Death Stalks a Tanka

Death rattles nearby
cold winter has stripped trees bare.
Branches jerk in wind
create shadows in our room.
I seek comfort in your arms.

Frank is hosting MTB at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today, he asks us to write a Japanese death poem which can be in the form of a tanka if we choose. He explains that a Japanese death poem speaks of imminent death but at the same time, extolls the significance of life. A tanka is similar to a haiku, but longer: 5 lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables.

23 thoughts on “Death Stalks a Tanka

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) November 19, 2020 / 3:06 pm

    The image of those bare branches signals death to me… I looked back to my own jisei I wrote the last time and I had that image too… when you leave it’s a privilege to be with someone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lillian November 19, 2020 / 3:12 pm

      I was privileged to be with my mother on her death bed. It was hard….but afterwards I realized she brought me into this world and how very fitting and calming for me to be there as she departed.


  2. kim881 November 19, 2020 / 3:10 pm

    I like the juxtaposition of the noise and movement of cold winter with the warm comfort of a loved one’s arms, Lill, especially the use of shadows to create an eerie image of branches jerking in the wind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian November 19, 2020 / 3:14 pm

      Thank you, Kim. We have two large trees outside our bedroom window and in the late spring, summer and fall, their leaves impede our view down the street and actually to the Charles River and Cambridge across the river. When the trees are bare, their branches create very eerie shadows on our ceiling….because the city lights in the backdrop illuminate them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kim881 November 19, 2020 / 3:19 pm

        I love those kinds of shadows!


  3. Ingrid November 19, 2020 / 3:34 pm

    I can feel the death rattle in those branches, Lillian and it’s appropriately chilling for the season. I don’t blame you for seeking the comfort in someone else’s arms.


  4. msjadeli November 19, 2020 / 3:45 pm

    The last line makes everything else alright. Very beautiful tanka, Lillian.


  5. Lucy November 19, 2020 / 3:47 pm

    How haunting this transition to death is. The rattles, remarkably chilling!


  6. Jane Dougherty November 19, 2020 / 4:41 pm

    It’s probably apt that we find tree boughs so comforting when they’re full of summer leaf, but threatening when the leaves have fallen.


  7. Glenn A. Buttkus November 19, 2020 / 4:54 pm

    Bare naked trees make me weep, and shadows on the ceiling give me a start. Lovely tanka. I bit off a big chunk and went for the Renga.


  8. Ron. November 19, 2020 / 4:56 pm

    I had to step outside earlier, could hear that death rattle,, Lillian. This poem brought that back clearly. Well done.


  9. Frank J. Tassone November 19, 2020 / 4:57 pm

    The loss of leaves on a tree–such an apt symbol for dying. Well done, lillian!


  10. peterfrankiswrites November 19, 2020 / 5:30 pm

    Lovely tanka – and timeless – this could have been Basho in 17th C japan. Particularly liked the ambiguity of the last line – a lover, a partner, wine, sleep, death? Just opens the poem up into the world. Bravo.


  11. calmkate November 19, 2020 / 7:30 pm

    haunting, how we would love to die in our partners arms … seldom does that choice arise.


  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake November 19, 2020 / 8:25 pm

    All good and wrapped up so well in the last two lines; it’s those shadows in the room send us to comforting arms.


  13. rivrvlogr November 19, 2020 / 9:16 pm

    It’s only right that one should seek comfort at that time. Well done, Lillian.


  14. rothpoetry November 20, 2020 / 11:03 am

    I love the metaphors in the the first two lines of your poem. We are like trees stripped bare as we go into the dying season! Well done!


  15. Misky November 20, 2020 / 3:12 pm

    How easily these images make me shiver. Well written, Lillian.


  16. merrildsmith November 21, 2020 / 1:29 pm

    The starkness of the trees, their rattling, and winter all symbolizing death. So evocative, Lillian.


  17. Max November 23, 2020 / 7:04 am

    Perfect combination of words and picture, Lillian. I like the ambivalence of the last line.


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