skip to Main Content

Viral 3.3

Back to our Virals series. Below is Carl Patrick’s selection of a Stanford M. Forrester poem, his commentary on it, and where it takes him. Where does it take you?
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Virals is a section in which one person choses a haiku by another person and comments on that haiku. Then the author of that haiku is invited to select a haiku by someone else and comment on that poem, and so on. For an introduction to this section, see Virals.

                                                                        • Viral 3.1 (Metz ➾ van den Heuvel)
                                                                        • Viral 3.2 (van den Heuvel ➾ Patrick)
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

A Small Glow     by Carl Patrick
e89b8d2006

                              temple hall . . .
                              the firefly
                              shows off
 

                                                    — Stanford M. Forrester 

It is a warm summer evening in the zendo. The windows are open to take advantage of a quiet breeze. The monks are intent on counting their breaths or emptying their minds, all turned inward, straining not to strain for enlightenment. Some are anxious, some are bored, some on the edge of contentment, which is mind without content. Though they know better, they can’t help taking their meditation seriously. It’s what we humans do. 
      
Then the firefly makes its unpremeditated appearance, sailing without fanfare down the center of the hall, its mind perfectly empty and its enlightenment a small green flash. We monks and novice meditators try not to look, try not to be distracted. From what? Ourselves. Which is what we are trying to transcend. But what is transcendence but oneness with the firefly’s tiny spontaneous glow? The firefly, unaware of the agony of these intellectual knots, solves all koans in its small flash. Is it showing off? It is being itself. To selve is to solve. Of course, all this is in my mind, not the firefly’s. The firefly is no doubt, beyond doubt, utterly delighted with its light.   
 
The poem contrasts our tangled struggles and the firefly’s total spontaneity. The quiet of the temple hall interrupted by a miniscule epiphany is like the frog’s splash in Bashō’s ancient pond. But all this would be pointless chatter without Stanford’s elegance and simplicity. Poised on a knife edge between formal balance and carefree humor, the poem is a six-word meditation on the paradox of showing off: something usually thought of as reprehensible that is in fact direct expression of our deeper nature. This is what creates this haiku’s own small glow.

“temple hall” was first published in Hermitage (2006, Romania)

As featured poet, Stanford M. Forrester will select a poem and provide commentary for Viral 3.4.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Enjoyed Carl Patrick’s reading of Stanford’s haiku. I wonder if an allusion might be intended to a kindred haiku by Buson?

    tsujido no hotoke ni tomosu hotaru kana

    wayside shrine before Buddha a firefly shines

    (my translation)

Comments are closed.

Back To Top