The Tanka Challenge Project


best free website templates

Poised elegantly
On one fragile leg, a crane 
Waits near a dawn lake.
The rest of us flail and lean 
Striving to find our balance.


Outside the window
Branches wave their leafy arms  
At the wind's prompting.  
Clouds vie against the sun and  
The final gusts of winter. 


The day shifts from mist
To drizzle to mist again,  
Unceasingly bleak.  
Spring's soft breezes cannot come  
Quite soon enough to suit me! 


Mist gives way at last
Before the sun's promenade 
Through a cloud pocked sky.  
Distant sails toss on the bay  
Like petals on the spring breeze. 


Finally silence,
Broken only by the drip 
Of rain from the eaves. 
Reluctant to cede its hold, 
Winter shakes a stormy fist.


I set a challenge
To test myself and perhaps
Create some beauty. 
What I do is what I do. 
What you do is what you do.


With each blow, thunder
Erupts from the rawhide skins. 
Bodies sway and strain. 
Through the whirling sticks I think 
"I'd better not hit poor Clint!"


The neighbor's dog bays
As dusk deepens. A door slams 
Somewhere below me. 
Evening settles on the
Neighborhood like an old quilt.


They're not in that drawer.
Nor are they in that basket. 
Perhaps here - but no! 
Search as I might through the house 
I cannot find my tabi! 


Out there the sun shines,
Taunting me in the face of 
My daily duties. 
Another Friday passes 
Far too slowly to suit me.


New mown, dewy grass
Tempst the nose with spring scents as 
It chills the toes. 
Towering clouds crown the hills 
With the promise of more rain.


How green are the hills
Peeping through their misty robes 
Across the harbor. 
Soon it will be the time for 
The glow of distant lanterns.


From blushing questions
To the richesse of true art
And friendships like gold:
Renown is not black or white
It is far more colorful.


Against the black hills
Distant lanterns glow softly
Like tiny fireflies.
The random clank of halyards
Rises from the marina.


The window downstairs
Rattles in protest about
A stiff ocean breeze.
Despite late afternoon sunshine
More spring storms lurk off the coast.


The windows vibrate,
The very walls seem to shudder
At this rude onslaught.
Apocalyptic horsemen?
No, some jerk in a boom car.


Still so white and soft,
But here and there, one sees signs:
Worn spots and even a hole.
What lover would trade for such
A poor, shabby kosode?


Pine boughs gently shade
The women with their hand work
As fighters compete.
The clack of their mock battles
Seem a ritual of spring.


Another night
In a still, silent old house
Alone with my thoughts.
The hours till dawn march onward
With or without the sleeper.


The tiger's child wields
His brush like a sword as he
Fights like a dancer.
Long life and joy to him
Born in that auspicious year.


Clouds pile in the west,
A tangle of pinks and greys
Like slept-in bedding.
Chilly as the dusk breeze is
The empty mat that awaits.


Whipped by savage winds
The maple cowers against
The side of the house.
Yet another storm thrashes
Its way through the countryside.


Gnarled vines are laden
With purple and white cascades
Of bursting flowers.
So briefly the fuji blooms
Before falling to tatters. 


One cup tastes of joy,
While this one whispers subtleties.
That one struts and crows.
It is a delight to pour
For a circle of good friends.


Hills robed in spring green
Loom over the pilgrim's path
As I move homeward.
If only it were my lot
To wear such a rich color.


The lights of houses
In the hills defy the night
Despite their distance.
Here we are, shining, they cry.
As I watch from my window.


Clouds heavy with rain
March like a footsore army
Retreating eastward.
Even the sunset is grey
And the hills glower dimly.


Jagged as flint blades
And as dark, white rimmed waves bite
And tear at the shore.
A sea bird hangs in the air
Defying the whipping wind.


That stranger I see
Stares back at me with my eyes
From a mirror's depths.
Some days I would trade wisdom
For youth in all its folly.


