wet spring –
in a box by the fire
a small bleat

Sandra Simpson


This haiku evokes strong images from my childhood. I was raised on a sheep farm, as was Sandra, and during the spring school holidays, I would accompany my father around the farm to check on the state of the ewes. Sheep farming was the backbone of the New Zealand economy. No lamb was left to chance in our wet, cold, spring conditions.

The format of the haiku is divided into two parts. The first line wet spring— describes a whole season, rather than a specific point in time. The rain is unrelenting, the fields are muddy, a newborn lamb can quickly succumb to the cold if it is unable to get off the ground to suckle a warm, nourishing drink from its mother. If it does not, intervention by the farmer is critical.

In the next two lines the haiku zooms in on a specific image:

in a box by the fire
a small bleat

Here, the presence of the lamb is implied. a small bleat raises a vivid picture of my father toweling one down in the early stages of hypothermia. Next he spoons some warmed milk, with a little whiskey added, down its throat. Then he places it in box by the fire. This is a quintessential, on-farm, spring image.

Later, to hear that small bleat from the box brought me joy, and it taught me much; how to care for a creature in distress, the follow up care to raise it to maturity. If the lamb died, I learned that life and death is the natural order of our world, that grief is the process of healing. I learned basic farm economics.

In our current wet, cold spring, this haiku warms me each time I read it.

Selection and commentary by Margaret Beverland, New Zealand

Haiku first published: Presence # 59, 2017

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