welcome to the haikutimes

Haikutimes issue #90, Hanoi, Vietnam, July 3-6. 2004. Haiku and photographs by Jonathan Machen

Our bus driver - a roll of fat on the back of his neck
introduces himself through his fear that
we will be like the type of customer he had last week
someone who makes him dig through the luggage bin
then leaves and gets angry.
he used to drive trucks
now he drives a RTD bus,
shakes his head at bad drivers
and drunk college students
he has 25 horses, a farm
a brother who served in Vietnam who nearly didn't come back,
and a very poor opinion of Reagan.

He is reasonable but
insistent to have all his observations ratified by us,
traveling newlyweds on the eve of a journey
who wanted to have a front-row view
but are now a target for his persistent verbosity.
He confides in us without sensing our discomfort -
never has the drive to DIA seemed so long -
I write a haiku - he wants to know if I am taking notes about his driving style -
I tell him I am compiling a report about him -

a small lady about four feet high
few teeth and mysterious chest and abdomen budges
asks us why we would want to be going to Vietnam
before she hits us up for cash.

calm pervades airport
white canopy glows in sun
boy in red shirt sings

destiny and free will
inspired by conversation with bus driver
who used to work 108 hours a week
and works holidays
says he - we're - poor people
just left to work out what destiny serves us
but i wonder -
do we not have an active hand
in choosing our path
and if we don't can we choose happiness first -

are all these vietnamese folks happy
with their lot in what the world has served them
crouching on the street swelling vegetables
perhaps that is enough
if you never know anything else

first faux pas of trip
nearly losing 10 dollars
bad change maneuver

chatty bus driver
appears personable
for only awhile

soon we discover
the bus driver loves horses
and a whole lot more

two on a moped
the one in back spreads a note
across broad shoulders

delicate cargo
blue ceramic water urns
dangling from moped

ten-forty a.m.
july 5 in hanoi
mopeds swarm like germs

old wrinkled turtle
embalmed in glass case by lake
humid incense mist

fruits, roots, dead chickens
eggs stacked, jack fruit sliced in two
sales people crouching

jewelry, hats and shoes
plying their trade in hanoi
just to make a dong

gutters with green goo
noodles, soapsuds and the like
crabs wrapped in red

a citys chaos
but only to this westerner
who walks with guide book

search for benadril
along noisy, stinky streets
pollen in the air

blacksmith's shop sparking
bats flying over green lake
dense clouds, lightning

spotting another
with lonely planet guide book
searching map, like me

where are the traffic lights?
mopeds and pedestrians
doing traffic dance

two dollar tuna
not the same as foolish craigs
here by hoan kiem lake

the noisy packed circuitous streets
we delicately step around mopeds
which crowd the sidewalk

leader Ho Chi Minh
lying in concrete box
we file past slowly

helping to preserve
cool air of mausoleum
ho chi minh sleeping

star and sickle
over embalmed dead pale guy
resting dainty hands

against his wishes
instead of being cremated
leader on display

just as he left it
avocado telephone
in the house of stilts

he wakes up each day
to people filing past him
with great somberness

planning the whole trip
only serves to stress me out
one day at a time

though I am closer
how much less i really know
about asian folk

forced to walk in street
terrified by traffic
avoiding mopeds

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen