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re:Virals 194

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!
re:Virals 94:

     an octopus
     in her father’s lungs...
     first autumn rain
          — Reka Nyitrai, Otata 36.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Very much enjoyed reading both lots of comments. I’d never heard of the lead rain before. Though as Alan mentioned, our tree was decorated with things generally made of paper etc. And things gathered from the park. Popular things included conifer cones, acorn husks, bits of berried branches etc. Plenty of fun was had and encouraged in making Christmas a truly memorable time.
    Re; the lead rain. One is left with a sinister thought of what was being unknowingly gifted.
    Warm regards

  2. At Christmas, we still decorate the tree with “icicles” and with tinsel( like a feather boa).

  3. To
    Garry Wilson,
    While commenting upon your notes, there is a small correction;

    My quotes from esteemed poet from Alan should read thus: As Alan has
    pointed out,
    “and nowadays, some big public Christmas trees have electronic pulsing lights to mimic snowfall or ‘rain’.
    kindly condone the lapse.

  4. Just another interpretation that really resonated with me for “a forgotten box of rain.” Perhaps it’s not as common today but people used to put “rain” on their Christmas trees. Before 1960 rain was made of lead. It was heavy and hung straight like real rain if you put it on right. After lead became banned, rain was made of plastic, and it just didn’t have the gravitas of the lead rain. I’m not sure what rain was meant to symbolize but for our family putting it on the tree was a big deal. We took great care in making the rain look real, one strand at a time. After Christmas the rain was carefully removed and stored in the same Christmas box in the attic. When Christmas came around again the ritual was repeated. The same rain year after year became a symbol for Christmas and hence a symbol for the best days of our childhood. That box of rain was left behind when we moved away and since then Christmas always seemed to be missing something. It was as though those old memories stayed behind with that box of rain.

    1. Dear Garry Wilson,
      Thanks for your comment, and that does make sense. The box would be so light, if it was tinsel like, but too heavy if it was lead. It must have been a strong tree!
      And nowadays, some big public Christmas trees have electronic pulsing lights to mimic snowfall or ‘rain’.
      As a child we couldn’t afford to buy very much shop decorations and made it ourselves, so both sentiment, moment, and pragmatic aspects all combined.
      moving day —
      a forgotten box
      of rain
      Mark E. Brager, Bones no. 9 (2016)
      The forgotten box could be symbolic, either of a new time and more money perhaps, and buying new decorations, or of the loss of parents, or just that ‘first move’ away from our parents.
      Christmas has always been very important to me, as it felt like a time where there was a reprieve from everything. Just like the famous Christmas Truce when soldiers decided to stop killing each other:
      And when there is as much snow as possible, there’s both a purity, and the fact that human stupidity is reduced, at least outside the ‘home’.
      Your comment added a vital element to this discussion, thank you!
      warm regards,
      Alan Summers
      Call of the Page

      1. To Alan Summers,
        Dear esteemed poet,

        your comments on the forgotten box betokens a new approach to critical perception.

        “The forgotten box could be symbolic, either of a new time and more money perhaps, and buying new decorations, or of the loss of parents, or just that ‘first move’ away from our parents.
        Christmas has always been very important to me, as it felt like a time where there was a reprieve from everything. Just like the famous Christmas Truce when soldiers decided to stop killing each other

      2. well, for starters, I left a box of masala wade in the microwave on moving day, and I hope the realtor read my note and threw it out… or it would have rotted and stank up the space…

        forgotten is really the key word here for me. ‘forgotten’ for me means, not intended to be left behind.

        Gary, thank you for your response about “rain” I had no clue.

        Alan, what of the snow and stupidity connection…are there new poems in that direction from you …interesting thing to explore, and a surprising comment from you

        Radhamani, the Christmas tree was always in the neighbor’s house, but we all went to help deck it up, so we all shared the pride, but I never knew of rain or experienced snow until much much later in life

        all I wanted to say was, forgetting being the key word, the forgotten rain, in very much present in its absence, for whatever reasons…maybe because of changing priorities or age or too much to do …
        it is a Christmas decoration that was forgotten, if it was November or even October when they moved, perhaps it would have been not-forgotten? I don’t know, why does a forgotten object decidedly have to have sad associations? Maybe it was just a slip of the mind …

    2. Dear Garry Wilson,
      Yes, your comments on a forgotten box of rain” connecting with Christmas
      trees, something innovative and striking.

      “And nowadays, some big public Christmas trees have electronic pulsing lights to mimic snowfall or ‘rain’.”, good observation sounds well.

    3. Growing up, I do remember the lead type. Both it and the later plastic form were called “Icicles” in my family. Icicles formed a lot from roofs and gutters. All were winter kigo. I was always as a child helping to trim the Christmas tree told by the grownups to put it on one strip at a time… not in clumps. After garlands and the actual ornaments, icicles were the last adornments.

      This was to imitate not rain but frozen rain or drip from ice. This was generally termed “tinsel.” Very winter.

    1. I like what you say in the last para of your response, Pris. Moving day is about moving on. Yes.

  5. re:Virals 93:

    moving day —
    a forgotten box
    of rain

    — Mark E. Brager, Bones no. 9 (2016)

    Many thanks to Danny for this wonderful blog featuring revirls every Friday,it is a rich bonanza for us.Delighted to review this Write,doubly thanking him for giving us an opportunity to come to have a note of what moving day is according to google sources.

    Literally viewing “ moving day-“ as shown in the first line with a pause,takes us to a furthering view of anticipation as to what next, giving an impetus to our imaginative aura. Shifting our houses to a different abode or dwelling due to various reasons such as climate, poor economy, or a collective decision to move to a far off place for betterment of future. At such times, packing up, an onerous task, especially deciding what to leave behind or carry is a great puzzle for the inmates or head of the family.

    The second line “a forgotten box implies with a deliberate note that it is left behind for full of ice cubes as denoted in the third line “of rain”.

    Metaphorically speaking, the poet might have construed an image of aridity or dryness in the place of landing of his choice, therein the speaker recollects a box or carrier of water to quench his thirst, which he forgot to pack long with him. “Rain” Signifies amply in plurality the lack of water most needed at that time.

    Could be all the tears accumulated in the box, for the adoration for the past dwelling or desperate feeling driving him to a new place out of necessity. Box is only a mention, it is the whole sad container of all afflictions or pensive state or happy moments lived there till recently. A journey, a memory, a box of collection all twined in this haiku

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