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re:Virals 292

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

 
     you and me
     together yet apart —
     beads of a rosary
          — Tejinder Sethi, Uncharted Roads (2021)

Lakshmi Iyer parses the spaces between:

“you and me”

Who are they? Two friends, husband and wife, or God and His devotee? What is it that the poet wants to convey? Is it the togetherness she’s expecting in times of distress? The words of comfort and solace that can put down the curtains of negative forces? What is it?

To make the first line clearer, the poet gracefully shifts the image to the second line as “together yet apart.” She wants to protect the relationship and yet speak out loud!

you and me
together yet apart

Isn’t this a conversation with the Lord? Telling Him of the celebration of togetherness and yet being so far apart.

Why is that so? On further reading, it rings on me about the coronavirus pandemic. Maybe, the poet is getting restless with the surging virus and she’s finding it difficult to give a helping hand. The poet is anxious to have a friend in whom she can bury her depth of pain. Who else but the Lord! And the rightful means to complete this wholesomeness is found in the beads of prayer!

The poet’s admiration for subtlety and purity is revealed in the final layer of the haiku: “beads of a rosary” — the soulful and humble object of the entire haiku. A beautiful juxtaposition! Her daily prayers through the beads’ count becomes her only refuge. There is so much of profound truth in the beads of a rosary that are so close, yet apart. The space or ma lifts up the whole concept of this wonderful revelation.

The soul of the poem lies in the poet’s confession to the readers of what’s going through her mind. There is tranquility and originality in between the beads of a rosary. The gaps speak of all the past and present — what was surpassed and what’s going on now.

A universal poem!
A poignant poem!

Kala Ramesh homes in on the sabi:

I remember my grandmother constantly rolling the beads of her rosary, counting 108 times before she put it aside, only to pick it up again! In Hinduism it’s called the japa mala. Because I am familiar with these beads, I was drawn to write an analysis of this poignant senryu.

For me, the most striking haikai aesthetic nuance in this poem is sabi. Apart from rust and patina, sabi also signifies loneliness, solitude, age and insight.

I take the rosary to represent a family. And perhaps “you and me” refers to a couple. In a marriage, it’s rare for both partners to have the same idea of what wedlock means. I see here a tinge of resentment, not blind acceptance — for lines one and two say “you and me together yet apart.”

“Apart” is such an abstract word. How can anyone calculate the distance between two people who are together yet apart? Line three comes with a message: The state of being apart is like the prayer beads — each bead is separate, having its own identity and not leaning on the others; each is on its own, on a journey unknown to the others.

Sabi here suggests loneliness and the inevitable wear and tear that become a patina — the scabs that highlight life’s experiences.

I don’t know if this poem is meant to suggest that this arrangement was accepted willingly, nor if it constitutes what the narrator dreamed of when she was young, romantic and unmarried. The senryu leads me to muse that marriage with compatibility and a spirit of togetherness can be lovely, but things rarely turn out that way.

About marriage, Khalil Gibran has this to say:

     And stand together yet not too near
together:
     For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
     And the oak tree and the cypress grow
not in each other’s shadow.

It’s a beautiful thought, and it’s easy to read about such perfect arrangements and codes of conduct, but doesn’t it appear as mere poetry — idyllic, impractical and improbable — when it concerns two living people with their distinctive egos and varying needs for intimacy?

“You and me/ together yet apart” — the distance between them may be growing into an abyss, and the “beads of a rosary” may represent each passing year of solitude and loneliness. Here, old wine definitely doesn’t seem to taste as good.

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As this week’s winner, Kala 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 293:

 
     horse pasture
     the prairie wind moves
     with muscle
          — Chad Lee Robinson, The Heron's Nest, Vol. XXII, No. 4 (2020)

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Dear Kala,
    The following observations by you, strike a very interesting note,
    we tend to probe to know more into the terms highlighted.
    “For me, the most striking haikai aesthetic nuance in this poem is sabi. Apart from rust and patina, sabi also signifies loneliness, solitude, age and insight.”

  2. So sorry ..🕯🕯

    you and me
    together but apart –
    rosary beads
    – Tejinder Sethi, the Uncharted Path (2021)

    ****
    The echo was intense … between the two souls twisted in the rosary light.
    There is serenity when I hold the rosary. The breath merges in the soul.
    Congratulations dear Tejinder Sethi ❤️

  3. You and I
    together but apart –
    rosary beads
    – Tejinder Sethi, the Uncharted Path (2021)

    ****
    The echo was intense … between the two souls twisted in the rosary light.
    There is serenity when I hold the rosary. The breath merges in the soul.
    Congratulations dear Tejinder Sethi ❤️

  4. you and me
    together yet apart —
    beads of a rosary
    — Tejinder Sethi

    I suppose one thing this will elicit in some readers is a consideration of the use of metaphor in haiku. Many haiku make use of metaphor, some more subtly than others. (See Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro.”) In this one it is pretty obvious– one simply has to insert the word “are” where the dash is, though a more natural expression would come from “are like”. So questions that come up are: as a metaphor, or simile, is it interesting, rich, mysterious?

    A poem from paul m’s new book, cited on recent pages of Troutswirl, offers another look at metaphor:

    daffodil tips
    the tension
    in her leash

    This is pretty subtle. Maybe skillful is the better word. By comparing something many people are familiar with– the tension in a dog’s leash– one comes to feel the tension in a flower bud soon to open, and perhaps the energetic leash between daffodil and sun. One also feels the dog’s excitement over all the smells erupting in spring. (Is it too much to say: just as the sun leads the bud to open, the dog leads the man?) The poem engages mind and body and heart– a rare thing.

  5. A thorough and a Master’s signature commentary by Kala Ramesh. Thank you Kala for being here and making the japa mala look so unique and special.

    1. Thanks Radhamani!
      I really enjoy reading your commentaries too. You lay down the layers so well; your experience in this form reflects so.
      Thank you!

  6. e:Virals 292:

    you and me
    together yet apart —
    beads of a rosary
    — Tejinder Sethi, Uncharted Roads (2021)

    After reading this writing by Tejinder Sethi, I recall my days, time spent
    with grandmother, spending her worshipful aura in Sanctum sanctorum,
    full of meditative energy and praying for all of us.

    Beginning in a conversational tone, a cordiality, striking intimacy, yet a note of
    distance apart –
    “you and me
    together yet apart-“
    taking readers into wonder or question why so, or even who are the speakers
    involved. May be the grandmother with her grandchild, elderly woman with her husband or grandma with her petulant husband, in a private solemnized
    corner; here in Hindu puranas, pooja room or room of mediation to avoid
    disturbance and distraction, these philosophically moored or religious minded
    spend time with “ beads of rosary” as mentioned in the third stanza, counting
    mantras, or chanting hymns; whomsoever is having rosary beads, grandma
    or elderly woman in her togetherness, feeling a sense of separation, for the other part/ other self is a mute listener or silent spectator viewing the sacred
    moment happening there.

    Another probable inference thus follows:

    “ you and me
    together yet apart —
    beads of a rosary”
    the persona addressing rosary beads on her skin, wearing, thereby the togetherness, yet a sense of distance, for rosary beads only an instrument
    of passivity, while the speaker actively engaged, though beads shining on .
    it could be also a personification of rosary beads mocking at the teller, the
    speaker of mantras; togetherness is cleft into two.
    In the contemporary scenario, with all preoccupation and hustle bustle, man
    Is split , in his togetherness, like, staring at the object, thinking elsewhere all the time.

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