KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Haibun: 882 words


by Charles Hansmann

The bus jolted, feinted to corner, but instead continued straight. A car was trying to pass, but our driver wouldn’t let it. He kept checking his mirror, shouldering turns with exaggerated movement, sliding his hands so the bus held its course, bloating the lane.

There was a bus stop ahead, but we weren’t slowing down. People stepped to the curb and started to flag us. They’d been waiting long enough and weren’t going to wait any longer.

The driver hit his brakes and swerved to a stop. As the doors shot open I jumped out the back, caught sight of a fender as tires squealed past and a car sped by in the center lane.

blackbirds tugging
a crust two ways

Across the street on my shut-down bank, Dagwood Bumstead, Beetle Bailey, and Uncle Duke in colorful spray-paint lined the façade with their pockets turned out. The bank was dark and empty inside, its electronic billboard still sucking power, flat-lined and flashing.

Beneath my feet were the polka-dot stains on the sidewalk square where the man last week had poured out his pills. Points of the lucid, I thought, with no way to connect them.

store-front tai chi
praying mantis on plate glass

It was a busy stop, and a schedule was posted. I let the first bus go by and boarded the second, sat up front, and got off at the stop two blocks from my apartment. My building was vintage stucco, the palm trees out front probably planted in the mid to late ’30s, a symmetrical row for the modest new units.

But palm trees don’t generate heartwood. They do not have rings. And when one went down in a storm last year there was no way to figure its age. The cleanup crew tried counting the frond scars, but they must have been factoring the wrong rate of growth. According to their numbers the snapped-off tree had first taken root the year Florida seceded from the Union.

bird nest shedding
the empty shell

At the hallway mailbox I opened the slot for 1G. Under a trifold flyer for a tapas bar was the latest installment of postcards from Irma, the cockatiel’s owner. She was now in Sedona.

“Red rocks,” she wrote, “a vortex of vibes, drinking Corona.”

She lived alone without friends, and that’s why she asked me to take care of her bird. We hardly ever spoke, just “How are you?” in the hall. Weeks might go by when I didn’t lay an eye on her. But every now and then she would tell me something strange about the pinnacles of energy and how they are connected. Her trip to Arizona was a quest for impeccable awareness.

“Undercover,” her bird said, and I jotted it down.

“Repetition,” I said. “Repeat after me: repetition.”



Our staccato exchange conflated with the sound through my door of the boy from 1C dribbling his basketball the length of the hall. This was also his punching bag and soccer ball. It was always low on air and rebounded with more of a thud than a bounce. He was his mother’s darling handful. Our building was a monument to his noise, and he roamed it in regal notoriety.

But his world too was strewn with unease, a litter of things he would have to get away from. There is no fast rule, though each person’s plight cries out to our own.

swallows hazing
the vesper bells

Restlessness drew me outside. I caught sight of a fender that looked like the one that had been jockeying with the bus. It pulled out from its spot between a half-ton pickup and an economy wagon, going from zero to fifty in an athlete’s heartbeat.

It was dinnertime again, and I’d forgotten to get hungry. I went down to the esplanade and sat outside the public toilets. On any windy day I could lounge there for hours and watch granules of sand dropping out of the air to the lower pressure in the lee of the fence.

The Department of Public Works had finally got it right. When they first set it up they thought the way the fence worked was to net the sand like litter or block it like a mudslide. They strung the web along the edge of the sidewalk, and as the sand drifted over and settled in the lee, a huge dune piled up inside the toilet doors.

gull cries quieting
someone’s radio

Today the air was calm and no sand filtered through it. The drift along the fence had been there so long it was crosshatched with bird prints. The air seemed impatient, ready for wind, but the light was exhausted and could not hold out much longer. As it started to fade, the traffic on the strip grew expectant and slowed to a drag. These were not cars with specific destinations.

last glint, a high gull
tipping its wing

I watched the fender go by the hotel across the street, doubled in the window, and finally absorbed in the languorous flow. Headlights went on and sunset reflections took cover in the night. There were any number of places to go, though I knew I might walk the whole length of the strand and not find a single one.

—Semi-finalist, KYSO Flash HTP Writing Challenge

Charles Hansmann
Issue 6, Fall 2016

is the author of five poetry chapbooks and received the 2010 Apprentice House Chapbook Award, the 2011 Clockwise Chapbook Award, and the 2013 Willet Press Poetry Prize. His fiction has appeared in Crack the Spine, Intrinsick, KYSO Flash, Serving House Journal, and Star 82 Review; it has been anthologized in The Best Small Fictions 2016 and in KYSO Flash Anthology 2015.

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