Good morning and welcome to another edition of Writing in Blood’s deconstruction of a wonderful haiku by poet, Christopher Perry.
Dry leaves falling
Silently on sunlit church
Tears cleanse the path home
The title of a poem is as vital to the poem as the absence of one. In this, the poet uses the preposition “on,” not “in” not “around,” but on. Why on? Well, it’s simple, really, and becomes quite clear as you study each word, and the meanings of specific words throughout. In Autumn would change everything the poem shows us.
The poem could be interpreted as a miniature treatise on autumn, sure, but the words found therein, as well as the order in which he placed them…to me, it read, or reads, in a myriad of ways I want to explore today.
The poet’s cutting word is tricky, since each line juxtaposes with the other, yet somehow comes full-circle.
His haiku is rich with allusion, and that’s what I love about haiku: the way we, the readers, get to interpret the ideas, specific words and how they’re strung together, in a thousand different ways.
People forget that the traditional Haiku doesn’t translate to English well, and the whole point isn’t necessarily the syllables, but the ideas contained therein. So, I love that the poet stepped out of it to do 4-7-5. (Even if it was not intentional, that’s okay. The only way to make it 5-syllables while maintaining the specific phrase’s intention is to use a helping verb, or a monosyllabic adjective, and why change it with those, simply to stay true to a format?)
So, the first words of each line we have: Dry, Silent(ly), Tears.
Then, in the body of the line, the words: “leaves,” (always a fav in haiku, we love our homonyms, don’t we, poets? ;-)), “sunlit,” and “cleanse,” rich with meaning w/r/t religion, especially when you have the word “fall,” in gerund form.
Fall, the season, the fall of man, fall on your knees to worship, to supplicate, to beg for atonement…and of course, the ultimate demise of a warrior: falling. A tree is felled; falling on one’s own sword…
So much to consider.
This is why I love this particular piece and why I chose to delve into it. This haiku gives someone like me pause as I consider all the permutations of each word. The poem as a whole might reveal several different things from the poet, but to the reader, depending on who she or he is, will see it in an entirely different way.
Writers, never forget that once you put your words “out there,” you lose control of them, and that’s terrifying sometimes, but also the beauty of language, specifically poetry. It’s okay if someone doesn’t “get” exactly what you meant. The purpose of poetry is to open the doors of other peoples’ minds and allow them to glean from your words what they need, or will.
Now, the final words of each stanza are full of ambiguity: “falling,” “church,” and “path+home.”
“Fall,” another lovely homonym, especially when used in conjunction with anything religious or spiritual.
Tree leaves only fall in Autumn, which is layered with meaning in so many ways anyway, because sunlight in fall gives us an almost sepia-light; I always notice how Autumnal sunlight has a sort of deeper gold-cast to it.
“Light, at the end of the tunnel: the universal analogy of hope, but also death.
Tears, so often equated with rain from the heavens, they are miniature waves from a human being’s deepest reactions: salty, wet, crashing from our very mortal bodies and hearts, a show of our ephemeral, arbitrary emotions. So, tears: the “rain” of sadness? Joy? Grief and loss? The grateful epiphany of a dried belief, rejuvenated by the church, and all that symbolizes to the poet?
Or do we read it as “tears=fissures;” cracks, in the sidewalk, perhaps, the foundation where we plant our feet; or maybe even cracks in the core of a belief system? Do these tears rip doubt from a wayward soul, thus redeeming it? Do the cracks cleanse us of our sins, so we may return “home,” at last?
See how, when we juxtapose “falling” with “cleanse,” oh, oh, oh…
Mmm. In the Christian trove of metaphor-treasures, this is so compelling, as is the word “home.” Is home where one goes to live out his mortal life, or is it where he goes after he’s ‘shuffled the coil’?
Watch what happens when we play with Christopher’s lines, only a little:
Tears falling dry
Silently a sunlit church
Leaves the path home cleansed.
So if we shake it up a little, we have tears, falling, then drying. In this variation, someone could have been inside the church, shedding tears. Did someone “leave” them, via death, the “autumn” of the human/natural circle of life?
And then the actual church, a brick-and-mortar structure, but without and within, so much personal, as well as universal, meaning. Did the sun’s light come through the windows, through stained glass? Or did it glance on the outer structure while the dying leaves rained down upon it? Dried tears of the tree, signaling the death of a winter’s sleep…
Light–always associated with God, revelation, as well as the proverbial “lightbulb” being “turned on” with an epiphany or revelation. And then the “tunnel of light,” leading to the final destination of the soul.
With my “shake-up,” then, the final line is not the manifestation of the second line’s cut, but a continuation of it, changing the whole meaning of the first line.
All right, so full disclosure: I wrote this analysis out, then went to the writer’s blog to provide the link, below.
Now, being a Francophile, the blog’s name immediately snagged me: Voyage de Mots, roughly translated to “[the/a] Journey of Words,” je croix, oui? And as I landed there, I found another version of the haiku on his blog, HERE.
Frankly, both poems are beautiful and well-crafted, but I enjoyed the version on Vita Brevis due to the changes he made in the first line specifically the word, “dry.” Had he used the other line, it would have changed the entire thrust of the poem’s meaning for me.
When I read the original, then saw it was dedicated, a commemorative memorial, to someone whom, I assume, was dear to the poet, his haiku impressed me even more. I didn’t need to go back and change a word of my “breakdown” of the poem above, because his dedication to “IGB” came through clearly and with so much emotion packed into the 16-syllabic honor.
Bravo to Christopher Perry and his haiku, On Autumn.
I feel fortunate to have found his blog and writings. Good luck to you on the contest/not-contest-but-meet-you-get-to-know-you from the editor of Vita Brevis, Brian Geiger.
Thank you, Brian, for creating a virtual space for writers and poets to share, connect, and absorb/read/revel in the thoughts of like-minded lovers of The Word.
Peace to you, and, as always…
Je te vois—