Jay Friedenberg’s fading dream

fading dream
the shape of her curve
in empty sheets

Jay Friedenberg (USA)

Melancholy is the first impression (pun intended) I get from this poem. The impression of this woman’s body on the bedsheets seems to point to a relationship that has ended or is ending. I get the feeling this woman got up early in the morning before the poet did and left without a sound. There is some mystery as to why she left. There is also a mystery as to what the dream entailed. Did the author have a dream of raising a family with this woman? Did the poet have a dream that the woman had no interest in? Or did she leave for other reasons and the poet’s dream is left unsaid? The poet did a good job leaving room for the reader to enter the poem. 

Specifically, the words “fading” and “empty” carry a heavy emotional weight in this poem.

Sometimes it seems someone’s silence (or absence) can speak louder than words. This poem sparks a conversation about what dreams we can have with a partner and perhaps what dreams are best to be avoided. I also think this poem could imply the dream(s) we have can adversely affect our relationships and blur our vision without even knowing it. In other words, it seems if someone is preoccupied with (or attached to) his or her own dream (or a vision of what they want a relationship to be), it could narrow their mind and result in negative outcomes. This dream could also be subconsciously influenced by society and mental programming of what is believed to be “normal” in a relationship. For instance, I think of “the American Dream” and honestly wonder what those words mean from person to person. Regardless of our answer, it seems by being attached to a specific dream, we can close the doors to other possibilities with a partner and it seems this can sometimes lead to the end of a relationship.

In short, this is an emotional poem that sparks an important conversation about our values, and encourages us to explore the complex psychology of our relationships and dreams. 

Jacob Salzer (USA)

The mystery in this haiku makes it a manifold poem that is a bit challenging to interpret. This haiku starts with hopelessness where something is slipping out of a person’s hand—a ‘fading dream’. It seems the person yearned for this dream for a long time, held it dearly, strove for it, and longed for it. To see your dream fading in front of you is more like missing a train that goes away in front of your eyes and you can’t stop it or catch it. ‘Fading’ indicates that the dream is still there but not strong enough to be fulfilled, or the person gave up on it which leads to restlessness, anxiety, and frustration, as it can be observed through ‘the shape of her curve’ where she is sleepless and passing through some deep pain left by the dream. ‘Curve’ shows how complicated the situation is where there is nothing straight or clear, making the situation more ambiguous.

‘Empty sheets’ depict loneliness, detachment, and emptiness that a dreamer faces when they can’t fulfill their dreams. This also indicates that the person is fearful and not ready to sleep again to yearn for another dream. The possible white sheets may also allude to a ‘shroud’ where the person metaphorically is thinking to shroud the dream in white sheets before burying it.

Overall, the depth of this haiku makes the reader pause, and explore various dimensions before reaching a conclusion.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa went over the substance and word usage well. I want to cover a bit more of the technical areas of the haiku.

There is not a direct kigo expressed but the word “fading” might refer to autumn. The word “empty,” however, might refer to winter.

In terms of kireji, there is no punctuation marking the separation between the two parts of the haiku. But as with many English-language haiku, a line break is commonly sufficient to show this distinction.

For the format, the length of the lines is standard for English-language haiku, with a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line.

When looking at the haiku sonically, the “i”, “y”, “ea”, and “ee” sounds in the first and last line adds to the melancholy of the scene.

No word used is excessive and overall this haiku is concise. It is written in a simple, natural style that is a hallmark of fine haiku.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Stephanie Serpick

Saumya Bansal’s radish harvest

radish harvest—
a child’s tug of war
with the earth

Saumya Bansal (India)
(Grand prize winner at the 25th International Kusamakura Haiku Competition, 2020)

This haiku speaks to me in several ways. 

