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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 1, March 2012

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Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand


The Empty Space

I like to stand on the Japanese bridge and listen to the bustle of blue teal building their nests in the river bank's nooks and crannies. The river flows swiftly from the Kamai ranges as though it were being chased by a creature stronger than itself—not even the reeds can rein it in. From here I've watched as children dive into deep pools and seen whitebait fishermen resting on the grass while their huge white nets floated on the water waiting for a catch. The bridge's planks are damp, pithy, smelling of the forest from which they came. Its struts resemble twisted rope and its panels contain cut-outs of bird's feet.

swish of a tail
in iridescent colours
so swiftly
it glides from place to place
here, then gone

It's a great annoyance when the entry to the bridge is barred with a notice saying it is dangerous. By an odd coincidence, beside it is an engraved boulder with a haiku on it by the Japanese poet Takebe Ayatari (1719-1774):

In the evening
the bridge becomes dangerous—
tonight's moon

Next time I visit the spot the bridge has gone. There's an empty space where it once spanned the river, like a hole where there was once a tooth. The whole thing has been carried away on the back of a trailer for repair. Now there's no way for the people and their dogs to cross the river on their way to enjoy the freedom of the park or to take a short cut to the town. The cyclists and joggers have to take a different route; the dogs, knowing just when to bark, howl their disproval to the empty space; the clatter of feet across the bridge is silenced and the luffing clouds sail gently over the lucid blue.

followed
by nestlings' hungry cries
the sound
of twigs pulling away
from the river bank

veering left
to avoid a snagged log
a group of scouts
paddle their homemade rafts
through a deep channel

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