haiku presented with commentary by the Yuki Teikei Society for discussion
young leaf #1
By Patricia Machmiller & Jerry Ball
untouched by words
the spring moon pauses
jb: In this haiku we have a moment in time: the moment when the spring moon “pauses” between pines. One can infer the context: a night walk in a pine forest. In the mystery of the scene the spring moon pauses (a metaphor … that works, for me) between the trees. I remember one night in Japan, this was during the winter, that my friend and I stood and watched the moon move. We lined it up with a telephone wire, and waited. If you’re patient enough you can actually see the movement. There’s something eerie about this. You can actually see the universe at work. It’s a story, in this case, told by the moon and the pines.
pjm: What a good choice, Jerry. This haiku brings together two concepts—one from the East and one from the West—expanding (exploding?) our understanding of both. In Buddhist thought the moon is a symbol of enlightenment. Here the poet says the moon (enlightenment) is “untouched by words.” The idea is that to achieve enlightenment the mind must become empty. To convey this thought the poet has used the phrase “untouched by words.” But in so doing the poet has brought to the poem an allusion to the Western Biblical phrase from John, 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. For Westerners this haiku cannot be read free of this reference. From this perhaps we can infer satori, the process of becoming enlightened, is a fusion, not a touching, of the Word and the one enlightened. This is a haiku with much to be discovered—what do the pines contribute to the thought? And the fact that it is spring? I am not finished thinking about this haiku.
graphic by Patricia Machmiller