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A Tanka for the Solstice

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The shortest day here has ten hours of sun, making eleven hours of daylight.

At my house the sun comes up over the mountain at 7:20 a.m., nearly fifteen minutes after the official sunrise for the city.  There is still light at 5:00 p.m.  This is a nice place to spend the winter, though it has been a bit cold lately; any day the morning temperature goes below freezing feels cold to us.

On good days I am at my desk before the sun shows up.  I watch the increasing light on my back yard tree and bushes.  Here’s what I see:

Signals on stone, light
through gaps between branches as
sun clears the mountain,
friendly wave of a morning
walker not breaking his stride.

What else do I do to honor the solstice?  I close out my summer/fall writing folder and start one for winter/spring.

Word Play

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I have been learning a lot about tanka from Ribbons, the journal of the Tanka Society of America – too bad the acronym is in such heavy use elsewhere – and I have been experimenting with the form.  Sometimes, I know all I’ve got is a five line poem.  In the following two short pieces, the play of homonyms took over.

 

My thoughts coast toward
the California coast; others
shore up the Jersey shore.
Is it a fault to lie by omission
about where the fault lies?

 

My brother wanted
to coast down the mountain,
returning from the coast.
Papa said no, of course,
the road no sled or ski course.

Have fun with words.  You never know what might come of some word play.

 

Napa 3: Yes, There Was Writing Too

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P1000198My back yard has acquired its post-rain carpet of green.  When it first appears I can’t tell which plants will be weeds and which will be wildflowers.  I feel a bit that way about the results of my participation in the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.  I’m sorting out my drafts of poems and my new ideas and deciding which pieces have most potential.

Many of my poems centered on the past.  Perhaps this was because I was back in California where I grew up, though the Napa Valley wasn’t part of my home turf.  Perhaps it was because when one has 20 hours to produce a poem, one goes back to basics.  Here’s one piece which may be complete in itself, having taken the shape of a tanka.  The assignment was to show passage of time:

Almond blossoms in spring,
tiger lilies in summer.  Our height
marked on the door post.
Before my brother grows tall,
the house is no longer ours.

Another piece is too short for a tanka, too long for haiku.  Perhaps it is the beginning or end of a longer poem, though right now the rest isn’t working.

Prunes, apricots,
cannery by the tracks.  I bury questions
in my grandfather’s orchard.

Since I’ve been working on a different poem about trying to put my ancestors behind me, I may put this aside for a while.  I have researched all the main lines of my ancestry and after writing John Emerson Roberts: Kansas City’s “Up-to-date” Freethought Preacher (see Books page) I thought I was done.  But here is my grandfather and his orchard once again.P1000200

Meanwhile, in a corner of my yard not as covered in new green shoots, a little clump of purple mat, my favorite local wildflower, is flourishing.  It didn’t have to wait for the rain to get started.  And I have lots of other material to work with while I decide what to do with my new pieces from Napa..

Two Tanka (not a pair)

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Travelling disrupts writing just as it disrupts blog posting.  Getting back into the routine (I hope) I’m sharing two brief pieces which came from prompts.  The first was a suggestion to play with the possibilities of homonyms (two words with the same sound or spelling):

Blessings of the light:
leaves, laughter,
his even breath beside me,
the little bulb
that lifts the weight of dark.

One little bulb has a very big effect in a cottage down a dirt road far from any street lights.

Another small piece came from a suggestion to “write the spectrum,” that is, to choose one color and see where it takes you.  There could be a great deal more to say on this subject, but sometimes brevity is more fun:

The Color Purple

 

Burbly, gurgly sound,

the term purports precision:

a dye from Greek shellfish.

It purrs, in regal pose, between

red velvet and blue suede.

Tanka on Childhood

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Our dolls and bears
bicker and pout
as we play our way
toward understanding
adult antagonisms.

This tanka is for Sally.  It was sparked by the discovery, last year, of letters from our childhood.  We wrote to each other about the adventures of our stuffed animals, of which we each had a whole community. I put the poem of this long ago experience in the present tense because I hope it continues to be part of children’s growing up.bear party

The picture shows a gathering of my bears and dolls, my brothers’ bears, and my cousin Linda’s bears and dolls.  I have been trying to remember whether she came to our house or we went to hers to create this version of “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.”  I’m thinking the chairs must be ours, because my cousin had no siblings, but I don’t recall.  An interesting case of what we remember and what we forget.  And the way photographs both help and confuse the issue.

Poem for a Winter Night

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Night reflects day, not
innocent of influence
as a true mirror,
but with all the shading
of long acquaintance.

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My son gave me a new camera for Christmas and I couldn’t resist trying it out on a night shot.  Not bad for a beginner like me with a relatively simple machine.  The moon was past full, though it looks very round in this shot.

A July Tanka in January

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Rocks become islands
rising from a table sea.
Cardboard ships sail in,
seize gold, quarrel over it,
cranky as housebound children.

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It was a rainy day.  This game was being played by adults, but the pirate characters they created to captain the ships were definitely argumentative.  And there is something about a summer place and memories.  It is as if the sounds of children of years past continue to hang in the rafters.

I got the picture when the players were away from the table; I like the wavy lines in the wood.  May we all have good fortune in 2014.

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