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re:Virals 279

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

     Sun on the horizon
     a child throws sand
     back into the sea
          — Sylvia Forges-Ryan, frogpond, vol 35:2 (2012)

For Lakshmi Iyer, Time is the Sun:

The poet Slyvia Forges has beautifully structured the image of a child at the beach. “Sun on the horizon” captures in the reader’s mind a new day that has just dawned, or maybe the end of the day! Parents always have this tendency to constantly keep telling the child of the limited time he has to play at the beach. He is taught to look at the sun for this.

“On the horizon” means the day is getting closer to dusk and time to return home. The child somehow gets the feeling that it’s the horizon taking away the time, back into the sea. Yes! Who doesn’t like to be at the beach? After all, the child doesn’t care for all of this.

Now, in line two, the child becomes irritated and throws the sand at the sea for taking away his valuable time. Time here is the Sun. He is taught to honor the sun and the life giver of all creation. Hence, he doesn’t have any other option but to heed the advice and return home. He just can’t show his anger toward the Sun.

I get the feeling that the child must have surely built a sand castle for him to want to stay. Childhood days are the most precious moments. We should allow every child to live in that time to make it memorable.

Marion Clarke is drawn back to childhood:

The imagery in this haiku brings me right back to childhood days spent at the seaside, building sand castles and digging and filling moats for them.

The scene is at the water’s edge at the end of the day, as the sun is low on the horizon. The action is that of a child throwing sand back into the sea. I believe this boy or girl is doing this as a little protest, because he or she is annoyed at having just been told it’s time to pack up and return home.

The ‘ku really captures the sadness and frustration at having to leave a special place and return to mundane reality after an enjoyable day out.

Radhamani Sarma discovers more than child’s play:

Writing from Chennai, India, as winter slowly recedes, I’m delighted to read this haiku with the sun and child as the predominant theme. Thanks to Sylvia Forges-Ryan for taking readers into beach borders, making us peer into a child’s running, playing on the sand.

“Sun on the horizon” drives us ahead with a feeling of looking up above, into the sky, and the position of the sun causes one to bend down immediately for tender of the sun’s rays directly on one’s face. The author establishes connectivity with the second and third lines, “a child throws sand/ back into the sea.”

Quite possibly we are at the beach along with a parent walking on the sand with a tender child underfoot, enjoying every move, every step, counting toes and adding measures; so much so, the child picks up sand and throws it back into the sea. Another viable inference, perhaps, is that the child cannot bear the heat; hence, walking evolves into an automatic act of throwing sand back into the sea.

Sand and sea — always inseparable images, be they in the eyes of the poet, the common man, or a fisherman — here are envisioned in the pen of Sylvia Forges-Ryan as tools for child’s play. The child comfortably sits and plays, throwing sand back into the sea. Also, the three-part alignment of sun, sand and sea captures a wonderful poetic scene, wherein the poet turns an event into a visual image that is highly perceptible.

Sand as a metaphor is spread throughout the rim of a seashore. Symbolically, the implication of the child throwing sand back into the sea is that “your place is in the water, not on land.” Soil erosion and beach erosion of sand sediments on the rim of the beach all have to go back to water, again “back” into the sea, which encapsulates many a poetic conjecture. Footprints on the sands of time, as viewed by so many farsighted seers and poets, are only transient and need splashing back into water.

Playing by the dashing waves, the child lets the water and sand flow through his cupped hands, resulting in his observation that, after all, the sand needs to go back, no use in trying to prevent this. An extension of the image of sand on the expanding horizon is the outcome of this haiku.

Suraj Nanu relishes a perfect setting in a sunrise:

On a casual first reading of this haiku, I am so pleased and joyful to be immersed in the childlike innocence of the images, diligently juxtaposed by the poet. So beautiful as simplicity itself, the images grab and take us to the childhood joy of playfulness. Is there anything more to be explored in the poem? We start reading again.

The haiku opens with a freeze-frame shot, “Sun on the horizon.” Is it a rising sun or a setting sun? It could be both. But “on” gives a positive vibe and takes us to the morning, a juvenile sun. We are placed where we get a clear perspective of the scene, on a hilltop in a sprawling desert or meadow, or it could be a beach. Wherever we are, we are facing the sun on the eastern horizon: a glowing and sharply photographic image that firmly establishes a perfect setting.

From that meditative moment, slowly, we slide into the second line and meet “a child,” confirming the sun we behold is the morning sun. What does that child do? The whole ‘ku starts breathing and pulsating with an action, and a dynamism takes over with “a child throws.” Throwing the soft morning rays? Yes and no, but then comes the “sand.” Another beautiful image is established with “a child throws sand.” Unmistakably, this is a fine spring morning, so fresh and ebullient.

Thrilled by that throbbing moment of experience, we are drawn to the final part of the poem, and read a line so thin — “back into the sea” — clearing all our ambiguities as we find ourselves on a morning beach. “a child throws sand/ back into the sea” is a totally independent image from the first line. The last line, “back into the sea,” brings in a metaphysical dimension and takes the haiku to an esoteric and philosophical plain, compelling us to re-read.

The first line and the other two lines become two separate entities, leaving two vivid and lucid pictures. Now we see the sun on the horizon. Between the sun and us, a child throws sand back into the sea. And now we get it: The word “back” is the crux of the poem. Why back into the sea? We become an integral part of the whole reality. The sand is formed by the sea and waves, the shores and earth, wind and light, and so on. It denotes a process that stared long before life on earth evolved, and we see that a child is throwing the sand back into the sea.

The sun, the horizon, the child, the sand and the sea merge together along with the reader and become one. All the basic elements of the Cosmos are here: light and fire (sun), sky and space (horizon), wind (throws), water (sea), and earth (sand) are all merging with life (a child), revealing an eternal truth of mutual coexistence of the Cosmos. There is nothing in between the haiku and the reader, not even breathing space. This is a well chiseled haiku to be read, re-read, and read again, relishing the enlightening haiku moment.

As this week’s winner, Suraj 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 280:

     a taste of the river
     from my cupped hands...
     first homecoming
          — Chen-ou Liu, The Heron's Nest, Vol. XXII, No. 2 (2020)

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. It was so easy for me to accept Lakshmi Iyer’s commentary which fit my description of events. Thank you to all the commentators for sharing their perspectives and expanding mine. You had me look back to Forges’ haiku and reimagine it in geologic terms. Sand is the erosion of rock which is wash to the sea by water in many cases. If not for the water, the small particles would weather in place or move by wind. This process takes place over geologic time, not human time. So, my daydreaming has the sun as an all-knowing eye, watching over the cycles and process of creating and transporting sand. The sun observes over geologic, and astronomic, time. And we are just children playing at the beach, building temporary castles and throwing sand.

    1. What an interesting observation Alan! You have moved us from the moment to the eternal in your reading of the poem. I loved this haiku when I first read it and keep coming back to it with new eyes each time I re-read it. Everyone who commented has added something new to my understanding.

  2. Thank you all. So interesting to read the poem by Sylvia Forges-Ryan, from frogpond, and the detailed commentary. Perhaps because I taught Sunday School for many years, my first thought was the Bible verse about becoming like children (from Matthew). The image for me is one of being generous, and “giving back.”

    1. I also spent many years studying the Bible and find your comment so interesting. I hadn’t thought of it in the sense of giving back. What a wonderful way to find meaning in this poem! The Biblical teaching that came to me was that we are as a child and have the understanding of a child.

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