a fox in daylight chasing and being chased by crows
Janice M. Bostok
(1942 – 2011)
The image of the fox is steeped in symbolism in popular culture from Aesop’s wily fox to the chicken-stealing foxes that roam the countryside and suburbs of many cities today. Foxes were introduced into Australia in the nineteenth century for hunting and as a result, they have contributed greatly to the decline of native species. We are preconditioned to think about these animals in a certain way, however Janice Bostok’s one-line haiku or monostich encourages us to think about the fox differently.
This haiku, like many successful haiku, captures a moment in time. It is an observation, one full of colour – the red of the fox’s fur, the black feathers of the crows. It also encompasses both movement and sound – the implied cawing of the crows, the snapping of the fox’s jaws, yet it goes well beyond mere observation. While the image may seem comical at first, with the crows dive-bombing the fox and the fox snapping at them, it leads us to think more deeply about the natural world. The fox is a creature of the shadows, yet here he is out in the open in broad daylight, driven by hunger to compete with the crows for food. Every day is dominated by the struggle to survive. Foxes, love them or hate them, form a part of many suburban and rural landscapes. Opportunists and scavengers, they are survivors.
Janice Bostok helped pave the way for one-line haiku in English and showed that they can work in many different ways. Here there is no ambiguity about the pause – it clearly comes after ‘daylight’. We know immediately that the fox is out of his usual environment. What follows is the circular movement of the fox both chasing and being chased by the crows. As the words flow across the page, we can follow the movement of the birds and the fox and understand that this idea of the hunter and the hunted is an integral part of the cycle of life.
Published: Amongst the Graffiti: Collected Haiku and Senryu 1972 – 2002 (Post Pressed, 2003)
Selection and comments by Vanessa Proctor