shafts of sunlight
margosa showers blossoms
on the hopscotch
— Arvinder Kaur (India)
From her book Fireflies in the Rubble
I am honoured to have read Arvinder’s book Fireflies in the Rubble. I also got many opportunities to work with her on various poetry collaborations. Out of many favourite poems, I selected this one for writing a commentary on. Like Arvinder, I feel nostalgic when I read this poem. There are many hidden feelings in this haiku that create yugen but still one can easily connect deeply with the overall imagery therein.
Shafts of sunlight are perhaps glimpses of the past—especially of childhood—that follow and bind us with sweet bitter memories. I also see this line as a reflection of one’s childhood status that put her in the spotlight as the center of her family. It also depicts subtlety about the particular place or venue, which is probably in the poet’s house. We have been given a full margin to let our imagination run wild and think of the place where sunlight highlights the significance of certain places that may stick to our minds and pull us towards them whenever we reminisce about them.
The margosa or neem tree is connected with healing and health as various parts of this tree are used in many home remedies and for herbal treatment. A margosa showering blossoms can look like the rain of flowers or an abundance of flowers that bring healing to unseen wounds or pain. I see it more as a sign of blessings where one enjoys one’s childhood without any worries and lives a carefree life.
The hopscotch is not simply child’s play but may also be a puzzle that takes us back and forth (memories) to solve them. It involves both physical and mental faculties when one plays it. I can imagine it as one of the most significant times of life where margosa blossoms may metaphorically be related to the laughter of children who are enjoying the early part of life with their friends and family. So, from sunlight to margosa and from margosa to hopscotch, I see the involvement of the key elements of nature, sky, wind, and earth, which shows the vastness of this haiku and the way our thoughts and feelings play around with them through either memories or imagination.
In terms of the sound, the letter ‘s’ provides the tone of mystery and subtlety of this haiku, which is gracefully written about and allows us to explore more about this childhood story.
I appreciate the contrasts in this haiku: the formless light and the heavy, dense sidewalk; the dark clouds and shafts of light; the grey clouds and the vibrant rainbow of chalk colors; the soft blossoms and the hard concrete. When I read “shafts of sunlight,” I see the light breaking through holes in a cloud or in the spaces between clouds. I appreciate how the dark clouds could be implied in this interpretation.
While hopscotch is normally found on sidewalks or city streets, I could also visualize the hopscotch in a narrow alleyway in a city, and the shafts of light could be formed by the steep buildings. In this interpretation, somewhere in the city, the wind has blown these beautiful flowers into what was once a dark alley that may often go unnoticed.
When I looked up images of “neem tree flowers” online, the flowers remind me of stars. They are white and each flower has five petals. As the flower petals fall in abundance, I get feelings of hope, joy, and optimism that better days are yet to come.
The descent of the flowers reminds me of how brief our human lives are. Our bodies will eventually dissolve back into the earth, just like these beautiful flowers. This is juxtaposed with the youthful energy that hopscotch brings to mind, along with childlike innocence and imagination. In this sense, I see life cycles in this haiku. To echo what Hifsa has said, perhaps this haiku could speak of returning to our childlike imagination, to dream like we did when we were children, and to find beauty in simple things. Perhaps this haiku could also be a metaphor for nonattachment and letting go, as the flowers are released from the neem tree, taken by the wind.
In short, a poignant haiku that speaks to impermanence, hope, and finding beauty—even in dark times.
The seasonal reference, or kigo, is most likely spring due to blossoms being mentioned. Hopscotch is also representative of fun and play that is common in spring and possibly summer.
I admire the “as above, so below” aesthetic with shafts of sunlight (above) being compared to showering blossoms landing on the hopscotch (below). The sunlight gives energy and life to the margosa tree in streams of light and the tree later “streams” down in the form of blossoms. The ending image is wonderful with nature playing a human game, even though it is done inadvertently.
There is no kireji or punctuation to represent a “cutting word” to separate the two parts of the haiku. However, the line break after the first line creates a separation between the fragment and phrase. If it were me writing the haiku, I might have added an ellipsis to illustrate the motion of the showering blossoms. But, this is a stylistic choice rather than a necessary one.
The length of the lines is common for English-language haiku, with a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line to represent the traditional rhythm of Japanese haiku approximately.
What I find intriguing is a lack of an article in the second line before “margosa” because, in my head, I add “a margosa.” However, with three (possible) nouns in a row, it could be read as “margosa, showers, blossoms” or “margosa showers, blossoms.” I believe the poet wrote it in a way with an intuitive article, though.
This haiku is teeming with positivity within its layers and imagery. I wish Kaur the best with her new book, Fireflies in the Rubble, and I hope her good energy spreads far and wide.
You can purchase Kaur’s book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fireflies-Rubble-Arvinder-Kaur-ebook/dp/B09THDGWC4