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Valentine Awards 2001

The Heron's Nest
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Volume III, Number 4: April, 2001.
Copyright © 2001. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Editors' Choices •  Haiku: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 •  Index of Poets

Heron's Nest Award

      snow mixes with rain–
      my mother keeps calling me
      by my brother's name
                                            Paul David Mena

The drear of the day. Intermittent rain softens the old snow to slush. An occasional flake floats down with the cold drops. This bridging, this in-between kind of a winter day, is discomforting. It is not the calendar photograph or Currier and Ives print rendition of the season.

I see the poet leaving a nursing home, his experience still swirling in his mind. His breath is white; his gloves and scarf were left in the car because the nursing home is always so hot. He has to look down, stepping carefully on the sidewalk and at the curb on the way to his car (always at a far corner of the overloaded visitors' parking lot). This is my own identification with the scene Paul David Mena has stimulated me to share with him. The facility, no matter how well run, no matter how well intended is the staff, smells like all such places: disinfectant is paramount. The fluorescent ceiling lights are spaced evenly down each of the radiating hallways. Wheelchairs are parked in the day room. Walkers edge along in the halls. Another visit; again the poet goes, unremembered, back out into the bleak weather.

The most elemental bond of our species is that between parents and children (most strongly between mother and child). Imprinted. From birth the characteristics of touch, smell, and sound are known to each of the pair. Recently, while at a shopping mall, I heard a baby's alarm cry. It was exactly my daughter's cry, just eighteen or more years out of date. It startled me anyway. In this haiku that physical and emotional bond is the subject, even as the connection is fraying at one end. The son's love is strong, but through the vagaries of age or disease the mother is losing touch. The old phrase has been “she's getting senile,” or “she's just getting old,” but these days a name is often applied: “Alzheimer's disease,” as if identifying the condition provides more power or control over it.

Long after first considering this haiku, I discovered that Paul had written it in five-seven-five arrangement. Even so, it's very simple and it has no padding. The poet has employed a kigo as a setting for the haiku, but it is the precision of the kigo itself that provides the point of resonance. What sadness! I empathize with Paul. His skill is such that only facts are stated, yet complex emotions may be evoked. There is love and there is duty. There is the hopelessness of a winter of the mind.

  Paul MacNeil
April, 2001