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The Heron’s Nest

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Volume V, Number 12: December, 2003.
Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

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


Heron’s Nest Award


       faint stars . . .
       the cabby speaks
       of home

                                      Timothy Hawkes

This wonderful haiku begins by setting a dream-like tone. The “faint stars” imply a night sky that demands attention by virtue of its very ambiguity. One knows that the stars are there, but there is something obscuring that reality, leaving the reader in a state of muted anticipation. Is it an overcast sky? The surface light from a city that never sleeps? The possibilities far surpass the simplicity of the words that imply them.

And then, the cabby speaks of home. A man with a lonely job, just trying to make an innocent connection during the hustle and bustle of yet another day. Perhaps English is not his first language, and his native country on the other side of the planet. One imagines him engaging an unwitting stranger in a decidely one-sided conversation, all in an attempt to transcend the miles that separate him from home.

As one who grew up in New York in the seventies, two “taxi” themes are permanently ingrained in my memory: Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) and the song Taxi by Harry Chapin (1972).

In the movie Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro plays the part of Travis Bickle, a loner who takes a job as a cabbie during the night shift because he is an insomniac. He offers very few facts about his background. He is a 26 year-old ex-Marine with a clean driving record. He is a faceless person in a crowded city. Out of an acute desire to somehow escape his isolated life, he obsesses over a young campaign worker, played by Cybill Shepherd, and then a child prostitute, played by Jodie Foster. In the movie’s dramatic conclusion, the child is forcibly “rescued” from her pimp and reunited with her family—a homecoming that Bickle will likely never experience himself.

Harry Chapin’s Taxi is sung in the first person, drawing the listener into the story of a cabby, who by chance is reunited with an old flame. The encounter reawakens the memory of their youthful aspirations: “She was gonna be an actress, and I was gonna learn to fly.” Their brief time together concludes anticlimactically. Before the ride ends the two would-be lovers are again safely distanced from their dreams and one another: “There was not much more for us to talk about.”

Timothy Hawkes’ cabby, under a canopy of thinly veiled stars, has a similar vision of home—a place of youthful ambition and endless possibility. In seven brief words, this haiku is a portrait of nostalgia, warmth, and ultimately, hope.



Paul David Mena
December 2003


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