pine combs

Last fall, we planted three small pine trees in our yard. The one in the front of our house promptly passed away. I even wrote a haiku about it.

This pine tree has ceased to exist

This pine tree has ceased to exist

The two that flanked the steps of our deck didn’t lose their needles but I wasn’t confident that I hadn’t managed to kill them. I was delighted when soft green needles began to appear on one of them this spring. On the other one, however, were weird brown bumps. Don’t ask how long it took me to realize those were pine cones to be.

Pine cones. Cones not combs.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, of course not combs. Everyone knows that. That’s why they are called conifers.”

Well, I forgot that when, standing in our backyard one evening last month, I noticed that all the spider webs under our deck had caught the white fluff from the nearby cottonwood trees.

Hmm, I thought. The cobwebs are dressed in cottonwood.

I found that phrase to be quite lovely. When I counted the syllables and came up with seven, I thought I had finally found the start to my very first asefru.

Nope. Not so much. Because I couldn’t figure out where to go with the phrase next using only five syllables and rhyming with wood.

Since I had come up with the phrase by observing nature, I decided it could be the second line of a haiku. I set myself to more observing. There were all the weeds under the deck. Nah. There was Philip’s empty blue plastic pool. Nuh-uh. There was the now-empty robin’s nest built on one of the braces.


Five syllables down, five to go.

That’s when I looked at the little pine tree again. It inspired this haiku entitled “the cusp of summer“:

pine combs – only buds
cobwebs dressed in cottonwood
vacant robin’s nest

I was quite pleased with myself. I loved all those b sounds in the poem. I entered it in that week’s yeah write fiction|poetry challenge and waited for the votes to roll in.

Nate, one of the yeah write editors and a previously featured blogger as a “Comment of the Month,” wrote the following:

If I didn’t know how thoughtful you are with word choices, I would think “pine combs” was a homophone typo. I like how it adds wind into your haiku.

Well, shit, I thought. I turned to Google, certain that I had discovered an alternate spelling for pine cones. A regionalism at the very least. Nope. I was just wrong. I even fessed up:


Ruby Bastille stepped into the breach to make me feel better.

That night, I returned at the backyard to look at the pine trees again. This time, I really looked at them.

I’ve been debating about whether to change it now that voting has ended. I was staring at them again last night and realized the needles ARE like the teeth of a comb.


pine needles combing the air is exactly the image I thought you were evoking…

After voting ended, I changed the poem to read “pine cones.” That’s what I meant when I wrote it and I wanted it to make sense.

I have no regrets about my mistake, however. Sure, I looked like a sloppy writer. I admit I did rush to get it finished and posted in time for the challenge. Yet, that mistake helped me look at pine trees in a new way. But I didn’t do it alone. I would never have come to that realization if Nate and Ruby hadn’t written their comments and opened my eyes.

So, here’s to poetry bringing us together and helping us experience and observe the world around us. And here’s to Nate and Ruby (aka Laura), my June Comments of the Month. The beautiful images they helped me to see will live on at my Couldn’t have said it better page.



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