THE HAIBUN GALLERY : 16th June — a Thursday feature

Updated: Jun 16

Hosts: Akila G. and Shalini Pattabiraman

16th June, 2022

This month we'll be showcasing haibun written by Sonam Chhoki.

Sonam Chhoki was interviewed by Vidya Venkataramani. It is a three part series and you can read all about her haikai journey, inspirations, thoughts and favourites. The link to the interview is given below:

For this week's writing prompt, we bring Sonam Chhoki's winning haibun in the Genjuan Contest of 2015.

Mining Memories

waterfall of lichen deep in the mountain forest a musk deer calls

Each winter solstice when we meet for our New Year, we retrieve a cache of family stories. The favourite one has a disputed provenance. My sisters insist it is our great grandfather. I recall it being his brother.

Our ancestor is a herder on the high pastures dotted with primula and dwarf rhododendron. That year the early snow surprises him. The calves born in late summer are not yet strong enough to make the descent to the village. His yak skin bags hold sufficient buckwheat flour, tea leaves and salt. Unfazed by the turn of the weather, the yaks graze calmly. He is filled with unease. The stack of firewood in the stone hut is low. He must bring in the pile gathered on the slope. He pushes open the door, his breath billowing before him. The air stings him with a rush of fusty odour that makes him gasp.

At this point, our cousin interjects with footprints of a large biped in the fresh snow. ‘The big toes were splayed unlike a human’s,’ he says with staggering certainty. I prefer our ancestor sensing a palpable albeit an invisible presence. The smell is like that of an unwashed body festering with sores. He peers into the growing darkness. Larches on the ridge shiver points of light as the sun goes down. The miasma settles with snow flurries around the hut. It is recognisably not that of the yaks. Didn’t the elders say the mi-gye/snow creature exudes a stench? He breathes painfully trying to marshal his thoughts. Fire! His grandfather swore the mi-gye fears the fire. Will the mi-gye harm his herd? The yaks ruminate unperturbed.

He bolts the door and stokes the fire. Removing the hunting knife from its sheath he holds it in his right hand and winds a thick yak hair lasso around his left hand. With his back against the hearth he faces the door. A plaintive howl rises. His heart thumps like a pestle pounding buckwheat in a large mortar. The cry is so raw and piercing as if the very heart of the creature is being ripped out. He intones:

‘Lotus-born Guru I prostrate before you, Help me!’ Protect me!’

The keening outside changes to a moan that rises and falls in melancholy cadence. He finds himself reciting the hermit Milarepa’s admonishment to the hunter:

‘Whatever you fear you see as your foe. But in past lives this creature was your own mother. Your arrow will kill the deer But not the Five Poisons within you. Slay your hatred and be free!’

Our ancestor drops the hunting knife with a clatter. His chanting and the ululation outside mingle and echo in the night. He feels a deep calm.

New year sunrise – snow blowing around the peaks like silken kha-da


Memories form an integral part of us and those passed on in the family as an heirloom are special.

We invite you to take this cue as your inspiration and write a haibun where you bring a narrative of a pass-it-down story. One that you heard from your grandparents or parents or one that they heard from their parents or grandparents. An ancestral story. It could be about your own family or home or it could be just a tale that has been handed down. It could be one that you have heard from your friend too (so need not necessarily be yours!)


1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt.

2. Share your best-polished pieces.

3. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.

4. When poets give suggestions and if you agree to them - post your final edited version on top of your original version.

5. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems.

We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished haibun (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly journal.


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