my father’s country
each year he goes home
for the last time
A deeply thoughtful and poignant haiku and much enhanced by this beautiful photograph. The scene shows part of a churchyard in Down Patrick in Northern Ireland where the poet’s father was born and raised and as Jane tells me, immigrated from Ireland over fifty years ago, leaving his ‘troubles’ behind for the ‘lucky country’. Returning home in the early years for various family occasions and now well into his eighties and the last of his siblings he and his wife continue to make the journey ‘homeward’ on a regular basis. The poet shows a touching sympathy for her father’s melancholic nostalgia for the homeland, a sadness, she surmises, that weighs heavily in the hearts of many immigrants. There is an unobtrusive gentleness to the scene in this photo, the muted shades of green and grey, the softest touches of blue, the gently rolling hills connecting the foreground to the misty mountains in the distance all contrive to convey something of these emotions.
Our father’s country, as indeed our mother’s country, are to varying degrees our own country, our sense of origin and ancestry often being central to our sense of identity. Along with notions of origin, the inescapable reality of one’s mortality is likewise fundamental to conceptions of who we are. The headstones and indeed the whole composition of this haiga invite us to reflect on our mortality as this scene did for the poet, as she put it, there was “something about the graveyard, the way it nestled into and seems so much part of the landscape, so deeply rooted, held an almost magnetic attraction for me . . .” In my own thoughts here I was drawn to a connection between the headstones hewn from various kinds of stone and the mountains in the background, I wondered from which quarries these stones came and pondered ideas around our most ancient origins – the earth itself, to which we shall return – ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I have long been inclined to the feeling that the Earth is my country and humanity is my family – such are some the ideas this photo haiga prompted for me; the reader of course will have their own. Once again I am grateful for the artful insight of other poets.
First published: Daily Haiga (November 26, 2015)
Selection & comments by Simon Hanson