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Bookstories 14: Polona Oblak’s “distant lightning”

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distant lightning
a blackbird tears flesh
from a ripe cherry
The Heron’s Nest XIII.3

First there was a photograph. Or, rather, a series of photographs.

Actually, first there was a cherry tree growing from an abandoned atrium in the apartment building where I live. I have a view of the cherry from my balcony.

That year (2011) there was a rich crop of cherries and the local fauna, blackbirds in particular, took advantage of the early fruit’s abundance. Just to be clear, the common blackbird (Turdus merula) is a songbird in the thrush family with a lovely melodious song. Adult males are black with yellow or orange bills and a yellow ring around the eye.

I had been watching blackbirds feeding on cherries for a few days without getting a clear view of the action. Then, one late afternoon, a newly-fledged juvenile hopped onto an exposed branch and started pecking at cherries. I grabbed a camera and took a few shots. After downloading the photos I knew there was a haiku somewhere in there. All I needed to do was find appropriate words. In one of the photos was a juvenile blackbird tearing a cherry apart with juices spattering all over which made me write:

a juvenile blackbird
tears the flesh
from a ripe cherry

It was fun to think about adding ominous undertones to the actions of a quite harmless bird. This, of course, still needed some trimming and a striking juxtaposition to make it work. In late spring / early summer thunderstorms are not uncommon and I’ve always enjoyed watching lightning from a safe distance. For the fragment I considered thunder in various variations but concluded while thunder was loud, lightning was the real deal, not least because of the parallel between a lightning flash and photographic flash (though it wasn’t used in the making of those photos), so I decided on:

distant lightning
a blackbird tears some flesh
from a ripe cherry

which became the submitted version. I was later happy to drop “some” from L2 as suggested by The Nest’s editors prior to publication.

It may also be interesting that David Caruso wrote a commentary to “distant lightning” which appeared in The Heron’s Nest XIII annual edition.

—Polona Oblak

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