A month is over,
A new one dawns tomorrow
With new challenges.
Will I write more, I wonder,
As spring turns into summer?


Boats bob at moorings,
Their masts afire as the
Sun sinks in the bay.
Halyards chime gently as day
Eases slowly into night.


Torrents flow, choking
Ev'ry street of the city
with jubilation.
A mighty flood of people
Greets the triumph of Giants.


Warm sun on my cheek
Belies the evidence read
In a calendar.
Layered robes seem a joke but
Soon will be all the fashion.


Hull up on streaked waves
Of pink dawn clouds, a crescent 
Moon sails in silence. 
Soon the sun will pass by her 
Swamping her gunwales with light.


Somewhere to the east
Chopper blades chatter 
And a siren wails. 
As darkness shrouds the windows, 
I wonder if Oakland burns.


Rain on the shingles
Whispers in voices too soft 
To discern meaning. 
On such mornings it's tempting 
To lie and listen to them.


Dusk seems so final
As the hills begin to bloom 
With distant lamp light. 
How can mere mortals try to 
Hold the sun's journey hostage?


The low hanging moon
Seems caught in telephone wires 
Viewed from the side street. 
Hungry, I hurry home with 
My string bean beef and fried rice.


I light a lamp and
Sit down to write in a house 
Empty but for me. 
He's not here to make me smile. 
That was a long time ago.


A bugle call drifts
Up the street through my window
As colors are struck.
Each dawn, each sunset they mark,
Whether here or in harm's way. 


The autumn sky throbs,
A blue so intense it stings
The eyes with splendor.
Bloody sleeved maples raise arms,
Defying the tearing wind.


I hear him outside
Pacing up and down the path,
Listing his complaints.
It must be hard to endure
The karma of being cat.


"Come out," taunts the breeze.
"Come out," teases the sunshine
As it leans through my window.
Yet duty requires I sit
Indoors and sew awhile more.


Late afternoon sun
Sets the gingko tree ablaze
With an inner light.
Oh, to wear such light like silk
Even though winter looms close.


A single misstep
Went unnoticed at the time,
Though now I must limp.
I can only conclude that
Growing old's not for sissies.


At once the mountain
Seems to gather her white hems
Then spread them again.
Fog unfurls itself across
The bay like a silken train.


A distant bell tolls
As blood-hued maple leaves lie
Dead in the gutter.
The echoes die as all are
Scattered by an autumn wind.


Grey on grey, a veil
Of rain turns the city
To a vague shadow.
Bay and sky melt together
While the city disappears.


A galloping rain
Overtakes my dreams, tempting
Me to lie abed.
Yet I rise, beckoned by a
Duty to meet those I serve.


Two rainbow banners
Unfurled from angry storm clouds
As I hastened home.
If one believed in portents
Surely this would be one such.


Dark clouds crown the hills
To face opposing numbers
Sailing up the bay.
A few vain patches of blue
Soon flee the contested field.


A breath of wood smoke
Beckons despite the knifing
Chill of autumn dusk.
Windows glow all down the street.
Within is warmth, light and food.


The defiant tree
Still flaunts tattered robes, aglow
In the setting sun.
Already it is colder.
Will he be so tomorrow?


A waft of incense
And a lapful of new silk
Are such pleasant things.
Though I celebrate alone
I've much to be thankful for.


Muted light hovers
At the window, like a shy
Child, unsure of entry.
The streets seem far too quiet:
The neighbors must be away.


The telltale patter
Overhead tells more than a
Glance out the window.
Despite the urge to stay in,
Duty demands I travel.


Eight long hours
Of answering questions and
Making future plans.
So many questions: it's like
Being pecked to death by cats.


So much to write down
Before it become jumbled:
My students await.
This unending day becomes
Night as the clock tolls the hour.


Some cling red and gold
To bony branches, some fall
In rustling brown piles.
How can one choose among them
When they are all beautiful?


Copyright 2010, 2019 Lisa A. Joseph

No HOBBY LOBBY products were used in these projects.