The Heron's Nest

Volume XVII, Number 4: December 2015

Editors' Choices

crows until the world is silhouettes

Polona Oblak
Ljubljana, Slovenia

the rice song
mother sang to me...
first spring rain

Chen-ou Liu
Ajax, Ontario

his attempts
at brewing tea...
morning sickness

Yesha Shah
Surat, India

The Heron's Nest Award

crows until the world is silhouettes

Polona Oblak
Ljubljana, Slovenia

Crows are not nocturnal birds and they typically roost in the company of other crows. As they settle and jostle for branch space, they are boisterous. Crows are noisy.

The mention of crows characteristically evokes images of a flock of large, black birds, wing feathers spread in flight, or the classic outline of the perched birds. That is, until just the moment they merge with the darkness this poet experiences. She is suddenly aware that all is part of the same darkness. Wonderment is revealed in the split second when black joins black. I find sad beauty in this. One can imagine leaves, trees, fence posts, cattle, buildings — all in silhouette as faint light lingers in the sky. When the scene darkens, it also becomes quieter. Among the usual night voices, is that a cricket I hear? Or calling birds of the night such as whippoorwills? Bats may silently flicker in and out of view against the sky — and they are dark as well. The faintly back-lit outlines of perched crows disappear into the whole landscape — the world.

This haiku is written in one line. A sentence fragment, it doesn't read quite as smoothly as would a complete sentence, yet it has a pleasing musicality. The first word, not being paired with a verb as in a sentence, creates a soft pause in our perception of the poem. The rest of the verse flows, but it flows slowly, matching twilight's progression. The sound of "world" is stretched. "Silhouette" is a borrowed word from French, and is deceptive when read or spoken. If it were not set in the plural, the double "t" with "e" would be pronounced with a clipped sound, a defined stop in French. However, when it is spoken in English, the plural "s" softens the "tt" sound.

Master Basho wrote a famous haiku about a crow and branch as night settles in. I found at least 16 published translations of his haiku. All of them have the word "autumn" as well as "branch." Other wording varies widely, but all indicate "crow" and some mention of the end of day turning to night. Did Oblak have this poem in mind, was the haiku intended as an homage? The season of autumn is not specified in Polona's verse. Neither are "branch" nor "sound." Yet, because of the nature of crows and this classic Japanese haiku, I am led to these impressions. Are the trees bare where these crows are perched? The light fades, the cacophony as well...and winter is coming.

Paul MacNeil
December 2015


The Heron's Nest XVII.4 (12-15)

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