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September 2015, vol 11 no 3

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Ray Rasmussen

Random Praise

Life is but what you deem it.
~ Marcus Aurelius

David Cobb, featured writer in our last issue, suggests that we apply a "So What?" test to both prose and haiku as a means of "sorting haibun that move us." A positive answer for both prose and haiku indicates a haibun that works.

Given that the infirmities of aging parents in rest homes and hospitals and the psychological impact thereof on both parents and offspring has been addressed by numerous writers, I thought it would be interesting to apply Cobb's So What? test to Patricia Prime's piece, "A World Beyond the Sky", that appeared in our last issue.

A first So What? for me as reader is whether the storyline touches me personally. My answer is yes – it's well-told and I could personally relate to it. I was taken back to visits to my mother's retirement home. If you've had a parent in such a residence or with reduced mobility or worry that one day you'll end up in one, as I do, then there's an immediate relevancy.

Another So What? has to do with whether the story is told in an evocative way. Both of Prime's paragraphs are attention-catching in the way things are said. In one, an elderly man gazes through binoculars at a local park. He rages about the negligence of dog owners in a place it's likely he'll never again experience, and to be seen only through binoculars. Yet, he's planning to "lay in wait for them" as a means of exacting justice. Even if unlikely, perhaps it a good thing he's locked in!

Prime's haiku,

through the window
a flight of mallards
in formation

answers yet another So What? positively in that it invites speculation and works well with the prose. It portrays an inside and an outside world, the residents trapped inside while the outside world is beyond their reach and, in some cases, their cognition. We're invited to compare the residents to the flight of mallards outside, seemingly free. Yet they too are in formation, are highly regulated in their behaviour. And aren't we all?

Applying the So What? question to Prime's title, "World Beyond the Sky" yields another positive. What is a "world beyond the sky?" An imagined world, I'd say, a world of daydreams and escapes into the fantasy worlds of pulp novels and TV soaps. This is the world even we who are not confined live in, caught up in our cultures, laws, workplaces, family and friendship networks. Who doesn't need respite from the mundane routines of everyday life?

Ah, to be a duck, outside, in a world beyond the sky, but, of course, doing a bit of solo flying from time to time.