when the husband is home it’s police procedurals & serial killers.
up the night staircase
when the husband is away it’s lost puppy shows & soppy endings.
the ticking clock
Haibun Today, 13:4, December 2019
Commentary: Roberta has used her inimitable style of brevity to utmost perfection in this haibun. The prose consists of just two parallel sentences. The first describes the husband’s television preferences -- shows of violence, of law and order, in which violators are tracked down and, presumably, delivered over to justice. When he’s not there, the family -- whether the wife by herself or with their children --apparently escape his domination of the television set and watch more sentimental shows. On their own, the sentences could be read as a humorous take on stereotypical views of male/female preferences, the split of head and heart. A reader might also detect underlying issues -- a controlling husband, perhaps, who needs defined boundaries, or a wife who longs for something different.
The haiku expand upon those sentences and, through link and shift, create resonances that add nuance and meaning. The first haiku links to the prose through the idea of family but shifts back in time to the ancestors, picking up on the title and its graphical wordplay in “PasTime.” Through scent links --”night,” “shadows”-- it hints at the dark crime shows and raises a question: is the husband bound by his lineage? Like his favourite shows, this haiku feels ominous -- and that feeling carries over to the second sentence, helping to accentuate the underlying issues raised earlier.
“Night” reappears in the final ku, but now it modifies the flower named for the Greek hunter who fell in love with his own water-reflected image. In the myth, upon realizing his love could never be reciprocated, Narcissus died (or committed suicide) and turned into a flower. The haiku links to the prose by suggesting that the husband and wife/children watch shows that are reflections of themselves. It could also connect to the previous haiku, in how the viewer’s own reflection can be seen in the framed portraits. But the myth is generally one of unfulfilled love — and that, more than anything, lends its “scent” to the haibun. Through subtle links, shifts, and suggestions, Roberta infuses the blank spaces in this haibun with meaning.
-- excerpted from "To the Lighthouse: Link and Shift: The Leap in Our Understanding by Kala Ramesh"