I strike the bell
with my shadow
Wild Plum, 2.1, Spring & Summer Issue, March 1st, 2016
© Ken Sawitri (Indonesia)
The surprise in the last line is not just there for shock, but also for its image. It conjures a mood of intense loneliness.
“Shadow” could be physical or metaphorical. It could be a play of perception, or an introspection on the past or present misery that came to the house or the narrator.
The action (or imagination of the action) of striking the bell brings the house back to life, occupying it with sound. However, this occupation only increases its somber mood, as it is even more obvious that no one lives there anymore.
In reality, the bell probably was not rung, but the narrator only touched the bell with her shadow (showing that even in the possible reluctance to ring the bell, the shadow did it for him). Houses have characters and lives of their own, and only touching the doorbell with her shadow is in a sense displaying the lonely atmosphere the house emits.
The image of the shadow touching the doorbell also shows a sense of reflection about times past, and maybe that the narrator is thinking of how she could have done something different to change the situation that made this house abandoned.
Getting more into the technical side, I think the lack of punctuation adds to the atmosphere of abandonment. The somber pace of the lines also points to the mood.
The two most prominent sounds in the haiku come from the letters “s” and “o.” The letter “s” gives way to the sound of “shhh,” kind of like a shadow brushing up against the doorbell (though shadows don’t make sounds, but in our imagination they can). The letter “o” puts more emphasis on the melancholy mood.
Starting from an initial surprise, the haiku leads to introspection and wonder about the sad state of one’s past that led to the present, and what we could have done to avoid our suffering. Though the haiku appears simple, it revs up our imagination through imagery and sound.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky