Back to the Future Haibun by Jennifer Jean

My twelve-year-old taps a sneaker on every tile zigging through the cloistered Monk Gardens at the Gardener palace museum. Worship the dust next time! she says. There is no dust in there, I say, missing my Degas, my Titian, my Singer. My girl slows, puts a finger on a peeling, russet branch—says, This tree reminds me of October! This girl reminds me of Dickinson and her bobolink. And we’re off soon to this other kind of “church” on Beacon to teeter down a decomposing servant-stairwell into the sub-basement of a sub-basement. We peak into strange corners and former quarters. We lift a plastic sheath tacked to the doorframe of one alcove and reveal glass doors leading to a bricked-up secret speakeasy entrance. There’s a shotgun blast, or a fist hole, in the glass. Opposite is the ghost of a bar top and crumbling swivel stools. I feel a tug on my hand—it’s my daughter dragging me to her favorite part! To the lowest point, which is first unlit, then spot-lit with our approach. Look! at that blue! At some blue new gas heater, gleaming amid a crowd of overturned, rusted metal folding chairs. Then we’re up and out behind Beacon, on Willow so I can see where Sylvia Plath lived in 1958. Look, I say, my chin lifting to the sixth floor, just as my girl runs to a sprouting, of what she calls Morning Glories, busting through the brick under Plath’s bay windows. The roots of some kind of tree had disturbed the historic surface, had allowed for the royal colors she plucks up and puts in my hair. I feel the wind blow out all those Glories when she drags me up and around the cobble of Acorn, and every capital street, till I’m too winded not to think of Plath as happyish. As maybe bounding up to what was Scollay Square. We bound up to what is City Hall Plaza. And, I chase my girl across that expanse. I keep up—for a bit—but stop to watch a skateboarder flip and twist on this single-wheel contraption we’ve never seen. Next board we see, it’ll float! she says. And I hold my tongue about a movie from my childhood which predicted that future, as our plaza-skater tricks and contorts even more.

He’s a Narwhal! she
says pulling my face to her
face. I can’t see it…


Jennifer Jean is the author of The Fool, and her awards include: a 2018 Disquiet Fellowship, a 2017 “Her Story Is” residency, and a 2013 Ambassador for Peace Award for her activism in the arts. Jennifer’s work has appeared in Poetry, Rattle, Waxwing, Crab Creek Review, and more. She’s the Managing Editor of Talking Writing , and she teaches writing at Boston-area universities.

Source photo by li xianan