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The Heron’s Nest


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Volume IX, Number 2: June, 2007.
Copyright © 2007. 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
Celebrating Kay Anderson - Pages:  1,  2,  3,  4 • 
Kay Anderson - Index of Contributors


Heron’s Nest Award


    late summer
    no place in the corn
    where you’re not touched
                                       Burnell Lippy


Endlessly evocative, Burnell Lippy’s “late summer / no place in the corn / where you’re not touched” should be read first and foremost as an intensely physical declaration of fact from someone who knows exactly what he is talking about. “Late summer” is not a separate image but an essential part of the statement, which would be untrue at a different time of year. Adding “In” at the beginning, “there is” after “summer,” and a final period would transpose the elliptical expression into a standard prose sentence. In that form, too, the information is demonstrably accurate and richly compressed. The more forceful three-line form, however, emphasizes Lippy’s poetic impulse and intent. It slows things down just enough for the reader to step in.

The period of incredibly rapid growth has passed, and the corn is as tall as it will ever be, seven maybe eight feet high, certainly well above a person’s head. Banner-like leaves curve upward from the stalks then droop, taking up most of the room between rows. Earth, corn, and heat meld to produce heavy smells and ever-changing sounds unique to the season and the crop. Greens dominate, accented by browns and yellows and glimpses of sky. The plants move with their own weight and there is absolutely no place within the cornfield where a human being would not be brushed by leaves or leaning stalks — itchy, scratched, nicked — and utterly surrounded by the ancient, amazing crop. A person could get lost there, or feel he has been found and claimed.

The indefinite “you” can be tricky, but here I think it sets just the right tone, more inclusive than “I,” much more natural and conversational than “one.” The usage catches a wrung-from-the-poet epiphany and establishes the universal quality of the insight. As a reader or listener becomes thoroughly involved, the sense of the second person pronoun may even shift from indefinite to specific, increasing the intimacy of shared experience.

Beyond paraphrase and beyond metaphor, the poem affects me emotionally as well as physically. Alive to the present moment, I am touched by the cycle of seasons and connections with people of many cultures and times. I know that corn has been cultivated for centuries, changed, developed, and spread around the world to become an economic giant and an essential source of food for humans and livestock. I am touched by feelings of responsibility as well as gratitude and abundance. Fertility, growth, change, ripeness all brush my consciousness.

Immersed in Burnell Lippy’s splendid haiku, I respond to the tactile sensations of a cornfield in late summer and find myself insistently touched by the mystery of life.



Peggy Willis Lyles
June 2007


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