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The Heron’s Nest


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Volume XI, Number 3: September, 2009.
Copyright © 2009. 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 Paul O. Williams - Pages:  1,  2
Celebrating D. Claire Gallagher - Page:  1


Heron’s Nest Award



    where you first hear
    the river
                                       Burnell Lippy


Through thousands of years of development, our genetic ancestors have bequeathed us brain space and ability for the several senses. It may be that discriminating and remembering fragrance, odor, the whole affect of smell, is the most primal of all. This capacity is based in and connects with other parts of the brain from the oldest evolutionary areas: the so-called reptilian brain. We as a species do not have the snouts, the nerve endings, nor do we develop the number of possible connections that a bloodhound, a baboon, or an elephant does.

Humans have less and less need to rely on smell for survival and for hunting. Yet, infants can identify their own mothers and other close care givers with just this sense alone. The mystery of human attraction, even lust, is influenced by pheromones and by artificial scents such as my late wife’s perfumes. I remember especially her “go-out-fancy” or celebration scent. I still smell it occasionally in street-corner crowds or in a mall. As memory floods in, it is all I can do not to turn my head and search.

Burnell Lippy has created a confluence of senses in this haiku. It has layers of complexity with his perceptions now and of the past. He not only smells the sweet flowers, he has paired the sensation with a specific spot from which he also hears water — water that is rushing, in motion. This too is a basic skill from our genetic makeup. Finding water by the sound or scent of it can be imperative for survival. Burnell’s skill allows me to make my own version of this haiku, that he and I are walking or cycling a set route. Probably we are in a town, maybe on a sidewalk, maybe on a path in a park. A lot of towns in the US and in Burnell’s New York State have rivers near or through them. Old patterns of settlement developed from needs for transportation, water power for commerce, agriculture, or just for drinking. Most of the year the Poet is aware of getting closer to water falling — at just this spot. This assumes no sprinkler is going thwicka-thwicka, no ambulance siren is wailing, and no great wind is shaking bushes and trees.

A distant waterfall or cascade is an amalgam of mostly mid-tones and bass, as the treble is lost because it is usually heard directly. Bass tones can be felt as vibration even through the ground. A distant waterfall can be difficult to echolocate precisely.

On the circuit, this walk taken habitually for exercise or to a destination, that usual awareness, the watersound, is joined by announcement of summer. Honeysuckle. It has a very distinctive bouquet and its bloom marks confirmation that summer has arrived in most of the northern hemisphere around the world. I assume the vine here, cultivated and wild in N. America, is part of a yard or garden.

At this moment, at this spot, is a meeting of senses. How beautifully soft is this word “honeysuckle.” The rest of Poet Lippy’s construction just rushes softly downhill to us.

Ahh, memory!



Paul MacNeil
September 2009




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