The Tanka Challenge Project    


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Another moon sets
On a good conversation 
And many shared cups. 
Would we sit up so late if 
We could do so more often? 


For a few brief hours
We warred and feasted beneath 
Bright painted banners. 
No longer a lady, I 
Sit and fold my own laundry.


The temple bells toll:
A spring night's dreaming mirrors 
Life's impermanence. 
In the dark I lie, counting 
Beloved faces like coins.


At this time of night
One can hear each creaking beam 
As the house settles. 
Outside the window, boughs sigh 
As I sip my tea and think.


Tugging at my hair,
Winter protests spring's coming
With chill, vengeful gusts. 
The tap of my footsteps is 
Accompanied by bird song.


What must they have thought
Of those strange eyed men with their 
Black ship and dying god? 
I ponder missions and guns 
As I slice namban sweet bread.


The sky blazes blue
While all around the list field 
Banners wave gaily. 
I sigh at their fluttering, 
Wishing I had brought a kite.


A golden moon crests
The hilltop as we crowd in 
Close to the night's fire. 
Leaning back, we point and wave 
At Orion and the Bear.


The flowering trees
Vie to catch the eye with their 
Gay show of colors. 
Beside them, the maple seems 
Barely dressed in greenish buds.


Was I that timid
When I faced the o-daiko
At the beginning? 
Sticks in hand, I stared into 
That blank eye and found myself.


Slowly I climb stairs
At the end of a long day 
And prepare to sleep. 
Perhaps I will dream of things 
From a Mars that never was.


A flash overhead
Precedes blaring thunderclaps 
Making us all jump. 
Beneath the BART tracks, fighters 
Drill to the wet hiss of rain.


After days of storms
Patches of blue peep shyly 
Out from walls of cloud. 
I wish I could dance the sun 
From her cave like Uzume.


I crest the hill to
The sinuous notes of strings 
Delicately bowed. 
Across the road our eyes meet 
I drop a note in his case.


I will not succumb,
Indeed, I shall resist each 
Depressing sentence. 
It is your choice to wallow 
In grief, mine to try to rise.


As I turn for home
I see it, sneaking up on 
Mount Tam and the bay. 
The distant hills seem as a 
Tsunami of curling fog.


I still talk to him,
Telling him about my day 
Or things he's missing. 
Though he will never answer 
It feels quite comfortable.


While I sat reading,
Birdsong ceased and the skylight 
Went dark above me. 
High time to leave the world 
Inside that book for this one.


Whispered friendly words
Drift like mist through a forest, 
Causing one to smile. 
As one journeys from the cave, 
To rejoice in bright kindness...
     - Date Saburou Yukiie* 

After long silence,
A long hoped for message comes, 
Brightening the day. 
The mountain passes open: 
It is truly spring at last.


I had forgotten
That long ago afternoon 
Then I heard those notes. 
How is it that a song can 
Make time travel possible?


Throw wide the windows
To drink in every stray breeze 
As the sun descends. 
Here at the top of the house 
It feels a lot like summer.


Dust off the cobwebs,
Wobble down the driveway 
Then pedal away. 
I had not realized how 
Many months I'd been off my bike.


Hey, Charlie One-Note!
Do you really need to greet 
The world before dawn? 
I might not mind as much if 
You were more melodious.


Restive as a horse
My kite pulls against my hands 
Into the bright sky. 
I lean backward, squinting, and 
Ride the impossible breeze.


Fog drops onto the island 
Like a heavy quilt. 
It will not be long before 
Oakland also disappears.


The sunset peeps through
Chinks in a towering wall 
Of glowering clouds. 
It doesn't take a seer 
To predict a coming storm.


It's quiet enough
To hear the random patter 
Of rain on shingle. 
A purplish slice of dusk shows 
Through the skylight overhead.


Fickle winds buffet
The branches by my window 
Menacing the house. 
Will they die after sunset 
Or will they rattle all night?


Another Friday
Waiting for the clock's release 
Into the weekend. 
What emergency will rise 
To bite me at the last minute?


My journey takes me
Eastward through hills blushing green 
From late spring rainfall. 
Poppies burst like a shower 
Of welding sparks on the wind.


A blurry sun coasts
Through a pearlescent sky as 
Fog floods through the straits. 
The mountains are soft edged and 
Merge like watery brush strokes.


