Only the wisest of us saw – Haibun


Only when you have eaten a cockroach do you appreciate soup.
— Ukrainian Proverb

Packed into a box-car we all felt Siberia in our empty stomachs. In the rhythmic thud-thud of heavy steel wheels across the freezing steppe, in ice-cold mornings when vapor from the thin soup filled our cramped compartment with a smell of cabbage. Eagerly we scooped down our rations, knowing that it would be the only things that would sustain us until we had reached a target. The journey was long and our dignity was peeled off like the layers of an onion. What only the wisest of us saw was that we would look upon this railway existence as a glorious respite before we entered through those gates where only the strongest of us would ever exit. Our crimes were different, but after a while only a few of us had any remembrance of a life where cockroaches were killed and not eaten.

razor-wire fence
reflects the winter moon
– howling wolfs

From wikimedia commons

From wikimedia commons

It’s been quite a while since I linked up with Ligo Haibun.. check it out for inspiration.
Also linked to Poetry Pantry

June 8, 2014

19 responses to “Only the wisest of us saw – Haibun

  1. Pow! So fine to have the narrator know past and future while still outside the prison gates. I only know Siberia through Solzhenitsyn, but this poem validates and makes even sharper what I read there. The haiku adds to the terror: wolves too are hungry.

  2. oh heck… i read a few books about siberia and how they made prisoners work and under what conditions…it’s tough and humiliating… wonderful haibun björn – hope you recovered from the jetlag already

  3. You have painted a chilling scene, Björn. At the threshold of such an existence, I wonder how many people can actually foresee what their lives are going to be like.

  4. I have read voraciously, all my life, about such times (perhaps in a former life I was there), and you have captured EXACTLY the feelings and thoughts of those who actually endured these events. I am reading of them right now, in fact. Fantastically well done poem, and you showcase a topic not too often thought about any more, a time when hardships were beyond endurance and yet, somehow, some people survived..

  5. I was so affected, when I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is just so sad to think of the degradation human beings subject each other to. Your words are so emotive of the almost surreal level of cruelty in such dehumanizing circumstances.

  6. Those howling voices below the moon surely haunt & chill—ah, why the world is occupied by sociopaths here & there. Your haiku is a perfect summation of pain & terror of those many long nights. Fantastic, Bjorn.

  7. Really a powerful haibun, Bjorn. So many vivid images. I especially liked dignity ‘peeled off like the layers of an onion.’ And, oh, the idea of eating cockroaches sounds very distressing.

  8. a life where cockroaches are killed an not eaten….eww…but i tell you what…facing a hard reality i would probably eat one as well…rough life for sure in siberia…

  9. very chilling Haibun you have here..also it is very close to reality..i always wonder why this suffering we humans have …no answer i guess:)

  10. I just read all the comments and wholeheartedly agree with every one. Your haibun read like an epic, and sometimes after a piece of reading its best to keep quiet and admire silently. That analogy, the peeled onion…..
    You caught everything so powerfully there, in what is unfathomable in its cruelty. Brilliant.

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