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The Heron's Nest
Home Journal About Connections
Volume II, Number 1: January, 2000.
The world is overspread with people and somehow each of us must find ways to survive. Long ago humanity discovered that gathering into groups was effective protection from predatory beasts. Then groups began to wage battles against one another in order to preserve their respective families, territories, societies and belief systems. War is ever so ancient and always tragic.
Most countries have declared a certain date upon which those who fought and died to preserve national interests and traditions are to be gratefully remembered. In England this day is called Remembrance Day, the equivalent of Memorial Day in the United States.
John Crook's haiku about Remembrance Day is one of sadness and impermanence. From the beginning we have been fragile in our relationships, and from the beginning weather has affected our efforts to survive. The rain in this poem reminds us that we are vulnerable to the forces of nature. The bugle reminds us that we are vulnerable to each other.
Upon first reading, I wondered where the poet was when he witnessed the ceremony. He may have been passing by. Perhaps his home is situated close to a war memorial, or maybe he was watching the service on television. After visualizing several possibilities I realized that the poem is effective no matter what the point of perspective. I like to imagine that John Crook was actually in attendance, and that the event took place at the grave of an unknown soldier.
As the ceremony draws to a close we hear the first clear notes of taps. They slice through the raindrops drumming on a sea of umbrellas. Until now the mood has been somber. For many the remembered wars seem remote. Halfway through taps a note wavers in the rain-heavy air and all at once we are overwhelmed with emotion. Was the bugler irrepressibly moved by the gravity of the moment, or did the weather actually have an effect on that long thin note? It doesn't really matter; with empathy we go straight to the heart of the moment: lifeand the recollection of monumental sacrifices made in the attempts to preserve it.
In good measure this haiku's emotional power is realized by attenuating our perception of time. The first line, "Remembrance Day" is the Sunday nearest the eleventh of November, an autumn image that serves to set up the overall frame of reference. The second line implies location (probably a cemetery), and narrows time to a few sustained musical notes. The third line not only intensifies the atmosphere but fine-tunes the moment, focusing our attention on the waver within a note. It is through this waver that the full impact of the experience is released, increasing the emotional tension to the point of tears.Thanks go to John Crook for so expertly sharing this poignant experience.
| Christopher Herold |