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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 4: July 2020
Haibun: 123 words [R]
Author’s Note: 75 words
By Andrew Riutta

Life Out of Balance

For Hazel McSawby

I light a cigarette in the dark inside my camper while the wind blows fiercely through the hills and its stars. “Koyaanisqatsi,” I say to myself. It’s nearly four in the morning, but I can’t stop thinking about that old native woman with no indoor plumbing who had an eagle feather dangling from a crucifix on her kitchen wall. She said that when the Lord comes back, she will give him that feather and a bowl of corn soup, and maybe then Mother Earth’s tumors will go back to being butterflies, and she and her people can be people again. I don’t remember if she said anything else.

instant coffee—
I swallow the crack
of dawn


—Haibun is reproduced here with author’s permission from Senryu Circle (Facebook: 3 June 2020).


Author’s Note:

I met Hazel at a Native American youth camp, where I was a counselor. She was our cook. We’d sip coffee in the mornings and chat while she prepared breakfast. A dear friend she eventually became. I believe she may have had indoor plumbing the last few years of her life but I’m not positive. We lost touch. She had a heart that could soften the weight of any conflict. Dearly loved her.

Andrew Riutta
Issue 4, July 2020

was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is a father, chef, zamboni operator, and writer. His essays, short fiction, and poetry have been published in journals and anthologies such as Beyond Forgetting (Kent State University Press, 2008), In the Arms of Words (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2005), Blood Lotus, Contemporary Haibun Online, Drifting Sands, Dunes Review, Eclectica, Failed Haiku, Frogpond, McQueen’s Quinterly, Modern Haiku, Red River Review and Smokebox among others.

He is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Cigarette Butts and Lilacs (Modern English Tanka Press, 2008), and a chapbook, The Pie in Pieces: Thirty-three Songs from the Midwest (River Man Publishing, 2006).

In 2011, his essay “The Myths of Manhood” was published in a collection of essays for National Public Radio, This I Believe: On Fatherhood (Jossey-Bass, John Wiley & Sons), and in 2012 was featured on Public Radio International’s Bob Edwards Show. Riutta received the 2008 William J. Shaw Memorial Prize for Poetry; and in 2007 he won Honorable Mention in the Michigan Liberal Arts poetry contest (for his poem “Recruitment”).

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