school holidays
the old bridge joggled
by running feet

Susan Scott

blue-sky

Selection and comments by Jan Dobb

Long gone is that old footbridge over Gardiner’s Creek in Melbourne, yet my memory of it springs into focus as I read this haiku. Ah, the joys of term holidays down by the creek!

It’s the poem’s evocative tones that do the trick. The words ‘school holidays’ and ‘old’ and ‘joggled’ – collectively so onomatopoeic – are then tempered by the smoother timbre of ‘running feet’. And as in music, rhythms emerge that reflect the mood and pace of this striking image.

We sense the freedom of school holidays in the looseness of ‘joggled’ boards – superb word – and running feet. We imagine a day of sunshine, light breeze and a few fluffy clouds with all the blue sky at their disposal. Given today’s array of holiday programs and tighter boundaries, perhaps the haiku is a bow to nostalgia.

But . . . just what is the mood that ‘joggled’ evokes? At first I experienced sheer delight. The old bridge, like a grandparent, is relishing the company of young life. Yet on second thoughts, does the bridge resent being ‘joggled’ out of its aged comfort zone? Although of course there is no explicit personification, the haiku successfully, I think, endows the old bridge with appealing depths of character.

Likewise, because the first line introduces school holidays, we are all set to ascribe the running feet to carefree children. But wait . . . the poet does not tell us whose feet they are. Perhaps this is not about happy holidays after all. Has a child fallen into the creek? Do running feet belong to parents and rescuers? Is it a rainy day and the water flowing fast? Who knows? Gardiner’s Creek has known both joy and tragedy in its day.

As in many good haiku, certainty is elusive.

First published: Windfall, issue 6, 2018

Jan Dobb