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
overgrown bridge I tread lightly through my childhood — Aubrie Cox, Tea’s Aftertaste (2011)
Margherita Petriccione is drawn into the nostalgia of place:
A haiku comes to life a thousand times, after its birth by the haijin. In each of us, the new haiku takes on different shapes and contours and is diluted in subtle nuances. The covered bridge can belong to the familiar landscape of childhood (how many of us played in the shade of a bridge?), or it represents our childhood in whose cocoon we went serenely towards life.
There was a bridge near my house on which the railway passed, in the middle of the countryside, and it was for us children a meeting place for games and plots. In its cool shadow we lived those carefree and light years. Even today, when I am in those parts (the countryside is no longer there), I seem to have more loose limbs and a new liveliness in the spirit, almost as if the imprint of the child I was remained in it. I seem to see childhood in general as a covered bridge, like those that cross rivers and protect from rain, or like those that welcome the homeless and the underprivileged and where, for a short time, you are safe, you are at peace, with innocent and inert abandonment. What stimulated my total immersion in this haiku and made me live, indeed, relive anchored to memories, was that “my childhood,” isolated and relevant, the pivot of memory, placed me, with happy spontaneity, in the third line.
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă discerns a change in outlook:
A sabi atmosphere arises among the lines of this ku. This kind of beauty makes you meditate deeply upon nature and life.
We can suppose that the bridge in question is abandoned, out of use; that is why it looks “overgrown” with vines or weeds. On the other hand, the bridge is a fixed link to the past. I think the author was once afraid to cross the bridge, to make big decisions, but now the situation has changed. The adult remembers the past and keeps going on differently, without any restraint or anxiety. “lightly” points out that everything is fine now, that there is no burden, no trace of trauma. What matters is the moment that deserves to be lived maximally: Ars longa, vita brevis.
As this week’s winner, Cezar-Florin 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!
mud caked boots the heaviness of regret — Gary Hittmeyer, frogpond, Vol. 42:3 (2019)