Mind blank, page blank, tick-tock-tick …: tock …
After ten minutes, a thought filtered into Figgis’s brain and he made a note of it: ‘Sunday evening’.
Written out, it didn’t seem much of a thought. But it wasn’t to be wasted. Once more, he checked Miss Twigg’s poetry homework hand out:
The haiku comes from Japan. It springs from a moment of heightened awareness (the ‘haiku moment’) and expresses an emotional experience, or reaction to an aspect of Nature.
Using the traditional 3-line pattern of five-seven-five syllables, produce a haiku to describe a meaningful moment in your life. Do not make your lines rhyme.
Figgis had been waiting for a Meaningful Life-moment since Friday. But it had been a brain-dead couple of days and now it was time to force the issue with purposeful thought. He lay back and scanned his senses … Bed-soft, ceiling-white, sticky tongue-taste, sweaty sock-smell. None of this was the sort of stuff that poets feed upon. Except the Japanese, perhaps. Do they wear socks? Get a grip, Figgis.
Hark! From the outer world, sounds impinged … In the garden, magpies squawked. Downstairs, people argued. From his older sister’s room came a demented disco-noise: thudda-thumpa-thump-thump …There was a word for all this, he knew – a long word, a poetic word. In the dimmer part of his mind, the word struggled for expression. Pan- … pande- something. He checked the dictionary and found it.
Excellent. Five syllables that perfectly described Sunday nights hereabouts. He wrote the word on his pad and closed his eyes in search of a further surge of awareness.
His mother came in and asked why he wasn’t doing his homework.
‘I am doing it,’ he said. ‘This is how Poets poe. They lie down and think. They have visions. People bring them food. What’s for supper?’
‘Beefburgers,’ said his mother. She looked at his pad and read out ‘Sunday evening – Pandemonium? Three words, Boswell! You’ve had all week-end. Surely you’ve done more than this?’
‘It’s a Japanese thing. They don’t have words. They have emotions and awareness and they come out as syllables.’
She counted on her fingers. ‘It’s still only eight.’
‘It depends whether you say ‘eve-ning’ or ‘ev-e-ning,’ said Figgis. ‘I’m having it as three. I only need six more. Mind you, it could take weeks.’
‘You’ve got five minutes. Give your syllables a rest and sort out this room. It’s a shambles.’ She ran a finger through the dust on his cupboard and went out.
‘Yes, Mum. Thanks.’ He put the word ‘shambles’ on his pad. Two down, five to go.
Figgis closed his eyes. There passed across his vision a camel-train of thoughts and he wrote out the words: beefburger, buns, Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, Harald Hardrada …
Enough. He counted syllables, assessed their relevance. None of them worked. He cast about for another word and up came pterodactyl. He wrote it down, he crossed it out.
Rethink. He had the pandemonium thing and the shambles thing and the Sunday thing. It just needed bringing together: a comment or consequence of the Moment …
His sister Claire hammered on the door. ‘Boswell!’
‘Go away,’ shouted Figgis, ‘I’m on homework.’
She came in, looking crabby. ‘I’ve got a headache. Where are the Paracetamol?’
‘No idea,’ said Figgis. ‘I don’t use them. But thanks.’
‘Never mind.’ Figgis checked the syllables and wrote the word, beaming.
She slammed the door.
Figgis went to wash his hands for supper.
On the landing, his sisters squabbled. Downstairs, his Mother banged saucepans. His father shouted ‘Now, Boswell!’
They were all in a vile mood. After dinner it would be worse – and would be an excellent time, thought Figgis, to share with them his poetic vision – a perfectly formed haiku. It had been tough going and the Twig would certainly find fault, but if she was here – God forbid – she would see that his piece carried the true Essence of Now-ness.
Sunday evening shambles.
Next week: Could Do Better