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
moving day — a forgotten box of rain — Mark E. Brager, Bones no. 9 (2016)
Dave Read contemplates the transition:
A moving day can be a time of excitement, a time of looking ahead. Often, families move to larger houses in new neighborhoods, or even from one city to another, to follow a promotion and dreams of a better life. Moving can be uplifting and promising – a cause of joy and celebration.
But a moving day can also be a time of sorrow. Job losses can result in a need for families to sell homes they can no longer afford. Or folks, as they age, may no longer be capable of taking care of themselves or their houses – requiring them to move from homes they have lived in for decades. Our homes are a major part of our personal landscape – physically and psychologically. Being forced to uproot ourselves from places that have become integral to our hearts and souls can lead to deep sadness and distress.
Mark Brager’s excellent “moving day” haiku is an expression of that sorrow. The “forgotten box” carries a sense of loneliness and desolation. Left behind, it represents the loss that attends the individuals who are moving. Furthermore, as it fills with rain (here synonymous with tears), the box withers and deteriorates. It becomes, through a scene of an unwanted transition, a symbol of the ruin that is being imposed upon the movers’ lives. We are not always masters of our fate. Being thrust into a scenario of change can be crippling and heart-wrenching. In seven simple words, Brager has poignantly captured the profound sadness that attends an unwanted move.
Alan Summers ‘unlogics’ the ku:
Most of us have experienced moving out of a place, from our parent’s house to our first small apartment, perhaps shared, and then into our own private rental, just us, and our quirks. One day, hopefully, we’ll move into a house with our family, completing the cycle started by our parents, and millions before them.
The opening line provides a common denominator for so many of us, and we can relate, as we can to the second line. Who hasn’t forgotten a box of some kind, particularly if the moving out is rushed. Was a box left out in the rain because it was thundering down so hard everything looked cross-hatched? Did we discover the box the following drier, brighter, and shinier day?
I like how I can ‘unlogic’ the haiku, as I don’t always want to be limited to a sensible ordered world that isn’t real to start with anyway. Perhaps the renter or owner collects rain for an indoor/transportable pocket rainforest. Perhaps it’s a vast aquarium, and to live as a merman, and enjoy the sound of rain on seawater? If there were hundreds of boxes of rain, it might be easy to overlook one; and after all, it can still be brought in the next morning.
I love picking out my own key words of moving/forgotten/rain which works as a micro-haiku in its own right, and delightfully so.
Pris Campbell unpacks the layers:
Who of us hasn’t experienced a moving day filled with ambivalence? Perhaps the last time we’ll see the emptied house where we grew up and returned to over the years, the furniture now to be sold or packed for a parent’s move to a nursing home. Possibly our own move with promises to stay in touch with neighbors and local friends, realizing at the same time that friendships will never be quite the same again.
For me, the beauty of this haiku is the layer of meanings. It can simply be an overlooked packing box, filled with rain until the cardboard collapses or it can be our sadness at leaving, our tears held together by this symbolic box until we’ve gone and don’t have to deal with our feelings. The box does that for us.
Moving. What is left behind. What is yet to come. The symmetry represents more than a physical move. Moving on is what we do in our lives. Not to move is to stagnate. That box of water. When it finally collapses, the soil is watered. Perhaps a flower will be nourished, a vibrant new bloom saying they were here…they were here.
As this week’s winner, Dave 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!
an octopus in her father’s lungs... first autumn rain — Reka Nyitrai, Otata 36.