Backpack, from Mont Ventoux Journal
by Judson Evans


“weary from my ancient bundle…” (Petrarch)

Spasmed to the tugged cords of my scapulae, antibody backpack triggering spider web alarms at each slackening — daily bundle of scrap and sundries for various moody weathers of the mountain — sunglasses, knit wool cap, gloves, sweatshirt, maps, French dictionary, notebook — core samples, and exempla. Later, down from the heights, it would gather a set of antique keys from Arles. A vague plan for a wind chime or mobile —  dangling from bonsai wire, four keys to guard the compass points — four celestial kings or protective deities. Then, the Avignon bookstore the beautifully worn bilingual edition (French and Japanese) of Basho’s Oko no Hosomichi.

first edition−
black marker dedication
bleeding through the flyleaf


Receiving the transmission through my body — distant pings of a sunken aircraft, the book with his inscription sending its black box message. Throughout the night in a fever of words I ripped off t-shirt after sweat-soaked t-shirt grabbed from the stack in the partly packed suitcase. Had I dreamed the book, had the book existed? The passionate dedication of one man to another. I stood in the bookstore trying to translate : for my friend –or was it lover — in poetry and insomnia….? A whole cherry orchard burned. Graffiti heart pierced by three black daggers. Lost coordinates neither in nor out, above / below, the way the laurel torn from its once human branch can’t be grafted — phantom limb….

idly broken off
in the toast
            stem of the wine glass

SOURCE: Journeys 2017: An Anthology of International Haibun, Edited by Angelee Deodhar (CreateSpace, March 2017).

PHOTO: The author in Avignon, France, a few days before losing the used copy of Basho on the Metro in Paris.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Mont Ventoux Journal results from a collaboration with the videographer Ray Klimek. The poems engage with the origin of “landscape” as a concept and as a genre in the arts, and with the world of Francesco Petrarch and his famous climb of a mountain in southern France — Mont Ventoux. This climb and its documentation in a prose text by the poet have been cited as the first example in western culture of an appreciation of “landscape.” The climb is caught up, too, in Petrarch’s complex relationship with his love and inspiration Laura — for whom he wrote the 366 poems of the Canzonieri — and set the motifs (and clichés) of love poetry up to contemporary pop songs . . .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judson Evans is Director of the Liberal Arts department at The Boston Conservatory, where he teaches a range of courses including poetry workshops. He was an editor and founding member of Off the Park Press, and published work in each of its three anthologies of poems responding to provocative contemporary painters: New Smoke: an Anthology of Poetry Inspired by Neo Rauch (2009); Viva la Difference: Poetry Inspired by the Painting of Peter Saul (2010); The Triumph of Poverty: Poetry Inspired by the Painting of Nicole Eisenman (2011). His most recent work has been published in (print journals) Volt; 1913: a journal of forms; Third Coast; and Green Mountains Review, and (online journals) White Whale Review and Arsenic Amethyst. He won The Phillip Booth Poetry Award from Salt Hill Review in 2013. He has collaborated often with actors, dancers, and musicians in Boston.