The following poem first appeared in Geppo XLIII:4, August–October 2018, page 1, and was selected for commentary in the following issue, XLIV:1, November 2018–January 2019, page 12.
ice in the water bottle—
the dawn sky
reddens our tent
The temperature is below zero [Celsius], and the author is camping with someone; the daybreak is casting dazzling rays that turn their tent to red. The crisp fresh air and the auspicious daybreak is felt from this haiku, perhaps in the wilderness but without being too lonely due to the word “our.” Ice expands as it freezes. If it were far below zero, the entire bottle would freeze causing the plastic bottle to balloon. But from the touch of the haiku, I see just the right amount of ice in the bottle.
Brrr! This haiku vividly evokes winter camping, waking up at daybreak in a tent so cold the water has frozen during the night. The haiku leaves open whether we’re still in the tent, snuggling deeper into a sleeping bag and the ruddiness is sunlight shining through the fabric of the tent, or we’re already up and out and it’s a red tent—meaning that the early grayness of dawn has passed and we’re seeing our campsite in its fullness of morning color. For me, these two possible readings work in succession, and I get an image of outdoor adventure in what promises to be a fine, bracing winter day.
It’s been a cold night. It must feel glorious to waken surrounded by a glowing tent. This haiku makes us aware of how the color red feels—it’s warmth, its joy.
—Patricia J. Machmiller