silver moon
in the dockyard the old boat’s
new paint

Rose van Son


Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” (Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, 1908).

On first reading this haiku I imagined a maritime setting, a dockyard catering for sea going vessels. I have since learnt it arose on a stroll along the banks of the Swan River in Maylands. Whether on river, lake, estuary or sea; boats of all kinds have always had a special place in the imagination. The first line – silver moon – could well be the name of the old boat featured in this haiku (an apt name for a boat anyway) as well as being a reference to the moon in the night sky brightening the boats new paint. The moon is an old friend of sailors, a reassurance in their voyages through the night, and by effecting the currents and tides, important in navigation. The image here of the boat (a timber clinker hull in my mind’s eye) up on blocks in dry-dock radiant in its new coat of paint under the silver moon is a striking one. I am taken by the simple placement of the words silver moon in this haiku shining above lines two and three just as the moon itself was on this occasion shining above the old boat in the dockyard. The dockyard at night is likely to be a lonely place, and the old boat sitting in silence, perhaps with other boats under restoration, paints a beautiful picture.

P.S. Feedback is a wonderful thing and on posting this commentary I have had the benefit of a lovely thought from Jan Dobb. We might very well imagine here that it is the silver moonlight itself that is painting the boat and so rendering its weather worn timbers a thing of beauty. Haiku are often open to a variety of interpretations and while I do not see it as necessary or desirable to cover them all in commentary, this interpretation is deeply appealing. Thank you Jan.

City of Perth Library 2012 haiku competition, Second prize
subsequently published in: still heading out – an anthology of Australian and New Zealand haiku 2013, ed. Jacqui Murray & Katherine Samuelowicz

Selection & comments by Simon Hanson

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