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
chill wind - the heart of an oak leaves the chimney — Robert Bauer (1953-2012) The Heron's Nest, Volume VIII, Number 1 (March 2006)
Rodica Ștefan finds a bleak scene:
It is late autumn or straight winter. The shivery wind keeps the poet inside his home.
Away from the bitter weather, he warms himself up in front of the fireplace. The solid oak logs are burning briskly. The smoke is rising through the chimney, vanishing into the wind.
After a while, nothing will be left – only the ashes. This is not just a fire. It is the pyre of the oak. And the poet’s heart aches.
Peggy Bilbro fills in the story:
If you have ever read the lovely children’s book, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, you will immediately find the heart of this poem. The first line tells us we are in a cold and unfriendly winter, perhaps in the midst of a long, dark, snowy night. But there is a warm and welcoming fire crackling in the chimney, warming us and the room we are sheltered in, thanks to the firewood from the venerable old oak that grew with us, sheltered us and anchored our lives. The tree was old, perhaps past its natural age with broken branches or a hollow core. Perhaps it was felled in a storm, perhaps it was taken down to make room for a garden, or the neighbor’s house. Whatever the reason, our oak stands no more. The oak that has given us so much of itself is now making the final sacrifice sending its heart out into the chill wind after providing us with life-giving warmth. Truly, it was a Giving Tree. What a beautiful gesture of love. What a beautiful poem of recognition. I know that I have filled this brief ten-word haiku with my own personal story that another reader might not see. But isn’t that one of the purposes of haiku, to open each reader to the power of words and to fill the spaces with his own ideas and images? Thank you to Robert Bauer for opening my heart, and thank you, Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă, for sharing this masterful haiku.
As this week’s winner, Peggy 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!
between knowing and unknowing snow — Michele Root-Bernstein, Frogpond, Volume 32:1 (2009)