the sky
makes faces
advancing storm

Margaret Mahony


Selection and comments by Cynthia Rowe

This is a haiku of only nine syllables, able to be said in one breath. Brief, as a satisfying haiku should be by saying a great deal in as few words as possible. And perhaps there is also an intake of breath by the poet as she is startled to see the sky going through the contortions of producing a storm – somewhat like giving birth. For the clouds are doing exactly that, going through the throes of accouchement, creating a new life, this disturbance in the atmosphere.

An element of alarm infuses the poet’s wonderment. Should she rush home before being caught in the throes of rain sluicing down, the threat of being struck by lightning? Although a direct reference to nature, this poem recalls the times we have all marvelled at the clouds scudding overhead, making shapes in our imagination. We remember the games we played as children, picking out a horse, an elephant, a clown’s face, or even a castle, in the firmament. This phenomenon of light and shadow is called pareidolia.

Altocumulus clouds, on a warm, humid morning, indicate that you should be prepared for thunderstorms by late afternoon. In the lower left corner of the haiga we see palm fronds, so we presume that the haiku is written in one of the tropical regions of Australia where

the sky
makes faces

can be seen more dramatically than in temperate zones. Which brings to mind Bashō’s gentler poem ‘Clouds Come from Time to Time’ in which the poet is communing with nature, but in a softer, comforting way. There is little that is comforting in the above haiku where thunder and lightning threaten.

Line 1 & Line 2 − the sky/makes faces is anthropomorphic, sometimes frowned upon when writing haiku, but in this case works perfectly. Personification of things, as Jane Reichhold (dec.) said, ‘often adds a lyrical or deeper aspect to the poem’. ¹

Line 3 – advancing storm finishes off the haiku nicely. We know what is about to happen and are excited by the imminent awe-inspiring event.

An elegantly simple yet evocative haiku that conveys the essence of the moment.

First published: Haiku Xpressions, April 2014


Cynthia Rowe

Margaret Mahony

%d bloggers like this: