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