a water tanker
hung with rainbows
This scene is one we might encounter passing though road works or traveling along a country road on a hot summer’s day, wholly ordinary yet rendered here unmistakably numinous. The contrast between choking dust and a water tanker hung with rainbows is particularly effective; the world in all its mundane and at times oppressive reality is seen for a moment to be glorious. The idea of ‘magical transformation’ is a frequent theme in story, myth and fantasy across cultures and throughout history. We are treated here to a superb example of this in just a few words. In his essay Haiku as Poetic Spell Martin Lucas writes, “To approach the Poetic Spell via imagery often appears to involve nothing more than mere description. The difference is that what is described is somehow so satisfying that we linger in the moment, and almost seek to dwell in it.” This is precisely what this haiku does; the image is entirely natural and yet we are lifted out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary, the world is imbued with mystery. Further on, Lucas writes “Poetic spells don’t tell us anything, they are something, they exist as objects of fascination in their own right. You can hold them in the light and turn them about and watch each of their facets gleam.” This haiku provides us with a stunning image made deeply satisfying by an element of wonder; a remarkable poem.
First Published: A Hundred Gourds 5:2 March 2016
Selection & comments by Simon Hanson