across our lawn
on dewy nights
ten thousand tiny moons
For me, this haiku is a piece of magic. It opens up a setting to excite the imagination and then softly reveals a simple insight into natural beauty. How often do we miss what is before our eyes and senses, with our minds elsewhere and our failure to pause?
In their turn, the three lines of this haiku lead us from where to when to what. After the opening two-line phrase, my imagination springs to action . . . What is it across our lawn on dewy nights? Indeed, the rhythm of the haiku suggests a movement of footsteps. Maybe it’s next-door’s cat stopping to shake a wet paw as it prowls by. Is this an olden-day milkman dashing back and forth with his clinking bottles? It might be merely a snail setting out on a long and arduous journey or a possum scurrying from one tree to another. As imagination runs riot we might even envision an intruder, complete with mask and heavy sack!
No, of course not! Nothing like that at all. The third line is striking –‘ten thousand tiny moons’. It is no single thing across our lawn on dewy nights, but a multitude. It is not movement at all, but stillness. There are no footsteps to damage the dew, but rather magical lights to enhance it. Such a common sight, yet we look at it afresh because we did not notice it before, or especially not in this way.
And that is another reason that this haiku appealed to me. I often find myself intrigued that something as huge as the moon or the sun can transmit its light over such vast distances only to mimic itself in something as tiny as a dewdrop on the lawn or a raindrop on a gumleaf. It’s so good to read a haiku that makes you want to say to the poet, ‘Ah, so you are struck by that too!’
Finally, this haiku illustrates the importance of each word we choose, even a word that might appear insignificant on a first reading. In this haiku the word ‘our’ in the first line immediately connects the poet with this wondrous sight. There is a relationship between the human and the natural spheres. Consider how something would be lost if it was merely ‘the’ lawn instead of ‘our’ lawn.
Selection and comments by Jan Dobb
First published: Windfall: Australian Haiku Issue 1, 2013