she pops seafroth bubbles
with her lips
Linda Jeannette Ward
A Japanese acquaintance, discussing haiku key words with me, once used
the phrase: “the killing word.” His meaning was clear, his wording
probably translated well. Such a word is one that just makes it all
happen, a special word, a perfect, inspired “bon mot.” To me, the
killing word in Linda Jeannette Ward’s poem is “seafroth.” Not only
beautiful to say, it conjures up so many images. Because of it, “she” is
placed in water, salt water, with breaking waves coming ashore.
Ordinarily, “seafroth” would be two words. As editor or reader, I do not
mind the minor coining of a word such as this. Rather, this is a
gorgeous bit of wordsmithing. As a compound modifier, it would properly
have been hyphenated: “sea-froth bubbles.” It seems much cleaner and
smoother as one word.
The poem’s order of delivery is carefully structured. First shown are
the time of day and the fat, rising moon. We can see sunset colors in
the sky and on the water. Is there also a moonpath?
Next the reader is quickly loaded up with implications from the second
line: a woman bending to the top of a spent wave; or, a woman in the
water at head level with the surf; a beach setting and a time of year
that allows a sunset swim. This seems either set in the tropics or in a
warm season if at higher latitudes. Popping bubbles could be a game,
even a child’s act, but then the closing line gives us the lips. Sure,
it still could be a kid playing. That notion, however, is overridden by
the moon, the sunset, the gender of the popper, and those lips, oh my!
Now, many more scenarios can be imagined. “She” could even be alone, but
with so many implications of romance, I doubt it — I hope not. I do not
need to know.
The poem doesn’t seem either overfull or clipped. It is, however, full
of images. In fine haiku manner, words lead to much more. It begins and
ends with an “s.” The poem, examined closely, has a lot of “s” sounds.
Languid slowness. The final “t” of sunset is not emphasized, and the
“p” of pop is slowed and smoothed by the word’s own “s.” How slow to say
are moon, seafroth, bubbles, and lips? One cannot rush this wording.
Linda has tied the whole together in several ways. Roundness repeats
with the sun, moon, bubbles, and the shape of lips. The haiku contains
different kinds of motion implied as well as in the immediate imagery:
the sun sets, the moon rises, waves ebb and flow, lips pop one bubble,
and another. Popping a balloon with a pin? That is an interruption. But
a seafroth bubble popped with lips is soundless and sensual.
Thank you, Linda. Your writing is full of life, of undercurrents
unstated. This poem doesn’t end, it must be read again and again. I can
enter this haiku and share and project. Are those coconuts on the beach
under the palms, right next to the towels and swimsuits?
The haiku could be about a playful cavort, an enticement to “her” lover,
or just joie de vivre. It could be a honeymoon, or a second honeymoon. I
find a sunset swim, a big moon, a kiss, the salty taste of that kiss!
Dear Reader, how about you?