at the mountain spring
lips just touching
On first reading I was immediately taken by the image of this couple and their reflections by the stillness of a mountain spring, drawing closer to drink and at the moment of touching the surface ‘their’ lips touch ~ with a quiver sent across the water. The delicate interplay between stillness and motion in this image invites a moment of pause.
Perhaps it is one person and one reflection? The legend of Narcissus comes to mind (though this may or may not have been intended by the poet). There may be threads to explore here regarding the nature of romantic love and its bearing on the self, (which is something of an unfathomable mystery to me). The poem begins with the inclusive ‘we’ and the poet tells us she wrote this haiku while visiting her parents’ village in Sicily. “There is a natural spring on the side of the mountain where everyone goes to collect fresh delicious drinking water. I imagined my parents as a young couple visiting the spring collecting water, as I did with my boyfriend when I was there, and as others do now. I’d like to think that this lovely ritual will always continue. The mountain spring being a source of energy, life and renewal.” The act of drinking from natural sources such as this is an ancient one of archetypal significance and such situations must have provided humans with the first glimpses of themselves. The symbolic associations we might have with drinking from a mountain spring, pristine and life-giving, of quenching one’s thirst, add substantially to the depth of this haiku. The reflections we are invited to imagine in the mirror-like waters of this mountain spring may also be a source of fascination. One might well wonder what it is about reflections generally that so intrigue us; why is it that they feature as they so often do in poetry and art? Whether in glass, dew drops, the eyes of another, a calm sea or a mountain spring, we have long been drawn to gaze into this other world of light.
First published: Chrysanthemum # 7 April 2010
Selection and comments by Simon Hanson