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
no more waiting for him to keep his promise last plum blossom — Martha Magenta, Presence, Issue 64 (2019)
Cezar-Florin Ciobica pays tribute:
I purposely came up with this poem as a tribute to Martha Magenta, a writer who died in January of this year and left behind a lot of memorable poems. The poem above reflects a premonition that, at least for her, time no longer has patience. She seems to know that she doesn’t have much longer to live.
While the first part of the poem highlights a moment of crisis and tragedy, the final image can be perceived as both an enlightenment and an epiphany.
The last line seems to hint at the idea that she has suddenly become much wiser. She realizes that there is no point in waiting for him, because he betrayed her expectations, and this tough waiting exhausts her energy and appetite for life. Maybe she dreamed of spending other magical moments with this man, admiring the transient beauty of the elements of nature, recalling sequences of their love. I think it was not by chance that “plum” was chosen as kigo. Apart from the fact that in Japan this tree is associated with good fortune, it is also a name for boys.
The word that most intrigues you is the adjective “last,” that simply disturbs you, leaving a bitter taste. It’s as if the poet wants to say: He regrettably missed the opportunity.
The general atmosphere of the poem leads me to the famous remark of a character from “Waiting for Godot”: “Nothing to be done.”
Radhamani Sarma perceives meaning beyond the symbolic:
Delighted to read this haiku by Martha Magenta, a prolific U.K. writer. Beginning with an assertive tone, “no more waiting” weaves ’round a reminiscence, emphasizing a note of impatience: a voice resounding a reminder, possibly recalling her lover or a person worthy of remembrance.
“for him to keep his promise” stretches to a greater extent the speaker’s angered tone, implying that a promise has been either violated or is still taking a long time to execute. The “last plum blossom” usually symbolizes winter, during which they flower, here the end of winter for the waiting lover or persona. Symbolically, plum blossoms also denote steadfast goals, perseverance. Here, the adjective “last” signifies the last flowering of the plum, or when winter is in its final stage, so much so, and not unlike her patient waiting for her lover who has kept his promise for such a long time or who is yet to come. Season and related sentiment are poetically clothed or expanded in the plum blossom image, with the concept of the transience of time.
Kristen Lindquist considers the vicissitudes of a relationship:
The saying to exemplify disillusionment is, “The bloom is off the rose,” but in this case, the bloom is off the plum. I really enjoy here the implicit metaphor of the blossom for a relationship that has come to its end — or at least lost that first flush of love, that rosy time when we want to believe everything about the other person is good and true. The “honeymoon phase” is often ephemeral, too, just as that brief time each spring when the plum tree flowers. Her choice of plum as the flower (rather than cherry, for example) also astutely indicates the word’s other meaning: a highly desired choice. Perhaps the “him” in this poem seemed at first like “the one,” perfect for the picking. Now that she’s given up on him, or at least stopped waiting for him to change, perhaps she thinks she’s giving up on all future relationships and he’s the “last.” But as with the plum, in its season, the tree will bloom again — just as love will undoubtedly come around once more.
As this week’s winner, Kristen 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!
climb this tree and you'll be a she-devil — red leaves in this sunset glow — Mitsuhashi Takajo (1899-1972) (translated by Makoto Ueda)