clear water
the sea snake’s shadow

Lorraine Haig


What is it about clear water that is so refreshing to mind and body? We are nearly seventy percent water and as we know it is fundamental to life and health. Yet there are other aspects to the nature of water that appeal deeply to us; the way it ‘responds to’ and reveals the energy of motion in waves, ripples, eddies, turbulence and swirls . . . We have always been fascinated by water in motion; drawn to be near ponds, rivers, lakes and the sea. Clear water is also alluring in its interactions with light. The play of light in and on water has been a source of endless fascination for artists, poets and those seeking a restful or meditative space.  The appeal of this play of light is greatly enhanced by the many ways that water may move;  we are charmed by things difficult to put words to.

This haiku is full of light and liquid motion. The alliteration of ‘s’ sounds, as well as the shape of the letter ‘S’ adds significantly to the suggestion of watery motion and of a swimming snake. In my mind’s eye – the beauty of a sinusoidal wave.

Our attention is drawn to the shadow of the snake rather than the snake itself as this was indeed what initially caught the poet’s attention, being more visually apparent than the pale camouflaged skin of the snake. The presence of the shadow subtly invites considerations of the lighting in this circumstance and we are left to surmise whether this might be of sun or moonlight. I did enjoy this focus on the shadow here in the way it draws attention to the ‘insubstantial’ while the existence of the snake is left to inference; the allegory of Plato’s Cave comes to mind.

A visually stunning haiku, gorgeous in many ways.

First published: Prospect 5, ed. Beverley George, 2015

Selection and comments by Simon Hanson

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