with the plastic bag
a stork wraps the moon
on its head
© Ken Sawitri (Indonesia)
Published originally in: Robert Epstein and Miriam Wald (Eds.), 2016 (1st ed.), Every Chicken, Cow, Fish and Frog: Animal Rights Haiku, Middle Island Press.
Below are various reactions to this haiku by four poets:
My first reaction is one of horror—an image of a wild bird with its head stuck in a plastic bag. I can’t see where the moon comes in though.
– Martha Magenta (UK)
I too, find this to be an upsetting image—the horror of a defenseless bird entrapped in a human-made object intended for a legitimate use that has resulted in a devastating (to the stork) consequence. Yet, the author does not come right out and state the horror, he merely reports it, and, “oh, by the way” (he seems to say), the plastic bag reflects the image of the moon, a natural element caught with an unnatural object.
– Dana Grover (USA)
To echo Dana and Martha, this haiku brings a feeling of a natural life form trying to adapt to an unnatural object. When I read this, the stork is making a nest out of the plastic bag by wrapping it on top of its head. Under the moonlight, the plastic bag is illuminated in darkness. The word “wraps” seems to reflect the act of creating circles, and this is why a nest came to mind. It brings an unsettling image and reminds us of just how much trash humans have created.
At grocery stores where I live, plastic bags are recycled, and good people know to recycle them versus filling a landfill or discarding them off the side of the road. If anything, I hope this haiku reminds people to recycle and reuse plastic bags. In a world where everything is connected, each action we take, no matter how small, makes a difference.
– Jacob Salzer (USA)
I think this haiku contains an opportunity for a mix of interpretations. In fact, I believe the author intended for us to get a visceral reaction out of it: one that is at once shocking by the image, and awed by the beauty of the moon. To me, these qualities make it a strong haiku, as it reflects life: life is mixed, with good in bad, and bad in good.
The plastic bag is flimsy, unnatural, and a thing eventually meant to be thrown away. Yet, here in the haiku, it has the dignified duty of carrying the light of the moon on the stork’s head. This act can have many interpretations, but the spiritual meaning could be that the stork feels a sense of enlightenment and it has gone beyond its mind or individual self. It seems like a representation of a loss of ego and becoming one with the spiritual self.
This haiku does carry overtones of death, but that could be the death of the ego, and the “attainment” of enlightenment. The haiku portrays a disturbing moment, however the heron could theoretically shake the plastic bag off its head in an instant. But we are kept in suspense, and this marks one of the qualities of haiku: since it is a fragment of a sentence, the poet can create mystery quite easily.
Even the sound of the haiku demonstrates a mixed feeling. The “o” sound in “stork,” “moon,” and “on” brings a soothing resonance. However, with the hard sounds of “plastic,” “bag,” and “wraps”, the haiku delivers a harsh feeling.
The open and striking nature of this haiku allows one to ponder its image for a while. I think like a good haiku, it cannot be pinned down in meaning and mood.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)
What do you think or feel about this haiku? Let us know in the comment section.