Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This week’s poem was
cool night – stars fall but don’t reach the dried grass — Ludmila Balabanova, motes in the sunbeam (2007)
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă probes the theme of transience:
This is a poem that touches you through the tactile images it offers the reader. The first part prepares the atmosphere, giving us a hint regarding the season, which makes us feel the coldness that settles in our veins.
The second part of the poem surprises us with its pensiveness. The author seems to want the falling stars to touch the dried grass, but this is not possible. Until they reach the earth, the stars burn completely, disappearing into the ether, as if they were not there. The writer says subtly that this is the same way with human life. Man struggles day and night consuming himself for something, a purpose or goal. Then, after a number of years, only God knows how many, he disappears from the world stage, as the great Shakespeare once said, and leaves too little behind.
One feels much regret among the lines of the poem. Man is a transient being who hardly accepts his fate, seeking to understand the meaning of existence. The dried grass can regenerate in the coming year, the stars are replaced by others, but you as a unique entity can do nothing against death. “Contra vim mortis non crescit herba in hortis.” “No herb grows in the gardens against the power of death.” It is obvious that we all become absences, but we have at least the chance to continue our journey due to the light of others, of our family, our kin.
The verbs in the middle verse highlight the hastiness, the intensity of life, and the structure “but don’t” attracts attention to something sad, tragic. Moreover, the final consonant (the double “s”) sounds strange, insinuating an imperceptible sizzling noise, which haunts us even after we have read the poem.
My advice: Live your life without thinking of the deadline!
As this week’s winner, Cezar-Florin gets to choose next week’s poem, which you’ll find below. We invite you to write a commentary to it. It may be as long or short, academic or spontaneous, serious or silly, public or personal as you like. We will select out-takes from the best of these. And the very best will be reproduced in its entirety and take its place as part of the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentator gets to choose the next poem for commentary.
Anyone can participate. A new poem will appear each Friday morning. Simply put your commentary in the Contact box by the following Tuesday midnight (Eastern US Time Zone). Please use the subject header “re:Virals” so we know what we’re looking at. We look forward to seeing some of your favorite poems — and finding out why!
no more waiting for him to keep his promise last plum blossom — Martha Magenta, Presence, Issue 64 (2019)