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The Heron's Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume IV, Number 5: May 2002.
Copyright © 2002. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

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

Heron's Nest Award

      my hand fills with
      dog nose

                                            Anna Tambour

Dog lovers are sure to delight in this poem. It perfectly expresses aspects of both dog and human nature, and a facet of the relationship between them. Some of you may never have owned a dog or spent appreciable time with one. Be that as it may, I hope that you do have some sense of canine disposition so that you can enjoy what this special poem has to offer.

Normally I wouldn’t consider a word like “preoccupied” to work well in the context of haiku; it’s a longish, rather cerebral word. It does, however, appeal to another haiku criteria: universality. I doubt there are many of us who would deny that, more often than not, our minds are engaged in either reminiscence or anticipation. I practice meditation daily and can personally attest to this. It is a rare sitting period in which I don’t observe myself thinking about things that are beyond what is occuring in this place at this time. Preoccupation is universally familiar amongst us humans.

You may have noticed that Anna Tambour’s poem does not have a kigo. It most certainly is a powerful haiku moment though. Not only does Anna direct our attention to an instant of time, she points to a precise location as well. This is a beautifully clear, succinct poem!

Usually I find that haiku read awkwardly when one line ends with a preposition. This is often the result of a poet trying to achieve a particular syllable quota. The rhythm created by such a line break is distracting because the diction appears unnatural. In this poem, however, the line-ending preposition works magnificently. The hesitation serves to induce in us readers a momentary uncertainty akin to what Anna must have felt: “What the heck is pushing into my hand? Ahhhh! The dog’s nose!”

Our minds are constantly wandering away from their immediate surroundings, and just as constantly we are harkened back to this eternal “here-and-now.” Being summoned by a doting pet can be one of the more endearing ways to return to our senses. The simple, genuine devotion of a dog is truly comforting–a great relief if we’ve been caught up in the stresses and complications of being human.

Imagine that evening has come, and that you are at home by yourself. You’ve flopped onto a sofa and one hand hangs over the edge of a cushion. So . . . maybe you’re absorbed in a problem that’s come up at work, or perhaps you’re plotting ways to minimize the craziness that’s sure to arise when your in-laws arrive next week. How ‘bout a daydream? You could be imagining a vacation in the South Pacific, or what vegetables you’d like to plant in the garden this spring. Suddenly something cool and wet pushes into your dangling hand. You look down and find a quivering black nose at the end of furry snout–and behind that, two baleful eyes. “Hey!” the dog is intimating, “remember me?” This could be a last-ditch plea to get out of the house to answer nature’s call, or it could be a gentle prod: “certainly, oh revered one, the time for dinner has arrived. Has it not?” Or, this deployment of nose could be a supplication: “some affection if you please? A few strokes would be ever so nice right about now.” Whatever the reason, you can be sure of one thing. That animal is responding to an immediate and tangible need. Your buddy the dog is totally focused, utterly in the present moment. You, on the other hand, have not been–at least not until


Note: I was bowled over when, in the midst of composing this commentary, my own dog reenacted this very poem. I kid you not.

  Christopher Herold
May 2002

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