The Heron's Nest

Volume XXII, Number 2: June 2020

Editors' Choices

a willow tells me more
about the wind

Quendryth Young
Alstonville, New South Wales

the time
it takes

Bill Kenney
Whitestone, New York

morning calm
my skipping stone
see-saws to the bottom

Peter Newton
Winchendon, Massachusetts

The Heron's Nest Award

a willow tells me more
about the wind

Quendryth Young

Dear Willow,

For me, until I immigrated to the United States, a willow was a tree I only found near a river. I was surprised to see a couple of willows on the sidewalk near my place in San Francisco. You may not like to hear about the image popping into my mind when I hear the word "willow." The word is... "ghost."

When I was small, my grandmother told me I should not go near a willow on a windy day. Once upon a time, there was a woman under a willow holding her baby. Long willow branches strangled her and she went to the land of the dead leaving her baby behind. She became a ghost under the tree. Her spirit waited for a child coming near her, so that she could fetch and bring him/her back to the darkness she belonged to.

You may laugh and tell me Australian willows are friendly. Your friend, the wind, might have reminded a poet who strolled on the bend where you live of a family picnic when she was a child. But I know the river can also witness horror. When the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, people jumped from the bridges into the rivers to cool themselves.

Everyone and everything have stories. The more we listen to them, the more we understand differences and commonalities between us. I wonder what story you told a poet. A river was born in the faraway mountain. A wind made a journey with the river as a co-actor. You might be their messenger. A poet like Quendryth Young is an interpreter of the cycles of life that nature presents us. There is always something more. I imagine you standing near a calm river. Sometimes a soft breeze makes peaceful ripples on its surface. But sometimes, you and your river encounter a harsh wind. In winter, you become a skeleton and listen to white-capped waves that break noisily against the shore. The wind may not always be a pleasant companion. "Willow" is a spring kigo according to Japanese saijiki. Spring is a season of blossoming. You start producing young leaves. The low keening of your winter becomes a soothing a cappella.

Since my last name means "blue (a synonym for 'green') willow," I am feeling close to you. Willow, I will send you my email address or invite you as a social media friend, and we can continue our conversation and exchange our stories. This spring, Covid-19 hit the world hard. As I write to you, I am under a 'shelter in place order." I assume you don't have a passport. But our mutual friend, the wind, is able to go anywhere he wants to go. Keep in touch!

a willow and I wait
for the wind coming back

Fay Aoyagi
June 2020


The Heron's Nest XXII.2 (6-2020)

Next Page