International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Haiku by John Hawkhead

Ronnie Robertson - moonlight
Photo: Ronnie Robertson/Creative Commons/Flickr

Vivid imagery and brilliant understatement are at work in British poet John Hawkhead’s “Spring moon” and “ink of night” haiku.

Aided by the white light of the moon – that feminine celestial presence – the poetic speaker goes beyond viewing the implied aftereffects of a woman’s lumpectomy or mastectomy and “explores” the “trail” these scars have left on her body. Against the backdrop of spring – the season of renewal and freshness – the chiaroscuro of the moon’s spotlight beaming through dark of night surrounds the telltale signs of a deadly disease. Hawkhead’s “Spring moon” is imbued with life and death, light and darkness. It is a snapshot of the cycle of life itself, every moment at once new and dying.

Spring moon
I explore the lustrous trail
of her breast scars


This poem’s opening line – not the typical “dark of night,” but instead “ink of night” – suggests police fingerprint ink and a grim scene leading up to it. Under the nails of the poem’s subject is “the evidence” of some crime. We might assume the woman is a victim who fought back against her attacker, but is that too facile? Hawkhead’s poem leaves just enough room for interpretation to make it tantalizing.

ink of night
under her nails
the evidence

John Hawkhead is a writer and illustrator from the South West of England. His haiku and senryu have been published all over the world and his book, Small Shadows, is available from Alba Publishing.

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