Nick Virgilio, “heat before the storm”

heat before the storm (from Selected Haiku)
Nick Virgilio

heat before the storm:
a fly disturbs the quiet
of the empty store


I keep forgetting how expressive haiku is. There’s quite a lot going on in this poem.

The scene is completely quiet. Instead of noise or movement, there’s simply a gradual building of heat. Finally a fly from the outside, bothered by nothing but a slight shift for us, “disturbs the quiet.” An empty store is violated. That all-too-human location contrasts starkly with the natural elements composing the rest of the poem.

The empty store feels an afterthought, but without the man-made, the poem falls apart. The fly’s reaction seems insane, but is part of a perfectly natural process. It has been warned of the storm, continues the warning, seeks shelter. But an “empty store” is a peculiar shelter. A store ideally should have everything for all contingencies. It is everything and nothing. It is not meant to react, not meant to be aware of how one situation differs from another. This is the ironic consequence of trying to eliminate emergencies.

“Empty” and “store” reinforce what a blank the shelter is. It’s a human hope that can break because of the slightest occurrence. But for now, the fly is getting something out of it.

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