Next Page
Previous Page



Favorites from 2003

The Heron’s Nest

a haikai journal ...


Home • Volume Contents • About • Connections

Volume VI, Number 4: May, 2004.
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

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


Heron’s Nest Award


    city heat —
    the grocer spritzes his greens
    and little girls
                                      Peter Yovu

With grit, grime, and traffic sounds stirred in, city heat can be wiltingly oppressive. Every activity requires extra effort. Pavement steams. Energy withers and tempers flare. Amid such discomforts, Peter Yovu captures a refreshing moment of human activity that suggests a whole way of life. A few words are enough to recreate the scene so readers, too, can relish the squeals and laughter.

The grocery is small and makes careful use of every inch of space. Otherwise, it would not survive economically, given the challenges of urban rents and nearby competition. The grocer counts on attractive fruits and vegetables to entice potential customers. Perhaps the produce is displayed under an awning or within a roofed alcove just next to the sidewalk. Keeping it fresh requires close attention. Spraying cool water on cress, romaine, endive, and Boston lettuce is an important part of the grocer’s routine. His livelihood depends upon the appeal of those greens.

Almost certainly this store is part of a real neighborhood where people tend to know their grocer. Are the little girls the daughters of patrons or passersby, or are they the grocer’s own children? There are several ways to read “his” in line two. It is possible that the poet himself is a passer-by and doesn’t know the answers to such questions. Haiku usually leave much unsaid, allowing readers to continue the creative process.

I like to imagine that this might be a family business. Maybe the family lives above the store. That way of life is relatively rare now, but it played a vital role in America’s development. I wonder what accent I might hear if Yovu’s grocer spoke, and whether spritzing the girls has become a part of his summer routine. Whatever the circumstances, his gesture is endearing.

The playful redirection of the water provides an eye-opening surprise for the poet and his readers as well as for the little girls. The power of haiku to make us stop and take notice feeds ripples of sympathetic awareness and encourages good will. Lightness and vitality sparkle through the sludge of heat, and human spirit shines.



Peggy Willis Lyles
May 2004


Previous Page  •  Top  •  Next Page