by Dhugal J. Lindsay
Commentary first published 7 June 2020 on the Mainichi website (Japan). See also “Haiku Classic 2,” “Haiku Classic 3,” and “Haiku Classic 4.”
in the tree rings
Michael Dylan Welch (1962– )
From Jumble Box, edited by Michael Dylan Welch, Press Here, Sammamish, Washington, 2017
The reader’s senses are drawn from the starlight, bathing all things equally, to focus in on a tree stump. The growth rings are visible in the starlight and the reader wonders just how old the tree was. Light from the stars has taken such a long time to reach the Earth, far longer than that tree was growing before it was felled. The starlight causes us to imagine that the tree must have been quite old, through sensual and psychological association. Looking carefully at the sawn-off stump, we try and count the rings to see how old the tree actually was, and then our senses are drawn even further in—telescopically from stars to the droppings of a mouse left there on the stump between the tree rings. Mice are so short-lived and their droppings are even more ephemeral. The poet masterfully has penned a poem about poop without it seeming dirty in any way and readers are caused to consider their own mortality.