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re:Virals 263

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

     spring mist –
     a mallard paddles
     through our stillborn's ashes
       – H. Gene Murtha, The Heron's Nest, Vol. IV Issue 11 (2002)

Radhamani Sarma notes the sharp contrasts:

Delighted to view and comment on a poem by Gene Murtha, a prolific writer and editor. This week’s haiku admirably weaves around the most adored season of spring. Needless to say, the contrast of images veers around bloom and blast — blast here typifies destruction.

The observant eye of the poet records spring with mist, implying an indistinct view, with bloom and buds and colorful spring blossoms all fading into the mist. A sad irony follows the cheerful, copious springing of this season.

What follows the first line is mention of a mallard wading through… what? Such a sad and a painful scene:

“a mallard paddles  
through our stillborn’s ashes”

Here is a shift from the spring scene to a place where a mallard delightfully dives through the mound of a stillborn baby’s ashes.

Another possibility might be a countryside pond or even a pool that has been flooded with stillborn ashes through which a duck wades. This somber image is admirably portrayed, intertwining the spring season and a misty blur.

The first line — “ spring mist” — could be synonymous with this flat mound of ashes. The color of ashes is in tune with the reflection of sky on the pond.

Overall, this is a well-meaning take where collocation of images has free wordplay.

As this week’s winner, Radhamani 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!

The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy.

re:Virals 264:

     so drunk I let her have her way with me mosquito
          — Johnny Baranski, Prune Juice, Issue 12 (2014)

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I’m years late to this but want to leave a short comment for the record, in respect for the late Gene Murtha.
    spring mist –
    a mallard paddles
    through our stillborn’s ashes
      – H. Gene Murtha, The Heron’s Nest, Vol. IV Issue 11 (2002)
    Spring mist is ephemeral. Sadly, so is a stillborn child. ‘Spring mist’ here is both the thing itself (the mist of spring) and a fitting analogy for the still born child.
    Gene scattered his stillborn’s ashes at a pond in New Jersey, a favourite place which he’d visited often to observe the bird life. The observation in this haiku (Ls 2 & 3) is, I believe (& he told me so, precisely what he actually experienced: a mallard paddled through the strewn ashes, scattering them on the surface of the water even more. This duck didn’t dive nor did it wade. It simply and serenely paddled through the ashes, unknowing, innocent, just part of the living world. Gene leaves it to the reader to infer the gravity, the sadness, the emotions he certainly felt.

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