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The Heron’s Nest


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Volume VII, Number 2: June, 2005.
Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Editors’ Choices • Commentary • Index of Poets • 
Haiku Pages:  1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6,  7,  8,  9,  10,  11,  12


Heron’s Nest Award


    glowing embers
    I tell her a story
    she already knows
                                       Rick Tarquinio

The relaxing warmth of smoldering coals; one person speaks, the other listens to a favorite tale repeated. We know that storytelling began long, long ago. In ancient times, people painted stories on rock walls and animal hides. Perhaps the first story was told to a child wrapped in rabbit skins who sat with her family near a flickering fire in a gloomy cave. 

For millennia, stories have been told as a means of preserving a people’s history and teaching children how to survive. Increasingly through the ages, oft-repeated tales have conveyed diverse populations’ cumulative wisdom and knowledge. Storytellers have enthralled their audiences with myths, legends, fairy tales, fables, ghost tales, oral histories, and epic adventures. Such stories have been told, retold, and passed down from generation to generation. So it is even today. Stories reflect our values and aspirations, our fears and dreams. Telling them is a uniquely human activity, and modern storytelling is big business. Where would movies, music, news media, the law, politics, and various other enterprises be without it? 

Rick Tarquinio invites me to enter a universal and timeless familial scene where stories are told the old-fashioned way. Though it could be in any season, his haiku evokes a sense of cozy contentment. Enjoying the poem’s cadence, I note that the last two lines suggest the repeating rhythms of children’s picture books. The event in this haiku, as I readily imagine it, represents the cherished oral tradition between elder and child. The “glowing embers” that imply late evening also reflect the pleasure of both speaker and listener as the poet retells this particular story, probably at the child’s request. I can easily replace Tarquinio’s scene with one from my own childhood or my daughter’s early years:

“One morning, Mama Bear cooked a pot of grits for their breakfast—”

“Daddy, not grits! She cooked porridge!”

Children seem never to tire of their favorite stories. Before drifting into sleep, they are comforted by hearing a trusted adult tell a familiar one, exactly as they heard it the first time, be it a Grimm Brothers tale or the colorful account of Great Grandma’s victory garden in World War II. The accustomed routine, the willing repetition, and the teller’s soothing voice reinforce feelings of safety and cement the bond of love between adult and child. 

This reader finds comfort in Tarquinio’s “glowing embers.” Whether the poem takes place near the hearth or beside a campfire, I am allowed a glimpse of intimacy and warmth, perhaps not so different from that found in the corner of a certain cave thousands of years ago.     



Ferris Gilli
June 2005


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