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The Heron’s Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume VI, Number 8: September, 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


    weathered bridge
    everything but the moon
    drifting downstream
                                       Rick Tarquinio

Only rarely does a haiku hold me as this one has. How could such a tranquil depiction of an ordinary experience jolt me to my core? As a quiet river contains depths not divined by the casual observer, so Rick Tarquinio’s poem contains depth of meaning beyond the immediate imagery—for those readers who will “drop the plumb.”

At first reading, the haiku evokes a peaceful scene, and its alluring physicality draws me in. Unmodified, the moon traditionally denotes a full autumn moon. I have a sense of early autumn, when days are still warm, and the hours between sunset and sunrise only hint at the nearness of winter. It is night. I imagine a thick wooden rail, worn smooth by decades of sun, wind, and rain. The author leans against it, absorbing the small dramas that play around him. The rise and fall of insect songs. The steady lap of water against piles. Within the nearby woods, herons squabble over roosting spots. Things drift downstream in the current of the wide, slow river . . . a bit of paper, a small tree branch, a boat with two lovers who don’t bother to row; thin, lacy cloud reflections sliding over and past the moon. In my bystander’s role, I think dreamily, “Everything . . . drifting downstream,” and then, I whisper “Ohh!” Because I get it.

Most exceptional haiku share two basic characteristics: (1) They resonate on more than one level; (2) Much or all of their resonance lies in what they imply, not in what they say. By experiencing the instant of insight, I open another door into “weathered bridge” and find a deeper level of resonance. Tarquinio’s haiku is the consummate metaphor for the way I sometimes view my life.

This poet writes without excess; he completes the poem with nothing to spare. Tarquinio doesn’t mention time or age, yet he begins with a word that suggests the passing of years, that many seasons have come and gone since travelers began crossing here. A bridge is a structure providing passage over a gap; this bridge also connotes a passage over time. The second and third lines are a vivid reminder that while countless things may endure longer than humanity, the effects of time are ceaseless. The phrase “everything but the moon” typifies the changes that occur in the course of one’s life. The words “drifting downstream” signal that change is the only constant, that perceived constancies create only an illusion of permanence. Things and people do drift away from us, or we from them—youth, hometowns, beliefs, and abilities; friends and family; landmarks of life as well as simple irritants and pleasures. One way or another, “everything but the moon/drifting downstream.”

Having reached this present state of mind, I reflect on my life’s journey. Not for the first time, I start to dwell on regrets, to list all the things I should have done better, to bemoan my often unwise use of precious years. But here is Tarquinio’s beautiful haiku, an artesian well of epiphanies, and it won’t let me continue this indulgence of self-rebuke. Because after all, there is the moon, full and bright and as permanent as anything we will ever know; and the river flows under the bridge before it reaches the sea. Sometimes, that’s all we need to know.



Ferris Gilli
September 2004


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