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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 12: March 2022
Cheribun: 193 words
+ Judge’s Commentary: 115 words
By Charmaine Smith

Cheribun of the Infinite Remainder

 
With a simple hut 
a bowl of fruit 
and a walking stick 

I make room 
for No-thing, 

the birth of all gods. 

In the night’s second watch, padding along the hill path through frog and cricket music, I reach an old footbridge. Halfway across I stop, strung between worlds. On each bank, tree trunks thick as temple pillars. The creek below, spun to platinum by the Snow Moon. A doe, silent in foliage, nosing the eucalyptus. Scent of pine and crushed petals. Breath, lightly held, departs.

Memory, history, identity, emotion, belief—all stream away like storm clouds in strong wind. For each there is only goodbye, goodbye, thank you, palms pressed together. In the silence that remains, bottomless relief.


This old robe 
speaks, 
eats, 

moves about 
as if blown by 

the breath of buddhas. 

On calloused feet I float to the far-side wood. And the fireflies come—by the thousands, tens of thousands. Filling the forest, traveling with me. Each a winking star, lighting the path home.


East wind chases 
a mass of purple clouds 
over the mountain, 

finding my hut 
empty 

but for the starlight. 


—First Place Winner of MacQ’s Cheribun Challenge


Commentary by Guest Judge, Margaret Dornaus

This cheribun—the last entry received before the contest’s deadline—grabbed my attention from its opening cherita. Not only does “the simple hut” the writer references call up allusions to Matsuo Bashō’s haibun masterpiece The Narrow Road to the Deep North, it sets up the expectation that we all might share the speaker’s journey toward enlightenment. In the hands of a less skillful writer, such an existential promise would be daunting. But this writer carries the reader along through the narrative quest with specific sensory details—beginning with “frog and cricket music,” and culminating in a forest filled with fireflies: “[e]ach a winking star, lighting the path home.” A charming, magical piece.

Charmaine Smith
Issue 12, March 2022

lives in central coast California with her boyfriend and cat, where she writes poetry, short fiction, and essays. One of her sonnets recently won an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Better Than Starbucks sonnet contest.

 
 
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