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Valentine Awards 2001

The Heron's Nest
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Volume III, Number 5: May, 2001.
Copyright © 2001. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Editors' Choices •  Haiku: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 •  Index of Poets

Heron's Nest Award

      faint thunder
      a snake sloughs its skin
      in the creekbed
                                            Anna Tambour

Stillness and heat. A time when creatures take refuge from the glaring sun by dozing under rocks, in caves and cracks and crannies, beneath cool leaves, and in quiet river shallows. There is no relief here; drought sucks the land. Thunder growls faintly, far away. Too far. Only memories of water remain where the rushing creek used to be, the silty bottom now cracked and dull. And yet, right there, something stirs. A snake is sloughing its skin in the creekbed.

The new skin gleams as the reptile slowly emerges from the one it has outgrown. Thunder rumbles again, possibly closer now. This time the rains may come, filling brooks and ponds and awakening new growth everywhere.

This brief poem confirms the author's close connection with nature. Anna Tambour doesn't speak of drought or seasonal change; instead she uses concrete images to imply these things. Anna's clear imagery and fine focus draw me into the moment, and her strong juxtaposition evokes new insight. It is in the space between the two parts of her haiku, in the words left unwritten, that I discover a deeper level of truth.

The poet has chosen her words carefully. The first line, “faint thunder,” gives me a sense of something about to happen. The snake's presence in the creekbed (with the implication of a long drought) heightens tension. The “hiss” of a snake and the soft noise it makes sliding over leaves and grass are echoed in the repetition of “s” sounds: “a snake sloughs its skin.” As the poem ends, I am struck by the grave importance of “faint thunder,” and the underlying hope in those words.

That the subject of Anna's haiku also serves as its kigo adds dimension; yet this kigo is obviously not contrived. Much of the poem's beauty and strength come from its concision; every word is essential for meaning and resonance. I perceive the haiku itself as metaphor for nature's cycles and constant changes. Anna Tambour's voice rings clear and true, and it is one I look forward to hearing again and again.

  Ferris Gilli
May, 2001