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
so tiny beneath the silent pine — mouse bones — Laurie D. Morrissey, Wales Haiku Journal (2020)
Radhamani Sarma observes the minimal:
Many thanks to Laurie D. Morrissey, for giving us a melodic world of music when we are caught in a noise trap.
In this haiku, we are given a curious mix of melody and malady. The first line — “so tiny” — allows room for the reader’s speculation and extended imagination. The term “silent pine” could refer to a tall pine, amidst rustling wind in chill weather, breathing silence and void. Where pine fruits hang, so do the sweet and tasty, the small along with an inviting aura, perhaps for a mouse that might burrow holes up and down, with every possibility of being crushed by the branches of the pine tree. The structured skeletal system of a mouse is such that upon death, the narrowed bones, the bare bones in barren soil, invoke pity from onlookers. This is beautifully captured by the poet. Here, as one observes the minimal when nullification through death occurs, the outlook is “so tiny.” Shrinkage is aptly compressed in “mouse bones.” The contrast between a tall pine with hard branches and the crushed mouse bones beneath the tree is implied. Another inference could be the height of the tree, its majesty and power, that could easily crush tiny animals, both economically and in all aspects.
Imagining and setting a mouse trap is one thing, but the ghastly sight of mouse bones is another horrendous, indigestible factor the reader can’t ignore.
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă meditates on transient nature:
You don’t have to analyze the poem in a didactic way to realize that it is a very good haiku. Neither the form nor the seasonal word should prevail in such poems, but the haiku moment, that fabric of unnamed deep meaning that reveals the emotion that follows you long after reading it. One can read between the lines the pain, the sadness that this ‘ku generates.
Until he reads the last verse, the reader does not know what the first part of the poem refers to, so it is a delayed surprise that gives the poem a well-modulated tension. The poem gives you the feeling that the pine seems to keep a moment of silence in the memory of the little creature of which only the bones remain. Thus, we can say that the pine is each of us who witnesses this emotional scene that makes you simply meditate on our transient nature.
The absence of verbs reveals a static landscape, which enhances the created atmosphere and gives it a tragic aura. The alliteration (“n” and “s”) and assonance (“i” and “o”) also subliminally highlight the thrill that invites you to contemplate this sad picture.
Furthermore, the tiny bones can be seen as an ellipse that makes you think critically about life and appreciate the moments you have at your disposal. As for the pine, that represents wisdom and eternal life. Its static image seems to reflect consternation.
In conclusion, enjoy this poignant poem that makes us aware of how fragile life is.
As this week’s winner, Cezar-Florin 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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thunder I slide a kigo into the gun — Alan Summers, tinywords, Issue 20.2 (2020)