KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 9: Spring 2018
Haibun Story: 470 words

Welcome to Belfast

by Alexis Rotella

I run away from my home in Italy to work as a nanny in London to escape my father, a general in the Italian Air Force who thinks I’m too wild, who beats me when I don’t follow orders. I just turned 18 and don’t tell anyone where I’m off to, not even my closest friends.

My English is broken but I speak well enough to get along and to care for two young school children, but as soon as I’m able to go on vacation, I hop a ferry to Dublin where I stay a few days before heading to Belfast.

Just before sunup, I disembark the express train and walk toward where I think the center of Belfast might be, but it isn’t long before I hear footsteps, footsteps that sound like they’re getting closer. I consider turning around, but before I get the chance, a hand covers my mouth and I’m thrown to the ground. My face hits the concrete. I say goodbye to my father, my mother, my sisters, to my short life, with deep regret that my parents may never know what happens to me.

Not yet open
a buttercup
in the sidewalk crack

By the grace of God (who I didn’t believe in until now), I manage to stand, and with blood in my mouth, look at the lanky figure with a contorted face. He’s hoping I’ll scream but instead of making a scene, I disarm him by asking, with a smile no less, Why are you doing this?

He says he doesn’t have the faintest clue then asks where I’m headed. I tell him I want to see Belfast, to take a look around. He insists on showing me the town to which I instantly agree although I do wish he’d just grab my backpack with the money, camera, and clothes and get lost but I have no choice but to play along.

Darkening the sky
a murder
of crows

We walk to the bus station where my abuser surprisingly pays our fares. Side by side we ride for what seems forever when I finally gather the courage to tell him I have to get off; that if he ever gets to London, we could get to know each other and maybe become friends. When he actually agrees, I scrawl a fake number on a scrap of paper. Take care, I say, hoping he won’t follow.

Through the grimy window he waves, and with every bone in my body quaking, I return his wave. From a coffee shop across the street, I manage to call my father, tell him where I am, reassure him I’m all right, promise to take the next flight home knowing he’ll be waiting with a whip.

on a high wire
its call to prayer


Alexis Rotella
Issue 9, Spring 2018

is an award-winning poet and digital artist who has been writing Japanese poetry forms in English for more than 40 years. Her work has been published throughout the world, and she is the author of dozens of books. Her latest collection of Japanese forms in English, The Color Blue, was released by Red Moon Press in 2017. Her out-of-print haiku and tanka books, as well as her newest works, can be read on Kindle. Her digital art is for sale online at Alexis Rotella Designs. Alexis is also a licensed acupuncturist and practices in Arnold, Maryland.

Digital art, Self-Portrait by Alexis Rotella
Self-Portrait © 2017
By Alexis Rotella
All rights reserved


Don’t try
to figure me out
everything I write
is fiction
all of it true

—From Alexis Rotella’s Lip Prints:
Tanka and Other Short Poems, 1979–2007
(Modern English Tanka Press, 2007); appears here with her kind permission

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Purple: A Parable by Alexis Rotella, with pictures by Diane Katz (Rosenberry Books, 2008)

Purple, the first poem Alexis ever wrote, and one which has been reprinted many times during the decades since

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