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The Heron’s Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume VI, Number 6: July, 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


    the heat —
    two boys take it
                                       Paul Pfleuger, Jr.

In just seven words, this haiku conjures up myriad images. As the oldest of three brothers and the father of three sons, my mind races through memories in abundance. My most vivid recollection, however, is more recent, and takes place in a work setting. A former manager once attempted to motivate me with a highly public, utterly unprofessional tirade. My response was even-tempered but stern: I assured him that if he ever raised his voice to me again, we would “step outside and settle it like men.” So here are two questions to which most of us colloquial English-speakers already know the answers: what is “it,” and what does it mean to “take it outside”?

Paul Pfleuger helps us to answer this question by establishing the scene with two simple words, “the heat.” We know this right away to be a reference to temperature, but implications abound: among them tension, impatience and discomfort. For this reason, we understand that the “it” in the second line is not a barking dog or a burning frying pan. “It” is a boiling over of emotions that verges on physical confrontation and is often blind to surroundings or circumstances. Combatants do well to move their dispute to a place where it is less likely to cause peripheral damage.

The “two boys” in the second line could be soldiers from a crowded barracks or bar patrons who’ve had a few too many, but I prefer a more literal reading: that two pre-adolescent males have somehow crossed from the land of “playing nice” to the less hospitable terrain of “playing rough.” I recall my uncle dealing with this situation by refusing to intervene in the quarrels between my two cousins, but rather letting them fight in the backyard until one of them returned to the house crying — usually from a wounded pride more than any physical injury. The “winner” of the fight was then punished by my uncle, the lesson being that no one really wins a fight between brothers.

In these boyhood skirmishes the stakes are usually not very high — more often than not the two participants will not remember what started the disagreement. So while not much may be resolved, tension is released instead of supressed, and the boys return to being friends again.

I can’t help comparing this fraternal struggle to a typical summer weather pattern: heat and humidity build throughout the course of the day, culminating in a violent but brief thunderstorm, after which cooler temperatures prevail. It is this post-storm feeling of refreshment, however fleeting, that remains as I read and re-read Paul Pfleuger’s fine haiku.



Paul David Mena
July, 2004


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