haiku meditation: vowel-consonant collaboration


Tumbling upstream

against the racing current–

a white downy seed.

–J. W. Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Volume Two

My favorite line is the first because of the “u” sound and its collaboration with the “mb” in “tumbling” and “p” in “upstream.”  These combinations repeat the darker gurgling sounds of creek currents–that sound that occasionally bubbles up from underneath, bringing to the surface nutrients that lie below.

Line two continues the mystery of what can “tumble” against such a current, in part because I imagine tumbling as a grounded movement involving traction, or a movement of powerful muscles like those of the salmon.

Line three belies the idea of traction because the unseen wind is sending the seed upstream.  The seed is tumbling against, but the “against” is nominal and abstract.  Yes, this dandelion seed is traveling in the opposite direction, but not  with any traction per se.  It skips, like the slender stone I used to throw across the stream behind my grandparents’ house.

Also, in this third and last line the impact of the “u” sound returns.  Whereas the grounded tumbling starts the poem, a whispy white featheriness ends it. The “wh” combines with a long “i,” and the “w” in “downy” repeats this slight consonant.  Like “i” in “white,” the long “e” in “seed” gives this line a higher, airier feel; it sings soprano to the first line’s base notes.  It lifts the poem out of its initial mystery, sending the seed to land who knows where.

Yes, the current of water is “racing,” yet the slight seed moves against it even so.


photo credit: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2120/1883564903_1a7fb38115_z.jpg


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