Ice Storm

The following poem first appeared in Geppo XLVI:1, November 2020–January 2021, page 2, and was selected for commentary in the following issue, XLVI:2, February–April 2021, pages 18–19.

        ice storm―

        branches bowing

        over an empty road

I never have experienced an ice storm, but I imagine that crystals of ice are falling all over the place clattering against the icy roads and the icy roofs. Tree branches are heavy with icicles―and perhaps the electric cables, too. The haiku is literally empty of a human figure, but it is full of sounds and anxiety.

—Emiko Miyashita

During an ice storm, the road is deserted. The branches of a tree bow due to the weight of the ice. Bowing when no one is around makes winter blues even bluer. I lived in upstate New York for almost six years and can easily picture this.

—H. Philip Hsieh

The paradox of an ice storm is how beautiful yet destructive it can be. The ice coats the trees so that they sparkle in the sunlight. But the ice is heavy, causing many of the branches to sag, even to break. The most memorable description of the phenomenon is by Robert Frost in his poem, “Birches”:

        . . . you must have seen them

        Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning

        After a rain. They click upon themselves

        As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored

        As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.

        Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells

        Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust―

        Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away

        You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

        They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,

        And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed

        So low for long, they never right themselves . . .

This haiku is an excellent example of the power of the kigo. Here just the phrase “ice storm” brings into the reader’s mind Frost’s description of birch trees covered in ice, thereby enlarging and enhancing the world created by these three lines.

—Patricia J. Machmiller