Glenn Coats’ Haibun “Witness”

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image: from the promotion of the film “Witness” on Prime Video


I cannot remember the splash of a fish at dusk, or the way a falling star scratches the darkness. I cannot recall the green colors of pines that change quickly in the light. These things are gone in an instant.

I do not remember all the details. It is either spring or autumn since we are not wearing heavy coats. The fire alarm has gone off and we parade in straight lines out two pairs of doors where we form lines with our teachers on the grass. I am near the end of the line; only teacher and Billy are following me. It is when I step out of the second set of doors that I glance behind.

I see my teacher slap Billy down and then just as quickly pick him up by the shirt. It is just a flash like a gust of wind. Was Billy talking too much? Did he sass her back? I know she saw my eyes. Does she see them still?

mountain lake –
on the bottom
the blur of rocks

Glenn Coats began writing haiku in the mid-1990s and shifted his focus to haibun starting in 2009. In the ensuing years, he has had numerous haiku and haibun published in a variety of journals and anthologies. Glenn has served as a haibun editor at Haibun Today and Guest Haibun editor at Contemporary Haibun Online. Coats has several collections out: Furrows of Snow, about rivers, was published by Turtle Light Press in 2019; it received an honorable mention in the 2020 Merit Book Awards competition sponsored by the Haiku Society of America (HSA); Snow on the Lake and Beyond the Muted Trees were published by Pineola Press; Waking and Dream which won a 2018 Merit Book Award for best book of haibun was published by the Red Moon Press; and Degrees of Acquaintance published by Snapshot Press.

I’m interested in your take on Glenn’s haibun. If you like it, could you offer a few words as to why it works for you? Please feel free to comment in the space below.

And if you’d like to read my commentary on Coats’ “Witness” -> go here

4 thoughts on “Glenn Coats’ Haibun “Witness”

  1. I like that the haiku echoes the first paragraph’s assertion that some experiences can be remembered only partially. The paragraphs about Billy are powerful enough to stand on their own; however, the ideas from first paragraph and haiku add even more power. I wonder whether the teacher remembers the Billy experience as a blur or distinctly or if she remembered it at all. I wonder how much she remembers of Glenn’s eyes. This haibun could be interpreted from many angles, but the title provides a focus that adds a third level of power.

    Liked by 1 person

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