of Dad’s headstone
Presence 56, autumn issue, 2016
© Jennifer Hambrick (USA)
The commentary is by two writers: Jacob Salzer and Nicholas Klacsanzky:
Jennifer has provided a vivid haiku that resonates within us for a long time. We celebrate Labor Day as a day of remembrance, and in this haiku, it conjures up deep feelings of gratitude for the many years that her dad worked to support a family, provide a roof over her head, and bring food to her table. At the same time, Labor Day can stimulate sadness if we go back in time and recall the difficult, (and even harsh) working conditions of our previous generations.
This haiku provides that angle of interpretation: her dad worked so hard (in perhaps a difficult environment), his physical labor and/or environment may have (directly or indirectly) contributed to his death. There is sadness not knowing how old her dad was when he passed away, or exactly how he passed away. In that sense, this haiku may also shed some light on our current working conditions. How many workers are exposed to daily hazards, such as air and water pollution? How safe is our current work environment? “The shadow of Dad’s headstone” is symbolic of the length of her dad’s life and of human life. Shadows are also cooler in temperature, and this only adds to the stark, vivid imagery.
– Jacob Salzer
To add to what Jacob wrote, the elongation of the shadow could have pressed the emotions of Jennifer when she saw it. The shadow could have been as long as her father was, and this could have magnified the sadness she felt from her father’s passing. In this way, “labor” could be a play on words, like the shadow was laboring to witness.
In addition, the capitalization of “Dad” strikes me as interesting. It seems to give prominence to him as somehow living, and in combination with “headstone” not just “grave,” makes this haiku more personable.
The sound of the haiku also enhances the mood. The letter “o”elongates the reading of the haiku, illustrating a laboring process. The letter “a” gives a starkness to the reading, and brings the reader more into the moment described.
The brief lines give this haiku a pace that is impacting. The last line being much longer than the other lines gives an impression of the long shadow. Also, with the lack of punctuation, the two subjects blend more together.
An emotional and surprising haiku, the author created a poignant mood and image without directly referencing it. This is not an intellectual haiku, but one that relies more on intuition to spread its meaning.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky