the barmaid's mocking smile

I opt for the steeper and wilder way home. Still up to it. Turned up collar, hands deep in pockets, I take the path along the margin where meadow gives way to marsh. Treading carefully between past and future.

Yellow gorse
sweet sickly scent
of memory

The bleat of newborn lambs, who think it's always like this. And dying beside the stream a pregnant ewe.

At my voice
she turns to me
two crow black sockets

I say some kind of blessing. Her Eurotag M578 puts me in mind of my own measured going. The monthly blood tests plotted on graph paper.

spelt out
in small blue squares

Snakes and ladders. Cat and mouse. Both of us playful, but it's the cat who has time on her side. And time, time is the climbing of this path through young larches, livid green with yet another year of life. Higher still the plantation has been shattered by wind-throw – a consternation of uprooted and dismasted trees. But some stout oldsters with a stronger grip still thresh about.

Twisted grey larch
on its veined roots
I brace myself

Breaking out on top, a sheep track threads through the bracken to the boundary wall.

Unlatched mountain gate
itself alone
swinging and swaying in the wind

With beating heart, breasting the head of the pass, all of a sudden my own wooded valley below, with its winding river and scattered farms.

Blown on a cold wind
this rain
of bitter joy


Ken Jones Ken Jones is a co-editor of the annual volume Contemporary Haibun, and the electronic journal Contemporary Haibun Online. He contributes regularly to UK haiku magazines, as well as being represented in British and American anthologies. For his contribution to Pilgrim Foxes: Haiku and Haiku Prose, co-authored with Jim Norton and Sean O'Connor, Jones was awarded the Sasakawa Prize for Original Contributions in the Field of Haikai. Publications: Arrow of Stones (British Haiku Society, 2002); Stallion's Crag (Iron Press, 2003). His haibun "Travellers" won first place in the 2005 English Language Haibun Contest. He is currently preparing for the press a new collection of haiku and haibun entitled "The Parsley Bed."