Saturday, August 6, 2016

Butterfly Dream: Nagasaki Haiku by Don Baird

English Original

nagasaki ...
in her belly, the sound
of unopened mail

First Place, 2013 HaikuNow Haiku Contest

Don Baird

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

長崎 ...

Chinese Translation (Simplified)

长崎 ...

Bio Sketch

Don Baird is a ponderer in mind, feelings, and words. Currently, he is a simple person living a complex life as though it is simple. Don not only writes haiku but teaches it as well. His passion is to encourage as many folks as possible to jot down what they happen to notice in the comings and goings of all things — sharing their insight, through haiku, about the Universe's continuum of transformation.

1 comment:

  1. Our top prize is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. This poem provides very clear context and imagery, and yet in such a way that the sense of the poem seems almost to evade us. Almost, but not quite.

    One cannot speak of “nagasaki” without conjuring the events of 9 August 1945, which to this day are contentious amongst Americans (less so amongst Japanese, who have taken this occasion, along with August 6 and Hiroshima, as a clear signal that they move in a completely different direction, a decision now being revisited in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown). Whichever side you come down on, the cost in terms of people of this second atomic blast was horrific — final reckoning was 87,000 fatalities, and at least 100,000 with secondary conditions like radiation poisoning.

    Having established this compelling context, the poet directs us to its polar opposite: not the destruction of life, but its creation. Our gaze is directed not skyward but down, to “her belly,” where we are to hear something: the line breaks and we know what we expect. But our expectations are confounded by the quizzical third line: “unopened mail”?

    What is the sound of unopened mail? Why, none. Unopened mail is a blank slate, useful as a prompt to our imagination, perhaps, but simply unknown until we open it. And this child in the belly, what is its message? How can we know until it is born? And into what sort of world will it be born? No matter when it is born — in 1945 or 2013 — into a world where “nagasaki” is a context which still resonates for us.

    The poem, too, with its unexpected third line, is unopened mail. Perhaps we’ve conjured some of its sense, but almost certainly not all. My Western sensibility registers only the war-time connotations of “nagasaki” — I imagine one who knows the culture intimately will hear the sound of this mail in much greater depth.

    — excerpted from commentary by the judge (Jim Kacian), which can be accessed at