to the small poem and the quiet voice within

roberta beary | barfly

Roberta Beary

Editor’s Note: The following haibun, “barfly” by Roberta Beary is from a new book, LIGHTING THE GLOBAL LANTERN, A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Haiku and Related Literary Forms, by Terry Ann Carter, noted poet, writer, educator. As a teacher’s guide, it’s chock full of good info, everything a teacher needs to know and do to make these form come alive in the classroom.

As a teaching guide it suffers a little from overweight (the nature of teaching guides) in drawing too many definitive lines of just WHAT exactly constitutes haiku, haibun, tanka, haiga…(Help!) leaving any inexperienced teacher and every would-be poet gasping for a full mouth of nuts and bolts prose. (Give ’em the minimal instruction; let ’em fly in the dark.)

Nevertheless, writing-‘Eastern’ by-Western/Eastern-rules-or-not, a treasure trove of resource, reflection, revelation.

There are also at least two exceptional essays in this book (probably more): Jeffrey Winke’s, hands-on “How I Write Haibun” and Jim Kacian’s historical eye-opener, “Haigas: Pictures and Words Together at Last.” Both worth the price of admission alone.

LIGHTING THE GLOBAL LANTERN sheds plenty of light for readers and writers outside the classroom as well. Plenty to ponder and practice, sense Ah! in the dark, watching for the words to come. — Norbert Blei

In her next haibun Roberta uses unconventional punctuation (no capital letters, no end punctuation) and sentence structure, perhaps to add to the rebellion of the persona she is using in the haibun. She describes the linked haiku in this way, “Imagine that you met ‘the one’ in high school and let that person somehow slip out of your life. Would you be haunted by a recurring image of what might have been? This is the setting for “barfly.” What feelings do I hope to evoke in the haiku? In illustrating the ceiling fan’s slow twirl I want to underscore the sense of monotony in a bar scene and its regulars. The tip jar represents another level of the mundane. Juxtapose these images with the adrenaline rush of being with ‘a bad boy the nuns warn you about’ whose kisses ‘just ooze out of you.’ The haiku also serves to pinpoint the dreariness of the present atmosphere in the bar as contrasted with the more exciting past as viewed through the distorted lens of a barfly. Other nuances are also present. The swirl of the fan is like the ticking of a clock. Is it one long night of drinking or many? Is it a momentary longing for an old love or a regret that always is present? The answers depend on the reader. Think of it this way: The haiku serves to color the prose of the haibun. The final touch is what the reader’s own experience brings to the interpretation.”


Roberta Beary

i was just a kid in those days and he was one of the bad boys the nuns warn you about and my old man told me stay far away from that one but i couldn’t help myself and when i saw him he was walking up to me with his marlboros tucked under his tee-shirt like marlon brando with those biceps and his hair smelled of his last smoke and he kissed me one of those long kisses that just ooze out of you and shake up your insides at the same time but what did i know back then not enough which is why he’ll always be the one that got away

last call
a ceiling fan stirs
the tip jar


  1. Henry Denander

    wonderful! thanks, Norb.

  2. Jean Casey

    …the risky one, the dangerous one, every red-blooded woman recalls….

  3. susan hannus

    interesting poem
    regret, longing…the dark energy of them… that rattles around in the present..especially in a wonderful bar like your photo
    all moody and nostalgic
    Oh, how I love your words…”let ’em fly in the dark”

  4. Barbara Vroman

    Beautiful, beautiful, picture of the bar. No honky-tonk this one, someone has loved it into being. Almost a cathedral of bars. What better place to mourn the loss/and good fortune of never traveling the road of the bad boy to its hurting end.

  5. Pris Campbell

    I absolutely love this!

  6. Jackie

    I love this Norb. Another home run! I like the no punctuation and no caps. Great haiku at the end too.

  7. Judith Wiker

    a very tasty morsel indeed!

  8. joe grant

    Haunting. The picture, the remembrance, the haiku at the end. Haunting…

  9. Pete Thelen

    Thanks Norb. The bar looks familiar.

  10. Charlie Rossiter

    I like the energy in the prose…as for the content…well, as the old Tom Rush song says “ladies love outlaws”

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