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Interlude: Newt Haiku

March 13, 2012


Photo: The newt on the left hovers above an egg sac moments before approaching the beast with two tails on the right.

On one of the first unmistakable days of Spring, I led a group of five six-year-olds on a walk through the UC Botanical Garden, where I am a docent. I say “walk,” but children at that age do anything but: they skip, bound, trip, jostle, spin,and vibrate in a sort of Brownian motion, but rarely walk. On this first morning of emboldening sunlight and tentative short sleeves, my group was particularly kinetic, their effervescence reaching a feverish pitch when we arrived at the Japanese pool and found the newts in a similar frenzy. Pairs of newts gripped each other in slippery contortions, splashy displays that incited the childrens’ curiosity. Lone newts trailed after mating pairs, latching on to a tail and rolling into a tan-and-yellow tangle of three- four- and five-newt bundles. One of the children asked, “What is that brown knot?” The adult chaperones tittered. Since Spring has inspired haiku for centuries, I offer this reply, in haiku form.

What is that brown knot?
The newts are dancing, children,
celebrating Spring.

What is that brown knot?
The newts are wrestling, children,
That’s how life begins.

What is that brown knot?
A miracle of nature,
one more mystery.

What is that brown knot?
The newts are in love, children,

What is that brown knot?
A good old-fashioned tussle,
a frenzy, a fray.

What is that brown knot?
Survival of the fittest,
Shuffling DNA.

What is that brown knot?
An amphibian orgy,
It’s rude, kids, to stare.

What is that brown knot?
Sexual reproduction.
Ask that docent there.

Categories: guest post, Uncategorized
  1. March 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Love it! I was just teaching some Grade 3’s Haiku, but I think I will keep this one in my memory – as an adult-only haiku! But, very awesome Haiku!


    • Becky Jaffe
      March 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks, Wanda. Care to share some of the best haikus your student came up with?


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