tanka – a study in brevity

childhood innocence
blushing cheeks and pudgy knees
jump-rope and hopscotch ~
photos keep her company
brittle memories thick with dust

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Frank is our Thursday host at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. He asks us to consider brevity in our writing…and talks about the Japanese poetic forms of haiku and tanka as examples of brevity. Tanka is 5 lines with the syllabic content 5-7-5-7-7 and should contain a “pivot” at or after the third line. Here, there is a change of perspective: lines 1 – 3 describe childhood for the reader. There’s a sense of liveliness and action. Lines 4 and 5 shift the reader’s view to an elderly person looking at the photos of childhood and hopscotch. The liveliness is gone, replaced by that last line. The person seems alone….left to finger and think about these images, these brittle memories. Perhaps the photos and her memory are “thick with dust?”

Gatherings

My first eighteen years ~
we enjoyed picnics
backyard fun,
family celebrations and holidays.
Cacophonies of raucous laughter and glee.

Hiatus years, different byways ~
address books with edit over edit.
Catch-up Christmas times
marked by postage-due,
aging faces afloat in photo cards.

Reunions of late, any time of year ~
increase in frequency.
Convene in funeral homes,
adjourn with casseroles
served over memories.

Still shadows walk beside me ~
aunts, uncles, cousins.
Will I be the last?
Sole survivor of happy clan,
left to sit with photo albums,
colors fading beyond the years.

Motivated by Misky’s Twiglet prompt, “still shadows.”  A twiglet is a short phrase meant to motivate thoughts. Photos from many many years ago when we often gathered with aunts and uncles and cousins – we had so much fun together in those days when the entire family lived nearby. Now, sadly, all the aunts and uncles, my folks and brother, and some of my cousins, have passed on from this life. Others live far from me. Family is always dear — no matter how far and no matter if earthly or not.  

 

tanka

one christmas mass past
my hands clasped, so smooth, so young
hers riddled vein-blue ~
snow covers ground, gently still
my hands hued with age, missing hers

Our Christmas tree is a memory tree. The bell from my mother’s tree, when she was a little girl. The Santa my brother made in first grade. He was nine years older than me and died far far too young at fifty-one. The airplane from my father’s tree when he was a little boy. Christmas brings so many memories of cherished times past with relatives, friends and family. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Tanka form: 5 lines, syllables of 5-7-5-7-7. There should be a “twist” or change that occurs between lines 3 and 4.

Advent

I sit silently this early morn,
scenes from yesterdays
flickering through my mind.

Their childhood. My childhood.
Her sliver-thin sugar cookies,
his wool overcoat and black galoshes.

Seasonal luminaries.
These scenes from Christmas past
remembered through the hush of time.

Light shafts begin to intrude,
cast shapes upon the floor.
Today encroaches as the rising dawn.

Reluctantly I stir,
take up requirements of the day
but a promise I do make.

On Christmas Day, in early morn
I shall return to these shadows,
to this quiet place of calm.

I shall recall again the way it was,
the ones who were, those many times.
And I shall whisper to my memories,
Merry Christmas to all.

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Haibun from Days Gone By

Looking back from this vantage point, from who I am now and how we raised our children, I’m surprised at my calm, unquestioning “okay” to one man during my lifetime. Wally Rucks, high school football coach and my guidance counselor.

I only had one meeting with this overweight, jowly faced man. In 1964, at the beginning of my senior year.
“Are you filling out your college applications?”
“Yes.”
“What career are you aiming for?”
As the only female on our award-winning debate team, I was ready with the answer. “A lawyer.”
“Girls don’t do that. Study to be a Speech and English teacher.”
The meeting was over. I walked out the door and that’s what I did. I became a high school Speech and English teacher, albeit a very good one.

And then years later, I earned a second Master’s Degree and a PhD. Became a university dean and traveled the world solo, meeting corporate executives, establishing internships for our Global MBAs. Go suck an egg, Mr. Rucks.

smallest acorn
trampled in mud by hiking galoots
tall now in forest green

It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse and today we’re supposed to write about something that surprises us. Come join us at the virtual pub for poets — bar opens at 3 PM Boston time. Haibun: short, precise prose (cannot be fiction) followed by a haiku.

Iowa Scene

Thirty acres of Iowa farmland surrounded our country house ~ the first home we ever owned. We tended a huge garden, had six apple trees, and rented out the rest of the land to a nearby farmer.

