old shed
the passionfruit vine
holds it together

Judith E. P. Johnson


This haiku attracted me immediately. It presented a familiar image, yet left so much more to discover – the hallmark of a well-written haiku. The old shed and the passionfruit vine support each other to ensure their future existence, each one unable to survive without the other. This is a fine example of the coexistence of a man-made structure and the natural world.

There would be few folk who have travelled through the Australian countryside and have not come across such a scene as described in this haiku. Our first thoughts are often those of sadness at seeing what was once an essential part of someone’s daily life abandoned and neglected. Often constructed from makeshift materials, most sheds eventually succumb to the elements, falling to earth and rotting away. This haiku conveys that sense of sadness and fragility. However, it also hints at something more positive. While the two remain as one, they will live on, at least for now.

It is interesting to contemplate the shed’s former purpose. Perhaps it remains on a property that is still a working property but is no longer fit for its original purpose and has been replaced with something bigger and better. Alternatively it may be on a property that has been abandoned and the owners, for whatever reason, have moved to other pastures. It may have been an old milking shed or farmer’s work or tool shed in years gone by. The passionfruit vine gives rise to thoughts of a gardener’s potting shed.

It may well have been a small dwelling for one of our early pioneering families. Somewhere that provided basic shelter, a place to cook a meal and to sleep at the end of a hard day’s work. A far cry from the expectations for our modern homes.

One can only imagine the social and technological changes the shed has been a silent witness to. If only walls could speak. Whatever the reason the shed has been left to go to wrack and ruin, one can’t help but feel it deserves a fitting farewell for the part it played during its working life. This is what Judith E. P. Johnson’s haiku has done, farewelled and celebrated the old shed and all that it stands for.

Selection and commentary by Carol Reynolds

Haiku first published: Windfall: Australian Haiku, Issue 6, 2018

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