Brad Bennett’s skull

the baby’s skull…
summer clouds

Brad Bennett (USA)
(previously published in Modern Haiku 51:3)

There are two soft spots on a baby’s head where the skull bones have not yet joined together. These soft spots are called fontanels and allow flexibility for the newborn baby to move through the mother’s birth canal. Metaphorically, this softness and flexibility could be the neutral place between two rigid points of view: a bridge between apparent opposites or two sides. I really like how “summer clouds” could be the clothes a mother is wearing, or a blanket, or a pillow. Though I imagined a mother in this haiku, it also could be a father. There is inherent warmth and compassion in “cradling” with its gentle, slow movement. 

There is another interpretation that leads to a contemplation of life and death, and the unsettling, sad stories of very short human lives. However, “baby’s skull” could be another form of life in this haiku. It could be a baby bird’s skull left in a puddle reflecting summer clouds. Summer clouds could also conjure up a feeling of heaven with sunlight coloring or illuminating the clouds, though I feel the real heaven is not seen in the sky but is rather hidden within us. Even in the midst of death, this haiku could imply that the baby’s soul has merged with the universal spirit. 

Brad did a great job using a powerful verb and descriptive imagery, leaving space for the reader’s imagination and engagement.

Jacob Salzer (USA)

Cradling can mean an oscillation between two ends, which indicates something is not yet settled. The baby’s skull and ellipses at the end shows mystery that can be haunting and sad as well. The baby’s skull may point to either a newly born child or a child that is weak due to malnutrition, drought, poverty, or other reasons.

The skull as a hard part of the head may show the significance of what’s in it: wisdom, insight, the intellect, or thoughts that people are gifted to use to overcome issues in order to make this world safe for the next generation. The action of cradling allows readers to think gently and wisely about the issues a newborn must face: the recent pandemic and climate change.

I think summer clouds show a connection between the human intellect and the confusion or obscurity of the global issues that threaten the survival of the current and upcoming generations. It seems cradling/oscillating is more like moving in between the positive and the negative aspects of life.

This insightful haiku is well woven with the threads of mystery and prudence, which makes it unique and thought provoking.  

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The above commentaries already mentioned the interpretations of this haiku in depth. I want to add that the word “skull” makes all the difference. If the poet had written “head,” a different resonance would have been created. “Skull” brings us to thoughts of mortality and perhaps transformation, as newborns’ skulls are malleable. This flexibility relays the message that as parents and family members, we shape a child’s future.

With summer clouds, I felt the transience of youth but also the magic of it. It’s a great intuitive comparison with a baby’s skull. The poet could be saying that the newborn has passed away, and now summer clouds are cradling the child.

Looking at this haiku more technically, we clearly have a kigo (seasonal reference) and kireji (mark for separating the two parts of the poem). The lengths of the lines are standard for English-language haiku, and this haiku rightly employs brevity and simple language. In terms of sound, the letters “c” and “k” in this haiku present a stark sonic experience.

With powerful word choice, imagery, and sound, this haiku creates a strong resonance that stays with the reader.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

“Summer Clouds” by Tony D’amico

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