04 Apr

Following are my tanka included in the Ash Moon Anthology: Poems on Aging in Modern English Tanka, Modern English Tanka Press, 2008.

whose hands are these
grown graceless, thick and slow;
not enough fingers
too many thumbs to use—
my god, whose face is this . . .

the steam whistle’s song
my dreams are g o n e . . . l o n g    g o n e
hope’s checked out, checked out
the train lights grow faint, go dark
vanished into plains of night

I can’t wait for echoes
I am the age of dust
boundless and drab my emptiness
yet I tremble
at the touch of living flesh

she smoothes
the shoulders of my coat
her touch familiar
and gentle as dusk
if only I could speak . . .

after all these years
I can hear her eyes speak
when words fail
made mute by grief, by pain,
I talk by touch

he asked me
to bury him when the time came
not so far away
I said Yes, of course . . .
even now, I see his pale eyes

in the long night
in the darkness of grief
blind to hope
and deaf to prayers
I hold tightly to your hand

the brief cloud of snow
as an axe strikes this oak
a staggering blow
after his diagnosis
I can’t hear the doctor’s voice

come close, young woman,
I’ll tell you about onions:
they are the last sum
of all their layers, oldest
and youngest . . . yes, come closer

we smile through tears
and make hopeless plans
as if we had time
one of us is dying
and both of us know

an empty lot
except these five stone steps
granite solitude
there is so much to pass on
but no one there to listen

my darling barfly,
spandex taut over ‘depends,’
dry makeup flakes off
when you smile and yet your eyes . . .
fires smoulder in the ruins

sandstone garden wall
blushes vividly once more
warmed by the late light
your rouged cheeks and rosacea
glow in the winter sunset

rye whisky
burns my gut, so, cheers!
I’ve lived so long
an enemy of death
I know pain is proof of life

the boy says
he wants to see it all—
shaking my head
I wonder what he’d do
if the scales fell from his eyes

forty years
are not time enough
to forget
the shouts of “incoming”—
waking to my own raw voice

and when
the sand runs out?
the stillness
of the hourglass
and I are one

seasons come and go
the lake has changed,
days are darker now—
dwindling and loss, yet, I’m rich
with your hand in mine

since you left
I sleep very deeply
alone in our bed—
good practice, perhaps;
since coffins sleep only one

my childhood replays
scenes of sunlit clarity
over the long years
since my vision has broadened
to a certain haziness

afloat at last in
my gossamer canoe
across a darkling deep
wait for me, mother,
beyond the breathing sea

intensive care
all the chirping monitors
song of the cicadas
rising to a deaf moon

my fingertips
sting again with paper cuts
as I count out bills
paying today’s price
for loving you

unshed tears
I’m told they’re high
in calcium . . .
enough of them, your heart
can turn to stone

yet chilled to the bone
I go out for morning chores
a breeze rises with the sun—
the old windmill
screeches into motion

as I turn her brooch
to read the inscription
the pin draws blood
if she knew she still can hurt me
she would smile

as the cold gurney
shudder-squeaks down the hall
for one more exam
your hand in mine
makes us safe

gone so long
days pass without
waking to your voice
calling my name

some nights
all I can do is lean
against the old wall
and know
that stone is cold


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Posted by on April 4, 2016 in Tanka


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