prom night
the blown silk
of milkweed

David Terelinck


What an intriguing haiku, multi-layered and likely to arouse a broad range of thoughts and feelings. The prom or formal as it is sometimes called in Australia is a kind of rite of passage, a coming of age ceremony. I recall my daughter’s formal not so long ago and the mixture of pride and anxiety it aroused in my heart. Pride to see her blossoming in the approach to womanhood and anxiety in thoughts of her embarking on the adventures of life and relationships knowing as we inevitably discover that not all will be upon calm waters. As parents we are naturally inclined to want happiness for our children but in the end must let them make their own decisions and find their own path – they with all the optimism and energy of youth, and we with the joys and hurts of experience.

Some might consider this poem to be senryu for it does indeed lead us along winding paths of human psychology and emotion but I am inclined to read it as haiku for at its deepest level it concerns nature; the blown silk (that is quite a line isn’t it) – one might imagine the silken fabrics of prom dresses (perhaps organza or chiffon) blown in the breeze during photographs before leaving home or in the carpark with friends before entering the hall; but the double meaning here of the silk of prom dresses and that of milkweed burst open to seed suggests thoughts of fertility and all that may encompass for the young of heart and body. In the poet’s words, the layers of interpretation are “to lead the reader to imagine a time of fleeting youth . . . a puff of wind and it is gone. That fragile time between being a child and moving into adolescence . . . and it can happen in a heartbeat, the space of your first kiss on a date, or in the time it takes the contents of a milkweed pod to be lost on the wind.” Prom night represents a threshold of personal and cultural significance approached with great anticipation and enthusiasm by the participants and often enough with mixed feeling by those looking on. In a most unobtrusive and admirable manner this haiku gives life to the heartfelt vulnerability and delicate beauty of it all.

Previously unpublished.

Selection & comments by Simon Hanson

(Do click on the link above to images of milkweed)

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