waiting all night
for a shooting star
— Shobhana Kumar
The phrase in the haiku, read by itself, spells out the hopelessness of the subject/protagonist who is “waiting all night/ for a shooting star” — and the despair when the shooting star fails to show up, which failure is implied.
However, when the phrase is read along with, and in the context of, the fragment: “remembrance day—“, it assumes a new and deeper significance and a more poignant meaning. ‘Remembrance day’ is a day when soldiers who have died in action are remembered.
Could the protagonist be the wife of a soldier who is missing in action? Could it be that she is looking in vain for a shooting star to wish upon, and to wish for her husband’s miraculous and safe return?
Possible of course, among several other possibilities, which shows the vast lateral space left in the haiku by the poet — a space which by virtue of saying nothing at all, by itself, serves to enrich the poem greatly and adds depth to it.
Certainly, this is a haiku, which no reader is likely to dismiss after one reading.
I often seem to forget, how a seemingly simple Haiku with a juxtaposition that works, really works, can be such a delight. And then when I cross paths with a work that embodies the true spirit of Haiku, it’s like coming across an old song unexpectedly on radio. Warm and soothing almost akin to coming home to a well worn blanket or the damp nose of your dog.
Shobhana’s remembrance day is a work that disarms the reader with its simple yet profoundly touching honesty of emotions. Of course the meaning of the Haiku is pretty clear from the first reading itself and yet somehow that only adds to the beauty of the verse. This directness, this steering clear from multiple layers of meanings and obscurity is what in my opinion works most.
The ache of a loss, the need to wish upon a star, the want to turn the wheels of time once again and the biggest question of all ‘Is war ever worth it?’ are all relevant to the state of being human and make for a deeply touching work of art.
What is it about poignancy that leaves such a deep impression on us? A soul connect with sorrow perhaps? Tragedy unites unlike any moment of happiness can.
Climbing man-made mountains wreathed in fog is a slippery slope Shobhana knows a thing or two about. She is associated with an NGO caring for destitutes, which is the setting for her Haibun ‘Stopper’. Whose ending ku this is.
To me, the title suggests a delectable irony on the concept of a show stopper. Shobhana’s character here IS the most beautiful spirit despite being sadly the most broken physically. The haijin describes the destitute ward she visits and the happiness her visits bring to this particular doughty inmate.
The ku uses the dual imagery of loss (Remembrance Day) and hope (futile?). Hope…awaiting the flash of what is in essence a speck of burning dust. Burning almost as soon as it appears but brilliant nonetheless. Or is the shooting star symbolic? An epiphany or sign the haijin herself is waiting for?
Hope, by lieu of its very existence, can never be futile. It gives strength and purpose. Waiting patiently on those dark dark nights, and cherishing a single moment forever is something truly worth living for.
Thank you, Shobhana, for a wonderful read.
Dr Brijesh Raj