Haibun: The Mermaid

Demon of Lust

(Actual portrait of Ol’ Mrs. Hoephner above)

I understand that Haibun Monday is open all week at Dverse??? Oh, goodie!

I am new to haibun, but so much in love with this form! A dear friend and poet, Steve Issak, in California with numerous poetry books published, has written for years in this form, and I never picked up how wonderful it is. 

“The Mermaid” pestered me at 2am to write her ‘live’ and I could barely see the keyboard, but this grievance has been deep inside since second grade.  May my tormentor find her bench in Hell and be stuck to it!

Lady Nyo….I’ve never told this story to anyone.  Now you, dear reader, are the first to know.


The ‘50’s was a time of Mickie Mantle vs. Marilyn Monroe, Better Red than Dead, or Dead than Red, confusing for children as we didn’t understand ‘why’ we were to change color. The ‘50’s was surviving the drunken kindness of a father and the sober malice of a mother, with all of us siblings carrying water to both sides.

Second grade and I remember tall windows that cranked out at chest height but only the teacher was allowed to touch the crank and the smell of ages: mold, asbestos and lead paint was a constant in our tender lives.

I remember being given a small lump of grey/green clay for ‘arts and crafts’. I remember the mermaid I molded: rolled clay for hair and arms, perky breasts, a split tail. I used my fingernail to make scales. I remember old Mrs. Hoephner coming down the aisle, her knarled hands balled into fists, her grimace, her white hair floating like a wrath around her head and she saw my mermaid and stomped it flat with her fist.

Five decades later, I made that same mermaid, (I hadn’t progressed far with clay,) but this time, I glazed her shiny and she visited the fire and I gave her a crown of thorns. Again, I saw old Mrs. Hoephner, crabby old woman long dead, coming to my desk and Thump This, you old bat, you destroyer of a child’s imagination and you will be wearing that crown of thorns.



Such a fragile thing.

Child’s salvation


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

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19 Responses to “Haibun: The Mermaid”

  1. Brian Says:

    I had a math teacher in 3rd grade… very similar.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! stinkers were all over the place! I had a geometry teacer, Mr. Miller? who got his nose shot off in WWII and had a rubber nose tied on. We lived for that nose to fall off, but it never did. Thanks, Brian. I am exhausted this am, but I am glad I wrote about the mermaid. LOL!


  3. Zane Says:

    What a bitch.

    I hate her.

    I love you.

    This is awesome.


  4. Mother Willow Says:

    Good for you Jane to have molded the mermaid again. Love the humor in your write, the imagery is powerful and the pain of childhood dreams squashed is dreadful. Teachers were bullies then, thinking they were right, no, they were wrong and mean and took their frustrations on us.
    This is a beautiful Haibun, love the haiku that sums it up.


  5. Mother Willow Says:

    And, Actual portrait of Ol’ Mrs. Hoephner is very revealing….love it


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Thank you, Mother Willow! This was more deeply embedded in my psyche than I realized. This is the first telling of this story. Even with a therapist whom I loved dearly, an elderly Bavarian woman…I never thought to mention it.

    Yes, exactly….teachers (and parents) were tyrants then…and unfortunately, some now. And some poets, too…especially owners of publications. LOL! Humor is so important but usually rare to put into our works. I think when we do, it frees us up somewhat….like a lubricant to the joints! LOL! childhood was full of pain, and animals were the only salvation (and beings to trust) that were around. But hopefully we can make something of these things that put a cap on them. Thank you, Mother Willow, for reading this and sending such a lovely comment. I wish you were my mother back then, but you are too young.

    Hugs, Jane

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ladynyo Says:

    She varies from a demon from Hell and a vulture. Depending upon my files….LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. hayesspencer Says:

    I am so glad to see you using this form ad it is one of my favorites. I am happy you made the mermaid again. I too have similar memories. Good write.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. georgeplace2013 Says:

    Your haibun is powerful. I love “crabby old woman long dead, coming to my desk and Thump This, you old bat, you destroyer of a child’s imagination” Some people have to force their sensibilities on others. It a type of censorship.
    At least you can thank her for the anger that made this poem and that second mermaid 🙂 Wonderful


  11. Mother Willow Says:

    Ah, mothers, they did not know better then. Mine changed in her older years and appreciated me and my talents more than the past. Though she never said so, I knew in the way she told others of my talents and she even participated in some of my classes bringing her friends with her. That said more to me than her words and it told me that finally I was accepted just as I was. It was real turn around, I suppose my mother acquired some wisdom in her later years. She died at the tender age of 72. I look just like her today at my age of 73.


  12. ladynyo Says:

    I’m not far behind you. My mother, at 96, is a path. narcissist. Her wiring is too twisted to change. But I have had some marvelous mother figures in aunts….now all dead. They helped me parent my adopted child, and they were loving and compassionate to this motherless child. The bitterness has stuck in my heart but then again…I have learned to love anyway. It’s good that your mother changed. That shows she wasn’t stuck in concrete. Many do when they age…and she was very young. I believe only the good die young.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ladynyo Says:

    Dear George! I hadn’t thought of the old bat that way, but you are right! All that anger from second grade! The 50’s had all sorts of censorship…and crabby old ladies we lived in fear of. Thank you so much for reading and your wonderful comment!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. ladynyo Says:

    You know what, Toni?? I have gotten more catharsis out of this one haibun than a month of therapy! LOL! And I think these memories are universal to humanity. These damn old crabby ladies! Long may their rumps be stuck on the benches of Hell. LOL!


  15. Mother Willow Says:

    She was at peace in her older age….surprised me, but we actually were able to get close especially when both of us were battling cancer at the same time. She died and I survived.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. ladynyo Says:

    Oh, Helene. I am so sorry. There is a marvelous story in that, and quite a few poems I would believe.


  17. hypercryptical Says:

    A wonderful write of memories, each of us with memories that last until this very day, memories of the highs and lows of life.
    Luckily I had no Mrs. Hoephner in my school days. But for you, I do hope that wherever she is now, the crown of thorns smart!
    Kind regards
    Anna :o]


  18. Mother Willow Says:

    Definitely are many stories. For another time. Going out with hubby right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. ladynyo Says:

    LOL!!!! Me, too!


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