Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Ligo Haibun 7/2/14 – Empty – Is there anybody in there?

with 10 comments


This week’s Ligo Haibun Challenge asked us to choose from the words Temple and Empty.

A haibun is:

  • Haibun is prose with at least one haiku
  • Haibun relate to a journey, whether the travels are exploration or  internal
  • They can contain an epiphany received through experience
  • The haiku normally has no syllable count, no capitals or full stop, and describes a moment or happening





Is there anybody in there?

Put a shell to your ear and you can hear the sea. A pair of salmon-white shells enlivened our childhood. They lived on the bay windowsill with a Swiss cheese plant, brass ashtrays cut from WW1 shells, and wooden trays of nuts, stale from the previous Christmas, or the one before that. It’s all gone now – cleared away by my unsentimental younger self ­– although a baby from the cheese plant strives to mirror its parent’s dominance.

My parents’ home is clean and tidy, minimalist, just as Mum always wanted. Dad no longer brings home the last must-have bargain to clutter up the place. He doesn’t kick the bank statements he wishes to avoid under the bed. There are no insurmountable credit card bills, final demands to hide, or piles of crap to dust around. Their life is ordered routine, safe, and lifeless.

Dad was the presence in every room, knew everything about anything, or a man who did. Conversations were long, arguments loud, laughter was easy and sweet. Our door was always open. Friends came for coffee and stayed for dinner, the night. Dad did the entertaining, Mum the work.

They both still live, but neither has a life. Five years ago Dad’s heart stopped – indulgent living created a corpulent body in need of a rest. Passersby intervened and a week later Dad woke from an induced coma. Reflexes twitched, eyes rolled and focused, limbs strengthened and a tongue learnt again how to form words, but lack of oxygen had left its mark. Twelve months of growth have been followed by years of slow decline. Feet shuffle, arms hang limp, speech is intermittent.

’Is there anybody in there?’ I want to scream as he struggles to answer a simple enquiry about his health. Is he unable to answer or doesn’t he care? I don’t know, and never will.


bear of a man

broken by hypoxia

becomes a silent shell


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Written by Sarah Ann

February 12, 2014 at 10:15 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Really loved the weaving of shells over a lifetime, their feeling of fullness, and equal disregard..ambiguity and the final feeling of the ’empty shell’ ….lovely


    February 13, 2014 at 10:35 am

    • I’m glad the shells top and bottom worked for you. I wasn’t sure I was trying too hard. It’s hard to pull out the salient when writing autobiographically.

      Sarah Ann

      February 15, 2014 at 12:28 pm

  2. The part that is missing…the now empty, simple life. This reminds me of my own father…who did not return at all. And what he left. All that was left …unsaid. Keep the good memories. I’m going to have to investigate Swiss Cheese plant. As I’ve not heard of that. (I looked it up…) I think I had a few relatives of it though –

    Thank you for your kind words and visit to my haibun.


    February 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    • Thank you for your kind words too. I am lucky to have a second chance, but some days it feels wasted, and I do not look forward to mourning twice.
      I really should have looked up the latin for Swiss Cheese plant – it seems a bit of a lame name just because it has holes in it’s leaves.

      Sarah Ann

      February 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      • When family end up with dementia or Alzheimer’s…or survive heart problems (even other medical issues which take parts away from the whole)…we do end up mourning twice. I agree it is not fun.

        But sometimes simple is fun – I would have had to have looked up the Latin name too…seem like someone just had fun in naming the Swiss Cheese plant…maybe a child?


        February 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      • Thanks again for your kind words.
        On the simple fun side of things, I looked up Swiss Cheese plant. Even its Latin name is fun – Monstera deliciosa. And there are some more weird common names:

        Sarah Ann

        February 17, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      • Thanks. I read that the Swiss Cheese plant was mildly invasive in Hawaii – and that reminded me of Kuduz
        which is originally from Japan.

        While Wiki may not be the greatest source…it will do occasionally. 😉

        Always good to learn new things 🙂


        February 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm

  3. Felt terrible reading this. very sad. Life is never the same.. Happiness is fleeting and short-lived whereas misery is permanent, as someone said.


    February 14, 2014 at 4:15 am

    • Sorry you felt terrible – I didn’t have much fun writing it. But, as the haibun format suggests personal journeys, that’s where I went. We still hold on to, and make the most of, the happy moments.

      Sarah Ann

      February 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm

  4. Strong and evocative – similar journeys some of us have also taken

    Eric Alagan

    February 16, 2014 at 1:49 am

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