on the weaving machine
The smallest of poems, haiku are powerful in their dynamic compression. They are fully capable of addressing all significant
subjects affecting humankind — alienation and connection, transience and death, love and war. The best ones
reward many readings, never growing stale. They involve readers, allowing us to participate and contribute without depleting
the possibilities offered by evocative images. Such haiku convey strong feelings and suggest multiple layers of association.
They validate our intuition and challenge our thinking. Often they expand understanding and open hearts. The editors of
The Heron’s Nest believe Fay Aoyagi’s “Hiroshima Day” belongs to this distinguished group,
and we are pleased to commend it.
In keeping with classic haiku practice, Fay approaches her emotionally charged subject obliquely. Hiroshima Day and a weaving
machine are disparate images, seeming to have little or nothing in common. But they are brought together by “multi-color
threads.” On first reading I visualized threads of many colors and thought of our world’s races, nationalities,
and cultures — each part of a pattern that is richer because of the diversity; all fragile against the horror
of nuclear weapons. Almost simultaneously, I sensed that single threads might be variegated, with shifts in tone to suggest
the complex and often contradictory blending of characteristics within individuals and the way our attitudes change over time.
More than sixty-three years later, most of us no longer subscribe to the point of view our parents or grandparents considered
so natural during World War II — that the enemy was not quite human and could not be understood or reasoned with.
But we are always only a small step away from taking this same point of view in new periods of conflict.
Solid or variegated, the warp threads shimmer with unfinished possibilities. No two readers will follow precisely the same ones.
Certainly, the emotions that surface on each anniversary of the August 6, 1945, detonation of the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima
must be markedly different for a Japanese survivor and an elderly American infantry veteran convinced he would have died in battle
had World War II not ended when it did. Even so, I imagine many of their feelings overlap and interweave, colored by knowledge
of the realities of war and hope for peace. A younger generation worldwide grew up amid Cold War talk of bomb shelters and nuclear
annihilation. They will bring their own associations to the poem, as will today’s students and their parents and teachers.
Haiku may come into being in a few moments, but they are almost always infused with emotional responses developed over a longer time,
perhaps the poet’s whole lifetime. So, too, with each reader’s immediate reaction and subsequent associations. Even so,
I believe most people will experience a visceral knot as they enter the poem and recognize personal involvement in the unfinished
cloth of the post-Hiroshima world.
The timbre of the poem would be much different if the threads were stretched on a hand loom. Since the Industrial Revolution,
the textile industry like most others has become highly mechanized. Monster machines are the stuff of nightmares, and the next
threads of suggestion are all too easy to identify. Propaganda machines, war machines, political machines can all make monsters
of ordinary people.
I imagine woof threads shuttled or air shot across the colorful warp. Spindles are in place, and the weaving machine is programmed
to produce cloth according to a pre-determined pattern. But the machine is not part of an allegory about the human condition.
Images in haiku suggest instead of instructing or predicting or standing in for abstractions. For me, this issue’s award poem
serves as a powerful reminder of our shared humanity and an affirmation of the fundamental distinctions between machines and human
beings. Our ability, individually and collectively, to think, feel, and choose can make all the difference.