Choice — Favorite Poems
Runner-Up — Timothy Hawkes
faint stars . . .
the cabby speaks
Distances and empathy snap together in a moment of profound human
connection and insight. Timothy Hawkes successfully captures the
experience in a few simple words that involve the reader, expanding the
links and inviting a wealth of personal associations. We discover
something we knew already and respond with the classic “ah” as a
deeply-felt and touching haiku takes its place among the finest of the
The first line fixes the poem in a vast and often uncertain universe.
Stars are markers shared by all human beings, constants amid ongoing
change. Weather, smog, or city lights make them seem faint on this
particular night, subtly augmenting the anonymity and potential
loneliness of urban life.
The cabdriver and his paying passenger share a relationship that is
both distant and, temporarily, intimate. Theirs is a chance and utilitarian
meeting. They probably will never see each other again. When the cabby
speaks of home, he is likely to describe a place that is an ocean and many
land miles away, surrounded by terrain and culture very different
from those the listener would associate with the word. Connotations
outweigh denotations, though, and “home” as a concept
is almost universally understood. So are the complex emotions associated
with separation from that special place of origin and identity.
Briefly, in a cab going from one place to another under faint stars, two
human beings confront a commonality that supercedes their differences.
The everyday reality of the encounter makes the epiphany all the more
memorable and evocative. Omar from Egypt is the driver I think of. Other
readers will supply specific details that bond them to the slice of life
Hawkes has so adroitly sketched. One way or another, we feel a little
closer to fellow travelers on this small planet that is our home.
— Peggy Willis Lyles
Runner-Up — Connie Donleycott
the full stretch
of the hose
This haiku won the October Heron’s Nest Award. In the accompanying essay, Peggy Lyles wrote of simplicity and the
poem’s consonance with haiku philosophy.
The poem’s subject is water and getting it to a garden in summer.
Yet, the writer doesn’t use the word “water,” and
the poem has no verbs. Connie Donleycott presents the action and key
subjects with laudable skill. Most of the words recede in prominence,
nearly disappearing, except perhaps the keyword “stretch.”
Saying it aloud is elongation itself. The sound and meaning of the
noun blend together provoking, as Peggy wrote, a kinesthetic response.
The touch and smell of the vinyl (or rubber) and the feel of the water
pulsing through it take me right to Connie’s spot in a garden — one
from my own memory. The hose is threaded to an outside spigot just
a bit too far from my garden. Of course, I could buy a longer hose,
but who knew how much I’d plant this year? It is heavy and I
have hauled the full hose to its natural length, and tug for a few
more inches to get water to the outlying plants. I see the spray sparkling
as it breaks after an upward angle and drops to the ground. I have
my thumb over the end of the hose, tightening my grip to get the best
distance. I learned this skill as a child, no doubt dashing around
trying to soak my brother. Yet as a gardener I hold the pose for a
long, purposeful time. Fatigued, I switch to the other thumb.
Daily chores. There is an obligation, a bond, between the gardener and
the gardened. Raising vegetables or flowers is work, but ideally, it is
a creative, often solitary pleasure. Irrigation, which the haiku
implies, is the giving of life. The hobbyist works the soil, starts and
maintains the growth of the plants, and is rewarded aesthetically and
materially. Great satisfaction comes with the harvest for vase or dining
table. Such a simple and effortlessly accessible poem, full of so much
imagery, is a gift from Connie to readers and lovers of haiku.
— Paul MacNeil