A haibun from Danny Pelletier


Stories about his drunk college buddy, who once scaled an impossible geological structure when the rest of the party was looking in the other direction, don’t linger on his tongue. “How’d you get up there? We only looked away for a minute.” “I don’t remember.” Ninth graders of course think this is funny. We chuckle when he tells us about cleavage, the tendency of rock to break along planes of weaknesses. On the first day of class, he projects on the pull-down screen a Peanuts cartoon of Linus squatting, staring as he too squats, stares at Glenda’s chest. Once out of habit I shifted my eyes ahead when scooting my chair forward in another class, my gaze tunneling down the corridor between Glenda’s breasts as she, sitting across from me, was in the throes of the same motion. Preston, her boyfriend, later whispered to me, “I saw what you did.” Yet this man, our teacher, is less timid with his gaze; picture Charles Schulz drawing dotted lines connecting eyes to breasts, as Linus’s eyes are connected to perhaps a football. An observant comic would follow the lines from girl to girl to girl, always skipping the girl in the back row as Family Circus’s Billy might hopscotch the neighbor’s lawnmower. Weeks later the dotted lines rest on my blank homework, and this same teacher speaks words to me, words like brother, college, science. I am only being lazy, rebellious. Sure, I can identify metamorphic rocks no sweat, but why? Already a budding writer, I am more interested in feeling the rough foliations of the human soul. I direct him to the girl in the back row, who struggles daily to scale the crags of the syllabus. “Forget about her,” he says. “She’s a lost cause.”

would-have-been mother
unsure: gneiss or schist or slate?
child’s breasts weeping milk

*Danny Pelletier's haibun has appeared in Ink Sweat & Tears, Contemporary Haibun Online and The Raleigh Review. He lives with his wife and two children in central NY, where he teaches writing. This summer, he'll be teaching a workshop on haibun at Hartwick College's Pine Lake Environmental Campus.

An earlier version of Cleavage appeared in Contemporary Haibun Online

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