the sound of a frond
How wonderful that it is my turn to write commentary for such a brilliant poet. With only eight words, Carlos Colón takes me
on a trip deep inside myself to the core of my emotions. Using the techniques of contrast and narrowing, this poem opens wide for my
experiences to catch hold and flow. As the commentator, I go now to where this poem takes me.
It is Palm Sunday. I am a child walking up the steps into our regular church. I feel for the quarter in my pocket. I can’t
lose that. Mrs. Winston, in her awful purple coat, is in front of us. It smells funny, like our laundry hamper.
Today is the day one of the helpers hands me a green branch. I wave it at Dad, and Mom stops my arm. Last week in Sunday school
we learned that people waved these branches and even took off some of their clothing and put it all on the road in front of
Jesus when he went to Jerusalem. Wow, that must have been a trip. Maybe Mrs. Winston should have left her coat there, too.
I’m thinking I can tickle someone with this long bushy branch, even though I know I’m going to catch heck. We sit
down and I swing my feet back and forth, back and forth, just waiting for the talking and singing to be over so I can get out
of the main church with the hard seats and into the classroom. Suddenly I hear “The Old Rugged Cross.” I like this
song, because I know most of the words. The branch in my hand keeps time with the music as I bellow, “till my trophies
at last I lay down.” The branch accidently messes the hair of the lady in front of me. Mom grabs my wrist.
After the song is over, the offering plates start coming. I dig into my pocket to get the money. It’s very warm from
being in the folds of my corduroy skirt. There’s Tommy! He’s passing one of the plates. He’s been bothering
me for a couple of weeks and he keeps telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll show him. My right
hand makes a fist around the stem of the branch, while my left hand plops the quarter into the middle of all the bills.
Then finally it’s time! I thought the boring part would never end. Mom touches my shoulder and says, “Don’t
get into any trouble!”
As I rush past the church kitchen, Tommy jumps out and scares me. He’s a bully. He picks on some of the little kids and
takes their quarters. I want to tell on him, but then he’ll pick on me. He says, “You want to go see something?”
I don’t really like Tommy, but it sounds more interesting than Bible verses, so I tag along. He’s got his branch,
too, and he’s swinging it high over his own head and whistling a pop song from the radio. When we get to the parking lot
through some back doors, Tommy digs into his pocket and brings out a pack of cigarettes and a folder of matches. I know he buys
them with the money he takes away from some kindergartners before church. Then he hauls out a transistor radio, a new one.
“See,” he says, “I told you I would get one.” His finger is on the dial and he’s trying to bring
in KJR, the music station. “All you have to do is lift a bill from the offering plate as it passes past you. It’s
“Stealing is wrong,” I say. “You can get in real bad trouble if you get caught.”
“Naw!” he says. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. They don’t do anything to kids.”
I feel my cheeks get red with anger. Before I know what I’m doing I put out my branch and say, “En Guard!”
grabs hold of the branch and rips it through my fingers. When I open my hand it is red with blood and stings like crazy.
I know I’m going to get asked what happened. I make up the lie as I run for the bathroom.
I’m pretty sure that Carlos had no idea where my mind would go when he wrote this superb poem. According to Harold G.
Henderson in An Introduction to Haiku, “Good haiku are full of overtones. The elusiveness that is one of their chief
charms is the fact that so much suggestion is put into so few words.” And because we all come to each haiku with our
own experiences, I am certain you, too, will find even more ways “Palm Sunday” resonates with you.
On behalf of all the editors and our readers I would like to thank Carlos Colón for sharing his excellent poem with us.