It was a magical place in all seasons. Spring time brought apple blossoms and the sound of tractors moving up and down the fields. Our summer garden overflowed with zucchini while wind-blown sheets flapped on the clothesline. Fall harvest coincided with our consolidated high school’s homecoming parade around town square. Winter storms left corn stalk stubs peeking out from a blanket of white snow. And if we were lucky, we might spy a migrating snowy owl, perched atop the fence post next to our old wooden barn.

blizzard blows in night
red barn awakens to white landscape
snowy owl hoots in delight

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Victoria is hosting Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. A Haibun is a Japanese form of poetry that includes one or two paragraphs of tight nonfiction prose followed by a haiku that must include a seasonal reference. Today, Victoria tells us how the Japanese associate the Kigo, Fukuroo with the season of winter (Kigo is owl; Fukuroo means the snowy owl). We are to write a haibun about owls. Photo in public domain from pixabay.com

 

Ode To My High School Gym

 

Home to . . .

blue onesied teenage girls
delicately batting badmintons,
and pimpled boys man-upping
in raucous dodge-ball games.

Crew cuts and ratted Aqua Net dos.

School assemblies.
Seats assigned by homeroom,
alphabetical misery.

Six-foot hoopsters.
Full-skirted
ball gown under-frames
and the tall gangly ball-shooting kind.

Hand-wringing game-ending cacophony,
and teenage clutching
Johnny-Mathis-crooning
sock-hop last chance
he-has-to-be-the-one dance.

Crepe paper.
Gathered in strips,
duct tape hand grips
bouncing in pompom cheers.
Stretched————————–
transformed to ceiling
with hanging mirrored ball
above parading bouffant heads.

Embarrassed girls
side-lined on folding chairs
watching nervous girls
lined up in pretended calm,
waiting to learn
if they would be the one
adorned in prom queen crown.

Fifty years later,
we stand on your creaking boards.
Is it possible? Is this the space?
Old age does not become you,
our once hallowed place.

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Frank hosts dVerse today, the virtual pub for poets, asking us to write an ode (poem of praise). No required form, meter or content. Photo: from my 1965 senior year high school annual, Waukegan Township High School in Waukegan, Illinois. Prom court….I was on a folding chair 🙂 And yes, there’s a metal hoop skirt under that second gown. You had to be really careful when you sat down! In the actual photo, you can see the basketball court lines on the gym floor. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time.

Haibun of Bygones

In the neighborhood where we raised our children, there was a beautiful weeping willow in the front yard next door. Our children loved to have picnic lunches beneath its low bowing branches. Other times, all the children in the area gathered and played tag, running in and out of the green lacey-leafed cascading curtains, sometimes tripping on the roots that made the ground lumpy beneath its shade. Laughter abounded around the tree.

The only day it earned its name was the day the arborists came. They sawed it into pieces. Drilled out its heart-stump, and carted it all away. My children watched the scene in horror and cried their hurt that night as we sat at the dinner table. Mother nature wept her disappointment in a summer evening storm. Strands of weeping branches littered our street, until the street cleaner arrived early one morning and swept all evidence away.

birds sing sweet sorrow
weeping willow cracks in grief
earth disrobed by man

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Thursday is Open Link Night at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Gail is hosting and asks us to come imbibe some words and post one poem of our choice – no prompt given. We’re a friendly bunch. Come enjoy!

Appreciating Differences

My mother and father were very different from each other. She was volatile and outgoing. He was quiet and non-demonstrative. A draftsman by trade, he had neat block printing. His basement workshop shelves contained Skippy jars of nails, nuts and bolts, each with its content duly noted on labels, printed in his steady hand. My mother was brought up in the Catholic Church in the days of “sister school.” I was told that at a young age, the nuns wrapped her knuckles with a ruler when she tried to write with her left hand. Consequently she became a right-hander with almost illegible script.

Our Christmas tree is a memory tree. On the bottom branches, I hang gift tags from years gone by. “To Lillian, Love Mom” written in her horrific handwriting. I also hang wooden ornaments made on my dad’s jigsaw, inscribed on the backs in perfect block letters, “Love Dad.” Nostalgic during the holidays, I occasionally peruse my 1947 baby book, not so much to look at the old black and white photos, but to see my mother’s script which fills the pages. The ramblings of a young harried woman, writing about daily life with me. It takes time to decipher, but I feel her presence more if I can make out the words.

My dad’s perfect printing. My mom’s wild scribbling. They fought, they loved, they played pinochle together. I treasure each for who they were and who together, made me. And I wonder, when I’m gone, will anyone keep these mementos? Or will the ink be so faded, they will be lost to time.

wildflowers constrained,
exhuberant colors vased
bonsai, controlled art

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday. Today Victoria is hosting and asks us to explore the Japanese art of Wabi Sabi – the art of revering authenticity, appreciating imperfections, slowing down to appreciate rather than perfect. The haibun form begins with non-fiction prose and concludes with a haiku. The haiku must deal with nature.