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
so drunk I let her have her way with me mosquito — Johnny Baranski, Prune Juice, Issue 12 (2014)
Radhamani Sarma sketches out a few possibilities:
Delighted to view and comment on the work of established poet Johnny Baranski, whose name rings permanently in haiku/senryu circles. Starting straight in with the first person, the image of a mosquito captures the reader’s attention.
The single line, “so drunk I let her have her way with me mosquito,” possibly has multiple interpretations. The persona admits that he is very deeply drunk, so absorbed in his bed with his paramour, perhaps his ladylove, that he allows her to have free play equally with a mosquito in the room.
“so drunk” implies a state of total forgetfulness, when the inebriated, in a staggering mood, dances or steps unsteadily with swollen eyes. Perhaps he falls, and along with him so does his partner; hence, he “let her have her way with me mosquito.”
Yet another possible interpretation is that the persona, in an inebriated mood, lets “her” in, allowing for free play, perhaps singing, revelry, or even stealing his purse. His ladylove or partner — whoever shares his mood — becomes a “mosquito” now, draining his purse. This feminine counterpart has the unique privilege of sharing and stealing, tantamount to exploitation; hence, she’s “a mosquito.”
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă imagines touchy situations:
The poem illustrates an episode from a couple’s love life: He is so drunk that he allows her to do whatever she wants with him. Probably, his wife/girlfriend, seeing him tipsy again, loses her control and gives him a fight.
I think the noun “mosquito” was not chosen at random. This suggests the annoyance of the woman, who, from all appearances, is disturbed by her mate’s vice and scolds him angrily. Placed at the end of the poem, the noun seems to remind us that the bite of the bloodsucking female mosquito can transmit a number of serious diseases. Therefore, it is about love that causes pain, devours, destroys, but without which existence would be bitter.
At the phonetic level, the agglomeration of consonants and the alliteration (“h”) suggests that the man is tongue-tied because has drunk too much.
Maybe the whole scene is just an erotic game through which the two lovers try to escape their routine. Due to this fact, the mosquito may escape this time.
Marion Clarke appreciates the humor:
Ah, Johnny Baranski — what a sense of humor he had! This is such a clever monoku with its use of “she,” if one considers that only the female mosquito has the necessary mouth parts to suck blood. And even though the word “wicked” is not included, I automatically added it while reading: “I let her have her (wicked) way with me.”
The image of the speaker being so intoxicated that he is unable to swat the fly that is feeding on him is amusing, but of course this is also a deadly insect, so it causes a shudder at the same time.
I guess this haiku from the much-missed Johnny Baranski could be considered the epitome of biting humor!
As this week’s winner, Marion 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!
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fallen nest bumblebees reframe the question — Cherie Hunter Day, is/let (2020)