the night nurse
stays to talk
her blue mascara
© Tony Quagliano (USA) (1941–2007)
This haiku has two main aspects: professional and personal. Night duty may be either over a certain time or night shifts themselves. In both cases, it is a tough duty, where a nurse has to be vigilant for any type of emergency.
“The” indicates a specific person who is doing her job. I think she is exhausted and alone. That’s why she is looking for someone who can give her company. It’s a sharing of personal feelings that may be not good in this case. As a nurse, she is supposed to console patients—especially ones who have lost hope or are passing through a critical condition. So in that case, she is more like an active listener who not only consoles patients, but also helps them speak their hearts.
“blue mascara” symbolizes the deep feelings she might be feeling: sadness, loneliness, or frustration. The color blue can also indicate depression or sickness. So, I can see this sequence in it: night – talk – blue, all in one—sharing or listening to painful feelings and relating one’s own feelings to others’ emotions.
– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)
This poem is subtly captivating: the author in three lines sketches the profile of a caregiver, a night nurse. The detail he gives, “her blue mascara,” makes me imagine that he exactly is the one she is staying to talk with, since a person should be very close to notice the colored shadow on one’s eyes…
It seems the night calls off the rules of nurse and patient: for a while they are only two human beings talking together. Again, the detail of the blue mascara causes me to imagine also a quite intimate conversation… A nurse, and maybe more, a “night nurse,” can be set free in the male collective image of sensual feelings. She is probably young, since blue mascara isn’t so commonly used as the black one each woman, at any age, would use. Also, “stays to talk” suggests to me that she became available when she shouldn’t have been … As if her emotions would bring her out of the professional code to keep a certain distance from the patient …
I can also imagine the “blue” among the lashes as tears, symbolized by the color of water, and think the night nurse is sad for some reason, maybe she is so emphatically enthralled that she can’t control her emotions or she is mirroring someone else’s pain: again, for not being trained enough in managing the right distance because of her young age… In any case, I’m intrigued by the reasons, the untold feelings, and the unrevealed wishes that are moving within the conversation between them …
– Lucia Fontana (Italy)
Blue mascara is usually dark, it seems. Maybe the mascara could be matching the color of a coming dusk or the night sky. However, I would go with Lucia’s and Hifsa’s interpretation that the color could be a representation of her mood and the atmosphere of the hospital. It is as if she is embodying the hospital itself, and loses her identity in it.
The sense of sound in this senryu makes it melodic. With “night nurse,” “talk and “blue,” “her” and “nurse,” and “stays” and “talks,” there are many sonic connections. Also, with three words per line, the poem is compact and to the point. However, the poem could avoid referring to the protagonist twice by:
the night nurse
stays to talk
But the original is strong as it is without this adjustment, and this change would be more or less arbitrary. It’s a moody senryu that evokes much in its small space.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)
If you enjoy this senryu and commentary, please leave us a comment.
– art by Suzy Hazelwood