Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly commentary feature on some of the best contemporary haiku and senryu written in English. This week’s poem, proposed by Joshua Gage, was:
stuck in bed another day moon
— Lori A. Minor
Whiptail, issue 1, Transitions, 2021
Introducing this poem, Joshua writes:
What I think makes this monoku so brilliant is the layered meanings that Minor gets from six words. There are two or three various readings, depending on where the reader puts the pauses, that all blend into one. Furthermore, the topic of mental and physical health and chronic pain needs to be explored further in haiku, and I think Minor is in the vanguard of that movement.
The monoku here can be read as “stuck in bed another day — moon” or “stuck in bed — another day moon.” Either way, or both, the “stuck” and “another” are redolent of sickness, repetition, reluctance and unwilling resignation. The particular choice of the kigo “day moon” conveys not only achromatic wan-ness, a pale version of full life, but the moon also carries its past accumulated symbolism of the feminine, of menses (a subject encountered in older Japanese moon haiku), and even of the edge or tide of madness: “lunacy.” Ancient symbolism that may run contrary to science, and to present-day societal acceptance, but inherited with the word. I’m left with the image of a wan bedridden woman almost maddened by recurring sickness or pain. So — a very concentrated and economical monoku playing a chord on several sub-liminal strings.
Not a word is wasted in this monoku from Lori A. Minor. Six words have captured the frustration and tediousness of being incapacitated due to chronic illness. The one-liner can go from morning to night and back round again, much like the pain.
stuck in bed another day moon stuck in bed another day moon stuck in bed … et cetera
When someone is suffering, it’s painful even to speak and this is reflected in the brevity of the poem.
One of the fun things about monoku is that, since there are no line breaks, the reader gets to decide if and where the poem breaks into its parts. And, if the break is ambiguous, the reader may experience multiple breaks simultaneously. That was my experience upon reading this poem: I first sensed a break after “day,” leaving “moon” all alone as a fragment. Upon subsequent readings, I sensed the possibility of “another day moon” being the time unit (i.e., stuck in bed for another month rather than another day). This shifted my interpretation from perhaps a brief episode of illness (another day) to a more chronic and severe condition (another day moon). I could imagine the speaker stuck in bed looking out the window every afternoon, noticing that a new crescent moon has come into view about 30 days after first seeing the previous moon. For me, this possible shift in time frame really drove home how frustrating the speaker’s predicament must be.
Now, ain’t this sympathetic, and any concerned reader believes right at the moment the poem is read that for all the finest happiness in the world — if there is no mental and physical well being — everything is lost. This is what has happened to the poet, “stuck in bed”! So many questions arise in our mind. What has happened? For how long? Why this ailment? And to give comfort and mental satisfaction, she lifts her soul to the ‘ day moon ‘. Isn’t this a powerful message to the readers out there?
The day moon is the only solace she sees outside the window. She seeks joy, brethren, understanding. She gets all of this in the day moon that stays there. Can I become the day moon; her partner, a friend to be beside her bed and share my positive and vibrant energy to her? Yes, I can and we all should! At least write a line of hope, of concern that we think alike. My prayers for her good health through the “day moon” remain!
Ann Smith — looking at the moon:
I read this senryu in three ways; the first two made me think of the passing of the days “creeping in this petty pace”.
Firstly: “stuck in bed – another day moon”
It’s daytime and the poet is propped up on pillows in her sickbed gazing out at the moon which is framed by the bedroom window. The surface of the moon is reflecting the light of the sun into her eyes and that sun is also shining on everybody else who is outside going about their daily lives, and probably too busy to notice the day moon in the sky, while the poet is confined to her room and her sickness and her solitude — but she can admire the day moon. The moon is a symbol of distance, so we are even more aware that the poet’s illness is separating her from the rest of society. The moon’s pale face on the other side of the window also mirrors the sick poet’s pale face imprisoned inside.
Secondly: “stuck in bed, another day, moon”
When I read it this way the poet is addressing the moon, lamenting the fact that she has just spent yet another day ill in bed. So day after monotonous day is passing, and she is still bedridden with illness her constant companion
The third reading: “stuck in bed another day, moon” — and this time I see the day moon itself stuck in bed, a sky blue duvet pulled up to its chin. Far-fetched but it’s what I saw. (I do have a photo of mine that illustrates this nicely).
Thanks to all who sent commentaries. As the contributor of the best commentary this week, Ann has chosen 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, which take their place in the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentary’s author gets to choose the next poem.
Anyone can participate. Simply use the re:Virals commentary form below to enter your commentary on the new week’s poem (“Your text”) by the following Tuesday midnight, Eastern US Time Zone, and then press Submit to send your entry. The Submit button will not be available until Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in. We look forward to seeing your commentary and finding out about your favourite poems!
far upriver –
with nothing to sell
— Ruth Holzer
The Heron’s Nest 15:4, December 2013
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Lori A Minor’s advice for beginners was featured in The Haiku Foundation last week. Her penetrating haiku/senryu are to be found in several places on the web.
Sickbed haiku recall Shiki. His pen name is a common name for the hototogisu, which bird, according to Japanese folklore, sings until it coughs up blood. His haiku from the bedridden period just before he died of tuberculosis are well known. Among others, there are also:
all I can think of
is being sick in bed
(yuki no ie ni nete iru to omou bakari ni te)
my remaining days
a brief night
(yomei ikubaku ka aru yoru mijikashi)
…and his uncomfortable sweating as he lay there:
my testicles get in the way of cooling down
(kintama no jama ni nattaru suzumi kana)