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
new inmate on the inside of her wrists butterfly tattoos — Mark Miller, tinywords, issue 20.2 (2020)
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă considers the prisoner’s state of mind:
The flavor of the poem is given by the last verse.
The image of those tattooed butterflies speaks for itself: It is simply about a visual message that clearly highlights the woman’s desire for freedom. We cannot know why she was imprisoned, but we can assume that she is there because of a crime of passion. The butterfly also symbolizes the fragility of a human being, who can so easily go from ecstasy to agony. On the other hand, the butterfly tattoo may help her cope with the weight of sin that still burdens her conscience. Let us pray for her soul!
Radhamani Sarma draws out the exuberance of emotions:
At the dawn of a New Year, this poem presents an image of a butterfly renewing faith with colorful jubilation. The very first line moving into the second — new inmate/ on the inside of her wrists — signifies something that’s been added and tuned to the existing lines, tendons, veins on “her” wrists. Obviously, the poet envisions the intended image as a new inmate, giving it life and breath, as if it’s a new entity with life force.
With an observant eye, the speaker describes the inside of a woman’s wrists. One then has to carefully read into the next line, the structure, the coinage, the implied purport. Butterfly tattoos are marked or carved so deeply on the inside of her wrists, an embodiment of an artist’s talent. We find affinity with this committed artwork so exuberantly drawn.
Now in the third line: Why? And what are butterflies? Symbolically, butterflies can represent freedom, with their color, joyful and jubilant spirit, and wings of radiance in flight. Here, we see beauty and bliss surround the woman who relishes the show. A connectivity can be established with the first line, “new inmate.” For example, it could be either the persona drawing butterfly tattoos, or the tattoos themselves, as embellishments on the aspiring woman, so spirited, so lively, so lovely, while other propellers entice her further movement.
In villages and towns, vendors and modern women take recourse in this tattoo and a modality expressive of pastimes, beauty and décor on the skin.
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!
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tattoo garden the blush returns to mother's rose — Michael Henry Lee, graffiti kolkata (2010)