skip to Main Content

re:Virals 269

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

 
     nowhere to run
     from the skeleton within —
     windmill raven
          — Allan Burns, Bottle Rockets #28 (2014)

Radhamani Sarma turns the verse over in her mind:

Many thanks for featuring this senryu revolving around the image of a “windmill raven.” This reminds us of summer when wind speed is the potential gift for birds like crows and ravens: The wind at high speed is the gift of their birthright and energy, while they swim in mid-air. Machinery enabling such a super power is the gift of their wings, their modus operandi. Like humans, birds have a special instinct to survive, to build and sustain themselves depending on their surroundings.

Allan Burns, or the persona, pictures a “windmill raven,” taking us into this bird’s shelter where it has a habit of constructing after gathering quills and twigs, pointed wooden sticks, carrying them all in its beak, then arranging them in order until the construction becomes fully impacted within the windmill.

Now, we have to establish connectivity with the forgoing lines — “nowhere to run/ from the skeleton within.” Windmills turn, rotate and agitate the air, and are even a pleasant sight for onlookers, but a painful syndrome for a raven that has hardly any space within the supportive rubric of this particular windmill. We imagine the raven flying or running at the rotating windmill with twigs stuffed among its panels. There’s a musicality of rhythm running from “nowhere to run/ from the skeleton within.” The grudging remark by the poet reminds us that the raven is outside the windmill, helplessly viewing all the extra fittings for survival within the windmill’s gambit.

Another interpretation might be that the raven is stuck within the windmill’s thin framework and cannot find a way out among the hanging domes and twigs that obstruct the bird’s passage. The raven is simply enjoying the game of rotation.

virus2
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 270:

 
     we talk
     about survival rates
     winter sky
          — Rachel Sutcliffe cattails, Issue 1 (2014)

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Like a spinning windmill
    The sun’s moon star on the horizon
    continues to rotate on its axis.
    And wherever I go
    Home sweet home


    Nani Mariani, Melbourne-Melbourne

  2. nowhere to run
    from the skeleton within —
    windmill raven

    *

    I was glad to see this haiku, but disappointed that more people did not respond to it, in part because Allan Burns has been a significant poet who now seems to have disappeared. Maybe I am not looking hard enough. His anthology *Montage, the Book*, ranks among the best.

    *

    My thoughts here will be somewhat impressionistic, personal, inconclusive.The poem opens into many dimensions, none of which compete with each other or cancel each other out. It is not so much that one sees something different with each reading, but that one sees different aspects of the same thing. I’m not about to say what that one thing is. Maybe it is, ultimately, the unsayable.

    *

    Nonetheless, death and mortality are present here, presented in a light way. The skeleton which underlies our physical existence (and without which one could not move, let alone run) is, of course, symbolic of death. Can’t outrun that. And I fancy there is a play on “skeleton in the closet”. For me, though it may not have been Allan’s intention, I come to a way of looking at the body as a closet concealing the secret of mortality. (It is no secret of course, just hard to bring fully into the light.)

    *

    The windmill in question is likely one that will be seen on many farms, especially in the heart land.
    It draws water from the earth, symbolic of and necessary for life. Its blades are like the spokes of a wheel. As long as there is wind— call that life too, if you will— it runs and runs. As long as there is sun, it shines. When there is no wind, at least to my inner eye, it has a skeletal appearance. Maybe not to yours.

    *

    A raven in the vicinity. As Allan well knows, these are very acrobatic birds, doing somersaults and various rolls in flight, apparently for the fun of it. Probably showing off for the windmill. Death just wants to enjoy life a bit. Probably laughs at our attempts to escape. (You can hear it in a creaky windmill). Knows it is the foundation of life.

  3. A great reflection I guess, of the bitter chillness of winter
    as can be gauged from the clarity of the winter sky
    which is azure blue in chilly barren desert winter sky
    and this incites a talk the amongst inmates of houses there gripped
    with fear to pass on safely to the next season Spring .
    the ring time when birds sing ‘hey ding a ding ding’

  4. .
    nowhere to run
    from the skeleton within —
    windmill raven
    .
    — Allan Burns, Bottle Rockets #28 (2014)
    .
    .
    Allan Burns’ haiku brings to mind a verse from a famous poet:
    .
    …“Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
    ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”…
    .
    Edgar Allan Poe – “The Raven”
    .
    .
    So here I go, tilting at windmills…
    .
    .
    nowhere to run
    from the skeleton within
    .
    The first two lines of this poem, on initial reading, seem fairly self explanatory – there is nowhere to run or hide from oneself, one’s inner thoughts. People get stuck in their heads all the time. The problem is that many of our thoughts are not so upbeat. And when we’re not focusing on anything in particular, the brain’s default mode is a kind of worry-based thinking.
    .
    So why did the author use the word “skeleton”? Skeleton – noun In anatomy, the dry bones of the body taken together which form a framework of the body. So skeletons are comprised of bones, and in wordplay “bones” meaning – to feel something in (one’s) bones “have a presentiment” may relate to the third line of the poem –
    .
    windmill raven
    .
    Many references to ravens exist in world lore and literature. Most depictions allude to the appearance and behaviour of the wide-ranging common raven (Corvus corax). Because of its black plumage, croaking call and diet of carrion, the raven is often associated with loss and ill omen. Yet its symbolism is complex. As a talking bird, the raven also represents prophecy and insight. Ravens in stories often act as psychopomps, connecting the material world with the world of spirits. (Wikipedia).
    .
    Similar to the unnamed man in Poe’s “The Raven”, the windmill raven cannot escape its own bones, its own thoughts, and on a broader interpretation, its own dna. This inability to escape one’s thoughts might cause one to go ‘tilting at windmills’ (to ’tilt at windmills’ is to attack imaginary enemies).
    .
    As an aside, the word “bones” is also a colloquial way to say “dice,” (dice anciently were made from the knucklebones of animals), and with wordplay, brought to mind the thousands of birds reportedly killed annually by modern windmills.
    .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top