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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 13: May 2022
Haibun Sequence: 968 words
By Bob Lucky

Scribble Away:
Notes from Bahrain, March 2022

scribble (verb): write or draw (something) carelessly or hurriedly

circling the airport
a constellation
of streetlights

The taxi driver expounds his theory of everyone loves money. If I understand it correctly, it’s wives who love money and husbands who show their love by letting their wives spend the money. A four-car collision kills the monologue. At the hotel, I note the amount on the meter and add the airport fee, but, curious, I have to ask, “How much?” He rounds the total up considerably and extends an open hand. “Everybody loves money.”


There is an unwritten traffic rule in Bahrain that everyone obeys: Never stop for a pedestrian. Road construction makes crossing the Al Fateh Highway a suicide mission today. We think a dash at prayer time might be best. Sipping iced coffee, safe on the other side, I notice my napkin has an empty square on it, with the words “Scribble Away” at the top. So I do. Maybe I should write Joe Wenderoth a letter.

wasting time
the way the sun hits the dome
of the Grand Mosque


the AC’s hum
a conversation
that never ends

Friends arrive from Saudi Arabia. To make their short weekend in Bahrain seem longer, the drinking starts early, at breakfast. Bacon and eggs, biscuits and sausage gravy—anything with pork—and beer. Breakfast becomes brunch, brunch becomes dinner at a friend’s house. I bring Portuguese cheeses and wines. There’s more wine on the table, a cooler full of beer, a veggie tray. Stories. Jokes that won’t be as funny in the morning. Shawarma. Shamal—sand taps at the windows. Soon sand is all we see.

late coffee
slipping the dog falafel
under the table


rush hour
a drive-by blast
of ’70s disco

We go to our son’s apartment when he gets home from work. He shows us his wine cellar, a cupboard with a dozen Italian wines. No one’s in the mood for a drink. We listen to Ethio jazz and talk about upcoming submission deadlines. Mary Ruefle: “When your pencil is dull, sharpen it. And when your pencil is sharp, use it until it is dull again.”1 There’s a view of the local mosque outside his living room window. The air is full of sand, the sliver of moon a blur. Fernando Pessoa: “I am slowly filling with lackadaisical scrawls of a dull pencil, which I have no sentimentality about sharpening....”2

lingering shamal
the grittiness of fresh-squeezed
pomegranate juice


I’ve had no luck finding underwear with a y-front in Portugal. No problem here; briefs with “key holes” and “functional openings” are still in vogue. Late lunch. Across the room a Bahraini man with three young women, two East Asian looking and another with an Eastern European accent. I’ve been watching too many crime shows. I’m trying to wipe all thoughts of sex trafficking from my mind when the European woman stands up and grabs several paper napkins. When she bends over to cover her chair with them, her dress slides up to her lower back. The evidence is not circumstantial: she has not been shopping for underwear.

the wail of sirens
Formula 1 flags ripple
in the breeze


afternoon heat
bits of mint
in my teeth

If I were to be executed, I’d order fugu sashimi for my last meal in hopes of cheating the state out of the pleasure of murdering me. We’ve been eating South Indian food almost every day. What if this Mysore masala dosa were my last meal? At my age, I should treat every meal as the last. Eating deep-fried shrimp a couple nights ago, I thought of my mother, comfort food, craving, memory, and heart attacks. I could die happily without ever eating falafel again, but my dying words might be “Hashem, Hashem...stuffed falafel....” At that point any wine would work.


A Portuguese wine, a Lebanese wine, a Californian wine, and a bottle of single malt scotch. “My friend, this will be a night you won’t forget or a night you won’t remember.” A feast of roast chicken and potatoes, grilled asparagus salad, and moussaka. One guest is dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Discussion of the war is fragmented by school gossip, Middle Eastern politics, philosophy, updates on grown-up children. Everyone agrees that Eric Clapton is an asshole, but they’re going to the concert anyway.

singing the blues
the slow burn
of a single malt


in the souk
an unanswered prayer—
Alphonso mangoes

We visit the synagogue, which was shuttered for decades, and meet some interesting people, Bahraini sisters from the Canary Islands who still have connections with the Jewish community here. Note the Torah gifted to the king by Jared Kushner—my wife’s snide comment about the donor doesn’t go unnoticed—and the shofar by Israeli PM Naftali Bennett; admire the prints of Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows in Jerusalem; and ignore the plainclothes policemen in the parked car outside. Our son is invited to return for Purim—there’s a promise of donuts.


Some days the sun rises with an empty calendar. A coffee here, a coffee there, a chapter of Samantha Irby, a chapter of Max Porter. Too windy and sandy to sit by the pool and sip a $10 can of Singha. To celebrate our son’s 30th birthday, we go to Wolfgang Puck’s CUT. “Don’t look at the prices,” my wife says. Wonderful Zinfandel, but not the wine served with the prato do dia in Portugal. No talk of our son’s job search, no mention of the war. I think of the taxi driver turning my fare over to his wife and the many ways we spell love. We split two desserts three ways.

waxing gibbous
the taste of homesickness
in the cheese bread



Publisher’s Notes:

1. “When your pencil is dull, sharpen it...” is from “Lectures I Will Never Give” by Mary Ruefle (14 March 2013), an excerpt from her book Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Books, 2012), which is published online at The Rumpus.net; link retrieved on 3 May 2022:

2. “I am slowly filling with lackadaisical scrawls of a dull pencil...” is from page 112 of Always Astonished: Selected Prose by Fernando Pessoa; edited, translated, and introduced by Edwin Honig (City Lights Books, 1988); text available at Google Books.

Bob Lucky
Issue 13, May 2022

is a regular contributor to haiku, haibun, and tanka journals. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Flash, Rattle, Modern Haiku, KYSO Flash, MacQueen’s Quinterly, SurVision, Haibun Today, The Haibun Journal, and Contemporary Haibun Online (the latter for which he served as content editor from July 2014 thru January 2020).

His chapbook of haibun, tanka prose, and prose poems, Ethiopian Time (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), was an honorable mention in the Touchstone Book Awards. His chapbook Conversation Starters in a Language No One Speaks (SurVision Books, 2018) was a winner of the James Tate Poetry Prize in 2018. He is also the author most recently of a collection of prose poems, haibun, and senryu, My Thology: Not Always True But Always Truth (Cyberwit, 2019); and an e-chapbook, What I Say to You (proletaria.org, 2020).

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

A Posthumous Lesson From My Mother and The Party, two haibun by Bob Lucky which were nominated by MacQ for the Red Moon Anthologies, and selected for publication in Contemporary Haibun 17 (Red Moon Press, 2022).

Featured Poet: Bob Lucky in Issue 10 of MacQ

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