The Tanka Challenge Project


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In 2008, I had an idea. It turned into a semi-annual poetry challenge. In 2019, I am still trying to write a poem a day every April and every November. 
You can read the origin story here. 

A thousand raindrops
Dance madly against the roof, 
Teasing and taunting. 
Within there is no dancing, 
Only one with memories.


Is she in mourning
In sleeves of grey upon grey 
Tinged with blue and white? 
To the east, the sky's sad hems 
Drag themselves across the hills.            


Is this greyness dawn
Or simply the slow advance 
Of the autumn fog? 
She wakes alone in the dark 
To the hiss of autumn winds.          


The battle rages,
A struggle for life itself 
Outside the window. 
Each fierce gust is an onslaught, 
Each downed branch a fallen soul.


Don don tsu-ku don
Don tsu-ku tsu-ku don don 
Don don kara don 
Don tsu-ku tsu-ku don don 
Don kara kara don don.


Another grey dawn
Slinks across the dark hills 
To prod her awake. 
Hope is a cruel falsehood 
In the face of injustice.


Inspiration strikes
At unpredictable times 
And cannot be forced. 
Behold, the dumpster yields up 
The makings of a new drum.


A fool met a fool:
No surprise that they did not 
Get the other's point. 
If they would just get a boat 
And float away together!


Amid dull duties
And mindless chores, her thoughts turn
To the coming weeks. 
A much beloved sister 
And missed friends are to visit!


Gone, the eastern hills
Have vanished behind a veil 
Of white mystery. 
On this strange, muted morning 
The neighbor's dog is silent.


Flutes and strings
Vie with the sound of laughter 
And good conversation. 
My friends hold lovely parties, 
But where did the morning go?


The hummingbird speed
Of his pulse match the wingbeats 
Of a yearning heart. 
Blushes, smiles and quick glances: 
Thus are new beginnings made.


O fickle season,
Your changing skies and chill winds
Continue to tease. 
Yet if I stow summer robes, 
You'll taunt me again with warmth!


Against their gravestones
Crimson blooms, a reminder 
Of spent blood, lives lost. 
We have learned almost nothing 
From the war to end all others.


Sea birds cry and whirl
Against a sky the color 
Of long cold ashes. 
One wonders why they fuss so
On such a desolate day?


Even garden shrubs
Have vanished in the greyness
The world seems muffled. 
Yet no ghost approaches me 
In this all consuming mist.


The calm bay mirrors
A sky achingly blue 
As pleasure boats bob.
Can it truly be autumn 
On such a sun blessed outing?


"Hush," murmur the waves.
"Hush your incessant babble, 
You foolish mortals. 
Like the tracks of wading birds, 
Your lives are impermanent."


The evening fog spreads
Like a shroud across the bay 
And into the hills. 
Vanished are the city lights 
And the house seems too quiet.


An ocean of white
Stretches inexorably
As far as the mind. 
Inspiration cannot be 
Coaxed from a wavering brush.


A whisper, a growl,
The gallop of a heartbeat 
Thunders like the tides. 
Hands fly with inspired speed: 
At last the drums fall silent.


Even the sky mourns
This latest turn of the wheel 
In grey on grey sleeves. 
Is there no consolation 
For those of us who must remain?


The wind teases and
A river of rustling gold 
Floods the garden path. 
Does the poor gingko shiver 
As her robes are torn away?


Resisting his wiles
As best she can, she huddles
Against the old house, 
Despite the wind's advances 
The maple keeps some last leaves.


Fog rose at sunset
Swallowing boats and beacons 
As night took the city. 
We defied the mists with cheer: 
Bright lanterns, good food and friends.


Tides roared, thunder crashed,
Yet we were convention-bound 
To sit sedately. 
Matsuri rhythms should not 
Be caged by a concert hall!


Grey on grey, the sky
And cold waves make dull mirrors 
Of one another. 
One who was her mirror comes
No more to share light and warmth.


A chilly green scent
Hints of pregnant clouds stirred by 
Prankish offshore winds. 
"Oh, rain already!" I rant, 
Unsettled as the dark skies.


At last, a release
From days of teasing rain scents 
And murk ridden clouds. 
Unleashed from constraint, the sky 
Weeps like a new made widow.


Rain on the shingles
Whispers soft secrets to be 
Shared beneath a quilt. 
Such a night would be cozy 
If he was there to share it.


A lone maple leaf
Whirls, golden, past my face to
A cold gutter death. 
Once more the sky is gripped by 
Unrelieved winter greyness.


Motes of sunlight tease
As they pierce the bamboo blinds. 
"Come. Come out," they taunt. 
The scrape of rake on gravel 
And leaf smoke tell the true tale.


Another chill dawn
Brings mist off the channel 
With the fishing boats. 
The pale sun battles its grasp, 
Allied with an ocean wind.


Copyright 2008, 2019 Lisa A. Joseph

No HOBBY LOBBY products were used in these projects.