Posted in Haiku

Anna Cates’ Walking Stick

at the muddy end
of a walking stick
wild oats

Hedgerow No. 42 August 14, 2015

© Anna Cates (USA)

(side note: check out the comments below this post for more insights into this haiku)

It seems like a simple image, but it has a significant sense of white space and resonance. What is the significance of the wild oats? What is the significance of the walking stick and it being muddy?

To me as a reader, the importance of “wild oats” is natural beauty and natural existence. The walking stick hints at the author, or someone being observed, needing support to walk—either because of feebleness or by the rough character of nature. Also, the walking stick, though natural, has now been rendered as a tool for a person. The wild oats, though humble in their appearance, can be seen as vibrant and pure. The word “wild” also contrasts the constrained life of the person who needs a walking stick.

The mud further reflects the idea of impurity or a soiled existence, in comparison with the simple purity of wild oats. But even though this mud may be a representation of impurity, it also may have wild oats attached to it. It is almost as if the wild oats are trying to tell something to the author: the separation between the human and natural world, the way to be pure in an impure world, and so on.

It is a moment that seems continuous at first (walking), but the poet takes a break to peer at the wild oats and to contemplate beauty, existence, and maybe more. Writing haiku and reading haiku usually allows us to take a break to feel what is around us more keenly.

In looking at the sense of sound, the most prominent sounds in the haiku come from the letter “d” and “i.” In my reading, the letter gives more weight to the haiku (and maybe its subject matter), and the letter “i” makes the reading of it more stark.

Also, I think the lack of punctuation was a good choice, as it reflects the idea of naturalness and purity.

Understated, grounded in its style, and having an open nature for interpretation, this haiku gets at the heart of a moment with a humble aesthetic.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)



Meditator, writer, editor, musician.

4 thoughts on “Anna Cates’ Walking Stick

  1. I read this haiku a little differently, Nicholas.

    The scene evokes a moment of sobering reflection on a life now in its last years and the regrets that stick like mud to the props necessary to appear upright.

    Wild oats represent a crop that one will regret sowing and refers to the folly of sowing these instead of good grain. It is a grass species (Avena fatua) that is the wild original of cultivated oats
    Since ancient times farmers have hated it because it’s a weed that’s useless as a cereal crop, but its seeds have always been difficult to separate from those of useful cereals and so tended to survive and multiply from year to year. The only way to remove it was to tramp the fields and hand-weed it.

    Sowing one’s wild oats has come to be a way of referring to youthful dissipation as manifested in sexual promiscuity. “Wild oats” thus can come to mean the mistakes of self-indulgence that cling to one through one’s life.


  2. This haiku seems to me to rely on the ironies of the elderly wanting to explore the unknow, that is, take a walk in the wild oats, but needing a walking stick to do so, and needing therefore to honestly confront the difficulties involved, which are symbolically presented by the walking stick sinking in the mud. Light humour makes this work.


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