Dark Stairwell – A Haibun

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

A dark stairwell. My cat meowing and howling in his box. The grownups swearing over the scratches they got when forcing him in. My mothers volatile mood. Grief flashing to rage, flashing to confused numbness flashing back to grief.

My aunts and uncles have strange whispering voices. Walking on eggshells. Afraid to do or say anything that reminds us. Like it’s possible to forget.
Like it’s possible to step out of the endless loop of grief and confusion.

I did not understand. How could daddy just be gone forever? And who is that stranger looking out of my mother’s eyes?

Like a plucked flower
A rootless child drifts astray
Unseen and unloved


Written for Walk with me down Memory Lane… today’s Haibun prompt over at dVerse.

I’m one of those that might have opted out of this one, knowing the punch in some of my memories. Also knowing I do not have them all. Nearly everything before my fathers death, two months before my sixth birthday. And two months before my younger siblings birth. Are built up by photo albums and my mother’s stories. And those stories tended to shift over the years. Even today, if one of her children mentions a story she told us over, and over, and over again – only to be met with a blank stare and a totally new story.

Both of us have long ago lost the sense that we will ever know the truth. We have our own memories, as far back as they go. Beyond that we will never know.

And I, again, ended up with fragments so small I don’t know what the memory is about. And this memory, of the dark stairwell, in the house we’re moving out of just weeks after my father passed away.

I have no pictures of that time. But I do have this from what seems a happier time then I can remember.

Photo by Ravi Kant from Pexels

20 thoughts on “Dark Stairwell – A Haibun

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    1. A bit. But also I feel safe sharing heavy stuff with the dVerse community. Knowing I’ll be met with care instead of disbelief.

      Much of my writing is therapeutic, even if only I know what I’m writing about.

      Much love! ❤️

    1. Thank you! If memories had titles that would be it for this one. I remember that hideous seventies wallpaper. The carpet clad stairs. All in dark greens and oranges. I always wondered why you would want such a dark entry to your home.
      The Haiku did not work until that flower fell in there. 😀

  1. This is a powerful write. And you explanation after the write, just as powerful. Yes….you could have easily opted not to write for this prompt. But sometimes there is a release in the writing. As children, we feel the pain, hear and see the grief and confusion and anger and it affects us for years to come. The dark staircase is probably a very important memory for you. And writers might approach what that means metaphorically….but for you….it’s a visceral memory that just is. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for writing. And oh yes…how some memories become entangled in others, photos or not. For me, I know of stories that are not good….behaviors by my mother….but thankfully I have no memories of them. One can close your ears and choose not to listen…but if the memory is there, that’s harder to control.

  2. Thank you for sharing your not-so-happy childhood memories. Perhaps it was cathartic to write about it…at least I hope so. Someone said children are blank slates on which their future is written.

    1. You’re welcome! I actually hoped and feared my memories would go further. But it feels good to share, and even better to be met by care than the usual. “That can’t be your first memory.” ❤️

  3. Oh, this haiku is perfect for this deeply moving memory recollection. I’m dumbstruck, reading & I’m glad you didn’t decide to skip the prompt. Thanks for being so open, vulnerable, and talented.

  4. Powerful share red. Thank you for the courage to share. Not all childhoods are lived in Disneyland. Glad you found your strength. My only anchor as a child was my adoptive father, for whom I am grateful every day. I shudder to think…

  5. Helene, you are very brave.

    You know, my father died almost 3 years ago, which brought the subject of death into our daughter’s life. She’s now six-years-old, and every so often she will turn to me or her mother and say, “I don’t want you to die.” …. and we reassure her (possibly falsely) that we won’t die any time soon, so she needn’t worry about it.

    Your haibun was powerful and raw.


  6. A powerful haibun, Helene, and such a strong memory of a terrible time. Grieving adults are impossible for a child to understand, as is the loss of a parent. The dark stairwell was a clue to the memory – I remember one or two in my own childhood. The haiku pierced me to the core. I would have understood you opting out, but your fragments formed into a clear mosaic that conveyed the sadness and pain. I love the photo of you as a happy child in your national costume – beautiful.

  7. I am sorry to learn your father died when you were so young. My mum died when I was 8, so perhaps I remember a bit more, but this is such a blow to a young child. You were brave to write about it. I love the happy picture!

  8. I love the storytelling, it makes me sad. It feels like you lost both your father and mother after that… love the picture you brought, it looks so different to what your feelings you describe, I imagine it was taken before your father died

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