temple bell –
woman whispers
an unknown prayer

Samantha Sirimanne Hyde

blue-sky

Temple bell –  hear the sound, the sound of the temple bell, filling the air, and fading away. If I just read the words and move onto the next line I may miss it. I remind myself now and again to read haiku slowly, to linger with the subtleties. We are invited to pause at the end of the first line, perhaps with eyes closed – listen. We shall each hear the temple bell somewhat differently according to one’s experience, memory and imagination.

Whispers also suggests sound. Like some lines in poetry, or words of affection, some prayers seem best said in a whisper. That the woman here is whispering, conveys an element of softness, feeling, perhaps earnestness . . . and invites a degree of empathy; I am lead to wonder who she is and what moves her so.

The last line, an unknown prayer, may lead us to wonder why this prayer is unknown, perhaps the listener is new to this faith, perhaps they are of different faiths yet open and appreciative enough to share the same temple space, acknowledging the truths of different faiths, approaching a deeper understanding of unity. Once again the haiku opens up spaces for the reader.

Samantha kindly offers the following by way of background to this haiku: ‘In my birth country of Sri Lanka, there is a mountain – Adam’s Peak, sacred to all faiths. A few years ago, I decided to climb it in the middle of a foggy night. It was an arduous 7km trek on rough-hewn steps to the top and I later found out that it’s not an adventure that one should attempt alone. When I arrived at the summit, I was physically and mentally drained . . . Someone was ringing one of the temple bells’ and a ‘woman next to me starts whispering what I took to be a prayer but one I’ve never heard before’.

A mountain ‘sacred to all faiths’ . . . there’s a thought to ponder . . .

First published: Shamrock Haiku Journal #27, 2014

Selection and comments by Simon Hanson