Heron’s Nest Award
migrating geese —
the things we thought we needed
darken the garage
Chad Lee Robinson
We at The Heron’s Nest are very grateful that our journal has attracted the attention and participation of poets from a wider world.
What comes close to universal in haiku is precious to us all. At times, of course, it is also fitting to celebrate and appreciate that which is
steeped in local color. In this issue we are recommending to our readers’ attention a poem that, together with its universal theme of the
burden of desire, is quintessentially North American in its imagery.
We are a car culture. Mobility and the freedom of open spaces are close to our hearts and souls. While North American lifestyles feature many
settings, one version that is especially ours is the one family house with an attached two-car garage. What has happened in Chad Lee Robinson’s
poem is familiar here and has been repeated millions upon millions of times. With time, the garage has become a storehouse for everything but the
car. And this is an omen of what is to come. We can be overtaken by our possessions and they can indeed become “dark” things. The habit
of acquisition makes us forgetful and, in a sense, ignorant of the simple things. We forget how to savor those things that we truly do need,
obscured as they are by layer upon layer of other “things we thought we needed,” which have since been consigned to the going-nowhere
obscurity of the garage.
The geese have their habits, too. They follow their own sense of what is needed. While they are social creatures, as we are, they’ve kept it
comparatively simple. Rather than “keeping up with the Joneses” (perhaps the origin of the slang term “jones,” meaning a
craving), they follow a migratory path that countless generations of geese have followed before them, taking their place in the formation in a way
that makes the effort of flight almost 50% more efficient. They are the epitome of unencumbered.
Migrating geese is a kigo that Bill Higginson’s Haiku World assigns to late autumn, which seems intuitively correct in much of
North America. The key word in this poem is “darken” and it operates as a sort of auxiliary kigo, reinforcing the presence of
shorter days and longer shadows in late autumn. This neutral quality operates in balance with the mildly sinister implications of the word in
context. As a result, the poem is less a judgment (with concomitant distancing from its subject) and more of a wistful, perhaps affectionate
acceptance of the flawed humanity that is exhibited by our friends and neighbors — and by all of us.