The child specifically struggling in a tug-of-war with the radish tells me the child may not be physically strong enough yet and could be very young. In fact, it could be the very first time the child has tugged on a plant before. The tug-of-war could also mean the soil conditions are not ideal. According to my research on https://www.gardeningknowhow.com, it states: “…a good way to tell if the radishes are ready to be harvested is to simply pull one from the soil. If the soil is particularly crusted or hard, use a garden fork or trowel to gently lift the root from the soil.” With this in mind, perhaps the tug-of-war has more to do with dry soil. In that interpretation, climate change could be a part of this haiku, contributing to drought. The tug-of-war could also mean the radishes are not ready to be pulled, yet the child still pulls simply out of curiosity, not knowing if it’s ripe yet. In that sense, I feel this haiku speaks to the importance of patience and timing. The word “harvest” tells me there is an abundance of radishes here, so it seems this child is growing up on a farm.

This haiku, however, goes beyond just pulling radishes and expands to include the child’s long-term relationship with Mother Earth and food. It sparks an important discussion about what we teach our children about food and how we care for each other and the Earth sustainably. On the note of parenting, I wonder where the child’s mother and father are in this haiku? Did the child wander out alone to pull radishes? Is this child lost? Did he/she run away from home for unknown reasons? Is the mother and/or father nearby watching over the child? There is some mystery here. 

There is another connection regarding the nutritional value of radishes that will become an integral part of this child’s life. According to my research on: 

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/the-benefits-of-radishes#5-health-benefits-of-radishes: “…radishes have been used as a folk remedy for centuries. They are used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat many conditions such as fever, sore throat, bile disorders, and inflammation.” Radishes have a wide range of other health benefits as well. They have anti-cancer properties, help prevent cell aging through antioxidants such as Vitamin C, are high in fiber and help with our digestive system, and have antifungal properties. Another site states: “Radishes are rich in antioxidants and minerals like calcium and potassium. Together, these nutrients help lower high blood pressure and reduce your risks for heart disease.”

 (source: https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-radish

We know sustainable farming methods were well-developed in indigenous communities for thousands of years. They took only what they needed and harvested crops not only to feed themselves but also future generations. I appreciate their strong communities. In this modern age, I think we can learn a lot from indigenous people and their care and reverence for the Earth.

In short, it’s clear to me this child (at a very young age) is developing a deep physical and psychological connection with radishes (and presumably other crops) that will last for the rest of his or her lifetime. It has become an integral part of the roots of the child’s upbringing. This haiku sparks an important conversation about how we relate to food and sustainably care for each other and Mother Earth.

Jacob Salzer (USA)

Radishes are cultivated and harvested normally from October to November—the time when the season is transforming and summer is replaced with autumn. This is also the time for focusing within as our inner energies are at their peak. Since a radish is a root, it can be easily related to one’s deep-rooted feelings and emotions. A child is usually curious about their surroundings and being impatient, they need to reach a conclusion very quickly regardless of whether it will fulfill a purpose or not. The relationship between a child’s curiosity, impatience, and fighting (tug of war) may also point towards needs that are not being fulfilled due to various reasons. The earth metaphorically may be the circumstances that are given to that child, and their survival instinct pushing them to fight for their primary needs. As it is the season of transformation, the child maybe has developed or learned how to fight for their primary needs. 

Overall, this poignant haiku reflects how in the early stages of childhood, life teaches us how to become aware of our primary needs and how they can sometimes even go against nature. 

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa amply explored this haiku already. However, I can lend a bit more observation.

Radish harvesting could be a kigo for several seasons, depending on the type of radish and the place. For instance, daikon radishes are often pulled out before winter truly sets in. Radishes can be harvested as little as three weeks from their planting, though. So, pinpointing the kigo for this haiku can be difficult.

The em dash in the first line works well to set the mood and to separate the two parts of the haiku. Also, the pacing and the length of the lines match approximately with the rhythm of traditional Japanese haiku, with a short first line, a longer second line, and a longer third line to make the “go-shichi-go” rhythm.

The usage of the article “a” for the child shows that the poet wanted to put more focus on “the earth.” It perhaps speaks to the grandiosity of the earth in comparison to the child.

In terms of sound, I notice that “i” and “r” feature strongly. I feel a sense of starkness from the “i” sounds and a feeling of being grounded by the “r” sounds. Anyway, they both add to the musicality of the poem.

This is a haiku that can mean many things to different people. It’s not easy to achieve that universality when writing haiku.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Qing Ping