tiller in my hand
I move
…………..the world

Duncan Richardson


Riding the rollers, sailing out into the open spaces, this haiku is a breath of fresh air. I am reminded of the vastness of the earth and I can see a ship’s mast disappearing over the horizon with nothing but ocean fore and aft and a dome sky above.  One gets a sense here that our sailor is a lone sailor on a great venture in which we might also identify.

On reading this haiku a scientist friend reminded me of its literal truth; that any action in the world effects everything else . . . that the changing distribution of mass embodied in the movement of even the smallest boat will effect the tides on the most distant shore (just by a little bit)! The factual aspect of this haiku is a wonder that ought not to be missed and there may well be as much substance worthy of contemplation in the horizontal axis of this haiku as in the vertical. My friend went onto explain that as the sailor adjusts his grip on the tiller this would in fact move the moon and indeed all the moons and planets of the solar system – just by a little bit, she seemed to take great delight in adding (having some appreciation of the unimaginable delicacies of the cosmos). She then proceeded to speak rather passionately on the deep poetry of science, something I must share another time.

Anyway, onto the vertical axis; for we know that this is also the ocean of life our sailor is contending with and by taking the tiller in hand, as we all must, we are able to exert some control over our destiny. Still; the tides, winds, currents, submerged reefs and other intervening factors will come to bear upon the journey and often in drastic ways. While it is true we move the world it is equally true the world moves us. This suggestion that the world too has its way in shaping our destiny is perhaps apparent here if we give greater emphasis to the cut after the second line as the indented placement of the final line implies we might. A fascinating haiku.

First published: A Hundred Gourds 3:1 December 2013

Selection & comments by Simon Hanson

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