The Light in the Darkness

The following poem won second place in the 1995 Henderson contest for haiku, sponsored by the Haiku Society of America, and was first published in Frogpond18:4, Winter 1995. Ruth Yarrow’s appreciation for “toll booth” appeared on Troutswirl, the blog for the Haiku Foundation, on 4 February 2010, where it generated an extensive discussion. See also “Toll Booth Lit for Christmas” by Paul Miller and “Toll Booth Lit for Christmas” by Karen Sohne and Bill Pauly.

by Ruth Yarrow

                toll booth lit for Christmas—

                from my hand to hers

                warm change

                        —Michael Dylan Welch

I find this poem full of contrasts and of hope. The contrasts include the lighted booth in the early dark of a December evening, the coins warmed by his hand reaching out into cold Christmas weather, and the warmth of the connection in what is a very impersonal fleeting monetary exchange. The hope I feel in this poem comes from the light in the darkness, the hope of the season, the reach across what may be class and race as well as gender lines, including the smile and thanks I assume are there. And that last line has so many reverberations. We are all humans, giving us the potential to connect with warmth. We have the potential to change the global messes we are in if we make those connections. I admit this is laying a lot on a short poem—maybe far too much. But the feelings of connection, warmth and hope are all in that moment, and after all, emotions are what makes any poem poetry. Thanks, Michael.       +