a crow stares
from an ancient oak
snow moon

Marilyn Humbert


One might imagine such a scene in a Tolkien fantasy or medieval landscape. Yet it is aptly Australian as well as contemporary, for we have our crows, native oaks and snow in Australia too. In the Southern hemisphere the August full moon is sometimes referred to as the Snow Moon (most appropriate to the highland regions of south eastern Australia). Each line in this haiku suggest images of archetypal quality; the penetrating stare of a crow, the gnarled boughs of an ancient oak, the ethereal light of a full moon over snow; which taken together conjure a sense of the magical. The word  ancient is one of those words in poetry in danger of overuse; but is a perfect word choice here conveying a sense of deep time. This scene could well belong to any age and so in this sense has a timeless appeal. Many of the great oaks of Tasmania’s native forests are both ancient and present today.

What a wonderful photograph this might make, in black and white, capturing the shades and contrasts of light and dark as only silver bromide can do. The ambient light of a full moon over snow can rival the brightness of day, without any loss to the mystique of night. The darkness of the crow and the suggestion of shadows in this moon-silvered landscape is especially evocative and has great aesthetic appeal.

Discussing possible lines of interpretation with the poet, Marilyn wrote, “Part of the joy of writing for me is what the reader sees in my work, I am always amazed.” I could not agree more, and I am amazed here at the richness of imagery and association lying within these few words and the power of this haiku to open spaces in the imagination.

First published: Cattails, September 2014

Selection and comments by Simon Hanson

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