Kashiana Singh’s iris

regal iris
the purple scar
on my breast

Kashiana Singh (USA)


This is a moving haiku that I feel is a portal into many challenges we face as a community. 

The juxtaposition between the regal iris and the purple scar speaks volumes about sensitivity, hope, and healing. Like most flowers, the regal iris is delicate with a beautiful yellow/white design on the petals when it blooms. The delicate connection between the iris flower and the poet brings me hope and a feeling of unity between the poet, the flower, and the Earth. 

The purple scar in this haiku could be from many things. It could be from past physical/domestic abuse, breast cancer surgery, or an accident. My first impression is the poet had breast cancer surgery or a biopsy and is now recovering from the procedure. In this interpretation, I feel the regal iris provides hope and comfort while the poet is faced with a cancer diagnosis (or a potential cancer diagnosis if a biopsy was done). Unfortunately, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States (source: FastStats – Leading Causes of Death (cdc.gov)) and according to the WHO (the World Health Organization), “In 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally. As of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer” (source: Breast cancer (who.int)). In my own family, my mother has friends who are breast cancer survivors. A combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and a positive attitude got them through the treatment until they were cancer-free. I truly believe their positive attitudes and support from family and friends made a real difference in their treatment and recovery. The scars remain but they are like the markings of a true warrior. 

When looking up the color purple in relation to cancer, I discovered: “What color is used for cancer awareness? A light purple or lavender ribbon often is used to represent all cancers as a whole.” Furthermore, “The purple ribbon is most commonly used to raise awareness for animal abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, domestic violence, epilepsy, lupus, sarcoidosis, Crohn’s disease and pancreatic cancer” (source: What color is used for cancer awareness? – Know Breast Cancer). This adds another layer of meaning in regard to the color purple in this haiku. I discovered The Mayo Clinic has a good article on breast cancer prevention and lowering the risks: Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk – Mayo Clinic.

Unfortunately, I also learned domestic abuse is surprisingly common in the U.S., according to an article in The Sun magazine: The Most Dangerous Place | By Tracy Frisch & Finn Cohen | Issue 537 | The Sun Magazine.

All this being said, this is a very touching haiku that speaks volumes about physical abuse, breast cancer, breast cancer recovery, sensitivity, hope, and healing. I greatly appreciate the poet’s vulnerability and hope her purple scar will bloom into much better days ahead. 

Jacob Salzer

Breast cancer is one topic that always remains sensitive and delicate like the disease itself. I have seen people sharing their personal experiences through poetry with some hope, light, and resilience and it is much needed to talk about this issue. In my country Pakistan, this issue recently got some attention as awareness programmes have been initiated by the government, which is a ray of hope for many people—especially women who avoid talking about this issue due to shaming, taboos, myths, or cultural barriers that ends up in a point of no return.

The regal iris is juxtaposed with a purple scar on the breast, which may be used in this poem for two reasons: firstly, the colour, structure, and delicacy that can be linked with breast cancer; secondly, the flower is a symbol of faith and courage. I can see more in it like the word ‘iris’ that is cleverly used in this haiku—maybe keeping in mind that it’s also a ring-shaped membrane behind the cornea and responsible for vision and sight. So, it may be how we perceive, interpret, and deal with breast cancer before and after treatment. Like I said earlier, there are many myths or taboos associated with breast cancer in my country. So, it depends on the perceptions of both the patient and the people in their surroundings.

The purple scar may indicate many perspectives but I will focus on three. First, it may indicate the initial or later stage of breast cancer where the breast gets purple due to the spread of the cancer virus. Second, it may indicate the treatment where the purple scar shows some healing—the slow one in this case. Third, it indicates the socio-cultural perspectives that bruise the life of a patient even if they survive it. Whatever the reason, I see hope and faith in this haiku due to the use of a regal iris that persuades us not to focus on other reasons and allows the life of the person to bloom again fully.

Hifsa Ashraf

I feel the poet used “regal” as both an adjective and as a possible term in taxonomy. Sometimes irises are referred to as regal flowers and even have names such as “prince iris, “queen iris,” and “his royal highness iris.” This may also vary across languages. These types of irises are most likely to be seen in the late spring gardens. So, you could place this haiku in late spring. This seems appropriate for the subject matter, where there is a sense of melancholy with the passing of spring.

For this haiku, there is no punctuation to emulate the kireji or cutting letter. However, the cut between the two parts of the haiku is clear. The fragment of the first line and the phrase of the last two lines are obviously delineated.

The comparison between the color of the iris and the poet’s scar has many implications, as Jacob and Hifsa have elucidated. The power of these two images side by side is that they interact, with beauty and tragedy interweaving. The result is a sort of unison.

This haiku is quite economical, being only eight words and 11 syllables. The lengths of the lines follow the standard for English-language haiku of a sort first line, a longer second line, and a short third line to model traditional Japanese haiku rhythm.

Looking at its sound, the Rs, Ss, and Ls stand out. There is a slant rhyme with “iris” and “breast” which brings a musical quality to the reading. The mood from the sound is somber but highly digestible.

With its color, imagery, sound, and societal relevance, this haiku has potent resonance.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Irises, 1889, by Vincent van Gogh

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