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
mud caked boots the heaviness of regret — Gary Hittmeyer, frogpond, Vol. 42:3 (2019)
Carol Jones considers the mud of life:
I feel with Gary’s verse the regret of unfulfilled dreams, that ever increasing ”bucket list,” or maybe a love lost through shyness or the like. Always an excuse not to go somewhere or do something we really would like to.
I can feel the weight of regret of not fulfilling or achieving our imaginings, these muddy boots forever stuck, well and truly, in that mud of life we create for ourselves, unable to change a mindset, to take that first weighty step from the drudgery of it all, but the words of the verse suggest, it seems, it is too late.
Radhamani Sarma ponders the weight of regret:
Delighted to go through the senryu by Gary Hittmeyer, focusing on mud-caked boots. In the first line, boots which are expected to provide a smooth walk for a wearer, here are obstructed by heavy lumps of mud.
In the following lines, it is not the heaviness with which the speaker walks; possibly he regrets the time, or boots, chosen or functions he missed. Another possible inference is that he gets stuck up, unable to move further due to sticky clay. This heaviness is his immediate grouse followed by his missing further movement.
This can be viewed from another angle: imagining the boots, empowered with the power of articulation, more than humans have, become stuck up with heaviness. “regret” itself is conceived as a matter to be endured with heaviness, as opposed to a light approach.
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă mines the subtle details:
The postponement technique is what makes the poem a very valuable one. Through subtle associations, the banal objects around us can send us to all kinds of experiences that trigger emotional mechanisms. The muddy boots, for example, cause the author to meditate on something that obsesses him, on something that has burdened his soul.
Until we read the last verse, we lose ourselves in barren or useful speculations.
What kind of regret/s is this about?
The image at the end makes me quickly think of the sensation you experience after carrying a bag on your back and after a while you put it down. That’s happened in this situation, too. The mud can be removed, and the boots can be washed, but from the weight of regret you cannot run away, you cannot escape. Your conscience continually rebukes you. Perhaps repentance, forgiveness would be solutions to healing. “To err is human, to forgive divine .” (Alexander Pope)
Nicholas Fici finds liberation as we work through regret:
I feel that this poem depicts both the problem of carrying the emotional weight of our regrets and a way to unburden ourselves.
Every hiker has experienced the weight of mud-laden boots. It grips your feet and sucks you in. In its extreme, the mud can stop you cold in your tracks. This is also true of the sorrow-soaked soil of our regrets, whether they be of actions done or not done, words spoken or not. The engrams of these moments haunt us and weigh upon our future interactions.
However, as every hiker also knows that’s precisely why you wear boots. They keep your feet from being soiled. The mud encases only the shell. At its core, the foot moves on, and eventually the mud falls away on its own, or at the end of the hike the boot is removed and the mud scraped and washed away.
So it is with our regrets. The mere fact that one experiences regret is a sign of awareness and hope. That awareness acts as our emotional boot. Being consciously aware of our regretful moments and honestly confronting them, we can move on to the next moment or opportunity to act or speak and not regret.
As this week’s winner, Nicholas 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!
Scalding coffee from a freezing cup. At the rim no telling Which is which — Lou Hartman, Essential Zen (1995)