the bottom of the river
scattered with clams
Robert Spiess (1921-2002) From "The Turtle's Ears," Wells Printing Company, Inc. 1971.
Selected and commented on by Dhugal J. Lindsay
The best haiku are perhaps those that offer a concrete rendition of a scene but where the relationships between some of the elements in the scene cannot be easily, cognitively understood. In the above haiku the scene is clear and concrete. However, the first element "Muttering thunder" is not so close to the second element -- a riverbed that is scattered with clams. Clams have no ears so they can't hear the thunder ... the sound of thunder wouldn't reach below water ... why is the thunder quiet and far away when one would make it strong if one wanted to suggest the clams had been scattered by the weather ...? Some readers may ask themselves such questions but for other readers somehow it feels like the two elements belong together, although perhaps one might not quite be able to put a finger on why. These haiku, ones that somehow reveal truths in nature through illuminating the interrelationships between two seemingly unrelated entities, are the haiku we never tire of.