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re:Virals 275

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

 
     tattoo garden
     the blush returns
     to mother's rose
          —  Michael Henry Lee, graffiti kolkata (2010)   

Radhamani Sarma extracts much from the foliage:

Thanks to Michael Henry Lee for composing a haiku with a pleasant aura, enabling our stay in gardens. The roses all veer around a woman, beautiful, with a beautiful, rosy smile. The very first line — “tattoo garden” — is a wonderful, descriptive image extending far beyond the ambit of perusal and our reach. Usually, tattoos are carvings on women, embellishments, mostly in green ink, embedded on the skin, sometimes covering the arms, shoulders, palms, or forehead with figures centering on ancient gods, snakes, lizards, flies and butterflies, perhaps in a dotted design. Here, inarguably there’s a tough design encapsulating diligence, patience and exquisite craftsmanship.

The ebullient streaks of a poet’s pen lead us to the drawing, which pictures a garden, the tattoo market. “Garden” could include clusters of leaves, stems, flowers and buds all on the stretch of skin, in full flourish; no one can gainsay.

The second line — “the blush returns” — leads us to the third line, to mother’s rose, to the pinnacle of poetic feminine charm and a blush with fragrance. One has to envision an image from the garden, stemming from the forehead, where a blush returns to mother’s rose, i.e., cheeks, rosy cheeks. Extending from head or forehead, the garden’s foliage, the tattoo’s pride and blessing and blush, comes back to a woman’s rosy cheeks. It is not a real garden or a rose that we encounter, but a visual depiction in the form of a tattoo, lingering from forehead to mother’s rosy cheeks.

Terri French limns a remembrance:

I like Michael’s poem because it is one that makes you stop and think. What exactly is a tattoo garden and what has it to do with mother’s rose? Well, anyone who has one tattoo has at least thought about getting another, and then possibly another. . . and, well, before you know it, you have an entire garden of tattoos! Many times people get tattoos to honor or commemorate a loved one, be it wife, dog, child, or mother. I picture the writer having — amongst his other tattoos — a rose with the word “Mother” under it. Perhaps his tattoo was added to the “garden” after his mother passed away as a remembrance. Probably, mother grew beautiful — even prize-winning — roses. But, alas, memories and tattoos fade with time.

Every November 9th, on her birthday, I think of my dearly departed maternal grandmother and can almost smell the beautiful lilacs she grew. I surmise that the writer, possibly on his mother’s birthday, has decided to get his tattoo recolored. I’m sure that once that original blush is restored to its petals, he will almost be able to breathe in the scent of her rose garden and her memory, too, will be newly awakened. Ah, and now I am thinking I should add a lilac tattoo to my own garden.

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As this week’s winner, Terri 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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re:Virals 276:

 
     midnight blue
     a grandma-shaped crater
     on the moon
          — Hemapriya Chellappan, The Blo͞o Outlier Journal, Issue #1 (2020)

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. With both Radhamani and Terri, I’m curious about what a ‘tattoo garden’ might be. I know there are quite a few tattoo shops named ‘Tattoo Garden’. “What’s in a name?”
    .
    tattoo garden
    the blush returns
    to mother’s rose
    — Michael Henry Lee, graffiti kolkata (2010)
    .
    It may be that the writer (or the I of the verse) has a rose tattoo dedicated to Mother. Alternatively, it may be that Mother herself has a rose tattoo, faded with the years until the incident of the tattoo garden. What is it that might cause the blush to return to a faded rose tattoo?
    .
    Quite possibly memories of the time when Mother acquired the tattoo, a youthful and passionate time, when a woman getting a tattoo was still (in the West) a daring thing? The ’40s, perhaps?
    .
    A rose tattoo was said to symbolize love and passion. There was even a novel by the American writer, Tennessee Williams, titled ‘The Rose Tattoo’, and also the famous film based on it, starring Anna Magnani, an Italian actress known for her passionate performances.
    .
    The blush “returning to Mother’s rose” might show Mother, much older now, recalling incidents of her young, passionate life. Perhaps, even, incidents which led to the birth of the son who is the author of this beautifully nuanced haiku.
    .

    .

  2. I love the images of a tattoo garden! So many people get their tattoos in memory of someone special. The rose that mom loved is given new life with the tattoo. It will live on as Will moms memory!

  3. I am so excited that Terri French selected this haiku. I love this haiku so much, and having never met any of my grandparents (and I’m adopted too) this holds great resonance for me, even I don’t quite understand why on a personal level.

    On a professional level this was one of ten haiku, from the journal that I created and launched on Christmas Eve, 2020, that I nominated for a Touchstone Award (The Haiku Foundation).

    I am excited what and how others will make of this haiku.

    midnight blue
    a grandma-shaped crater
    on the moon
    — Hemapriya Chellappan, The Blo͞o Outlier Journal, Issue #1 (2020) ed. Alan Summers
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SdwR7QdRK7QP73c3ezhCEWBf5I4r8AGb/view?usp=sharing

    The Blo͞o Outlier Journal
    https://bloooutlierjournal.blogspot.com

    warmest regards,
    Alan Summers
    editor, The Blo͞o Outlier Journal

  4. I recall Terry French saying here, while commenting upon this haiku; mention of mother with rose etc; Very thought provoking

    “I picture the writer having — amongst his other tattoos — a rose with the word “Mother” under it. Perhaps his tattoo was added to the “garden” after his mother passed away as a remembrance. Probably, mother grew beautiful — even prize-winning — roses. But, alas, memories and tattoos fade with time.”

    1. My mother grew a rose bush in our first and very humble childhood home. I also brought a rose bush to her funeral.

      tattoo garden
      the blush returns
      to mother’s rose
      — Michael Henry Lee, graffiti kolkata (2010)

      Although neither myself or my mother had tattoos, you could say they are embedded on and in us nonetheless.

      Alan

      1. I agree with your last paragraph, Alan, tattoo could also be an image ingrained in a persons memory or maybe a photograph of a loved one’s garden.
        And who knows, this could also be the memory of the mother’s child, and why the blush, I ask myself, just a casual observation.

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