Tomorrow, they say,
Will be yet more protests to 
Usher in summer. 
I tear a calendar page 
And plan an alternate route.


The sky shakes out sleeves
In varied layers of grey 
Against greyer hills. 
The trees wait like sentries in 
Their black liveried rows.


As I catalogue
The current bruise collection 
I have learned a truth: 
No one has ever called this 
The Way of the Borrowed Sword.


A low hanging moon
Supervises as I wend 
My way slowly home. 
It was a good evening, 
Already I miss my friends.


Somehow, "good night" turned
Into a conversation 
We needed to have. 
At last, though, we parted with 
Smiles and friendly embraces.


The street is quiet.
A dog barks somewhere outside 
But for a moment. 
I shut a window against 
Silence, both inside and out.


Are these warm afternoons and 
Cloudless azure skies. 
The truth is revealed in the 
Slanting light of afternoon.


The island seems to
Burrow beneath a heavy 
Quilt of silent fog. 
I reach for the tea kettle: 
At last it seems like autumn.


The scent of rain strikes
An instant before the wind 
Lobs its wet barrage. 
Blinded, I know better than 
To try to run through puddles.


The house is chilly
After a long day at work 
And a simple meal. 
Let us now mark the blessing 
Of a steaming cup of tea.


Eight hours surrounded
By esoteric knowledge 
and learned scholars: 
I'll lament my ignorance 
Once I've digested it all. 


Didn't the Master
say: one prepares the tea and 
then one drinks the tea? 
Would he be pleased or bemused 
By such a pedantic fuss?


As I walk downhill
I glimpse a huntress goddess 
Between the old trees. 
Reaching for a stone arrow 
To aim at the sea below.


It's one of those nights,
I sit, hoping for an idea 
Or a good image. 
Inspiration does not strike, 
Only the living room clock.


Wood blocks keep tempo,
Shime-daiko lend accents 
To growing thunder. 
Tonight we made the walls quake 
With the roar of our drumming.


If only I could
Wish myself from here to there 
As in the old tales. 
Instead it's all connections, 
Crying children and elbows.


As my tea steeps, I
Let my sister's dog outside 
To do what he does. 
Cardinals explode from the 
Feeder in a crimson burst.


His attack is fierce,
A flurry of slashing blows 
And hard to evade thrusts. 
Nothing is so serious 
As mock sword fights with my nephew.


Musicians play while
Guests chat, sip festive wines and 
Sing "Happy Birthday." 
Mother's Eightieth was an 
Auspicious celebration.


It's the waiting in
Places I'd never visit 
When I could be home. 
Here I sit in another 
Anonymous way station.


A bold stroke of cloud
Slashes across a sky of 
Watered purple silk. 
Pausing to watch a sunset 
Is never a waste of time.


I open the door
Onto a rustling darkness
And a rush of wind. 
Trees bend and twist as I walk, 
Hoping the rain will hold off.


The stash of quarters
Dwindles inevitably 
With each trip downstairs. 
One thing is unchangeable: 
There is always more laundry.


Our harvest feasting
Overlooks the sparkling bay 
Before the sun sets. 
Smiles make the best seasoning 
At a table among friends.


It is dark beneath
These ancient mountain trees and 
The air is fragrant. 
A pilgrimage to the woods 
Invigorates the spirit.


Another still night,
The neighborhood seems empty 
And the streets are dark. 
High time to douse the lanterns, 
Bank the fire and say goodnight.


A nearly full moon
Watches my journey homeward 
From his lofty seat. 
Though his face always changes 
I welcome the company.


So small yet fearless,
He cocks his head to watch me 
With tiny bead eyes. 
I try not to startle him 
As I drop crumbs on the bench.


Racing clouds jostle
But cannot dim the full moon 
Even as they fly. 
Such doings can only mean 
Storms blowing in off the sea.


A break in the clouds
Piled high like rumpled bedclothes 
Reveals a pale sun. 
The wind rattles the branches 
Of a defiant maple.


A gentle patter
Quickly turns into a roar 
Against the shingles. 
I shake out another quilt 
And settle in for the night.


Another month ends
In a rush of raindrops and 
Cold winds off the sea. 
I reach for brush and paper, 
Thinking of friends far away.


Copyright 2012, 2019 Lisa A. Joseph, except *Copyright 2012 Christopher Wright. 

No HOBBY LOBBY products were used in these projects.