The Tanka Challenge Project


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A voice on the breeze
Draws me down to the river
As if in a dream.
An old warrior sings of
Country byways and of home.


Waking so early,
She marshals her strategy
For winning the day.
This field is hers to take, hold,
Defend against all others.


Sometimes a trail cools
And one wonders hopelessly
Why one has lost ground.
Is it too much to hope I
Might rise off this sad plateau?



Since they tore it down
Sound carries across the lot
Where the warehouse stood.
Soccer scores and light drift by
From the sports field down the street.


I dream of blossoms
And a path by a river
Far away from here.
This fountain is no river
But it is bright with petals.


Soft beneath my hand,
Waves of spring-shoot green yardage
Slowly take their shape.
The needle follows its path
But my mind wanders elsewhere.



A lurid sunrise
Seems almost unreal as I
Prepare for the day.
Duty awaits, and perhaps
A cup or two of hot tea.


Outside a soft hiss
Of tires on wet pavement hints
At a cool night rain.
Within, the sinuous strains
Of old school jazz take me back.


Insistent rain taps
And sputters at the window
While I am elsewhere.
Sometimes all you need is a
Cup of tea and a good book. 


It was a fierce race:
Above, a herd of storm clouds
Cut across my road.
The final sprint to the house
Counts as my small victory. 


With rain come the weeds,
Each springing up to replace
The ones freshly plucked.
Thus is a life of duty
Filled with ever sprouting chores.


Within this circle
Are galloping hoof beats
And the rush of storms.
Kaji Yama meets once more
Sticks whirling to bring thunder.


If muses were real
Surely I would have something
To write about now.
Lightning does not always strike:
The point is to try to write.


The wind's sudden shift
Rattles windows and whips at
Newly green branches.
I shiver despite my coat
As I rush toward the house.


I dreamed of that path
Along a river pink with
A rain of petals.
Though I walked it in autumn
I would see it in springtime.


Heavy hearted, I watch
Landslides, collapsed buildings and
Those frightened faces.
Kumamoto is shaken:
What can I do to help them?


A morning's errands
Result in tea, new books
And some art supplies.
So much productivity
Was rewarded with a nap.


The calendar lies!
It feels more like high summer
Than springtime to me.
Windows thrown open to tempt
A stray breeze, I sip cold tea.


The moon seems to smile
As I leave the dojo and
Bid my friends good night.
Dare I imagine the roar
Of our drumming did please her?


It could be summer
On this night of bright moonlight
And sweet scented grass.
I hear the laughter of friends
Still belling in memory.


Today I found out
Someone I used to know passed
From this dewdrop life.
The wheel turns with news of friends
Now expecting a baby.


Something has set off
The neighbor's dog two doors down:
He is in full cry.
At this hour, it's most likely
A squirrel or the postman.


Winds shake the treetops,
Rattling windows and tossing
Clothes from drying poles.
Like a cat after midnight
The rushing keeps me wakeful.


Pictures of mountains
Whisper my name with voices
Only I can hear.
I long to return to those
Pine fragrant byways of stone.



Armed with a needle
I campaign across a field
Of willow hued cloth.
Satisfaction comes with the
Placement of the final stitch.


Even as I read
I muse on how much must be
Lost in translation.
I leave it to you, reader,
To judge the worth of my words.


The first lines are rough,
Hesitant with the disuse
Of art not practiced.
Trust the brush and ink to
Know their job if I do not.


Orion stands watch
As I proffer my key card
At the office door.
Armed only with my wits and
A mug of tea, I start work.


His emergency
Wrought havoc with afternoon
And into morning.
At last, a moment to breathe
And sip from my cooling tea.


A feather shed by
Some celestial creature drifts
In the dusky sky.
Will it fall at last to earth
Like dying leaves of autumn?


Waking too early,
My eyes are assaulted when
I do leave the house.
Too garish, the sunrise declares
That clocks have been monkeyed with.


Heartsick and betrayed
That the sky yet glows azure
And the sun dares shine.
I will not bow, nor stop,
Nor let the world set us back.


Wading through the day,
The mud of exhaustion drags
At my every step.
There is something so vexing
About a lingering cold.


I remember him,
Wrapped in a kesa of truth
And humble wisdom.
Five raw pilgrims he welcomed
To Hiezan's teaching hall.


Windows thrown open,
I cannot believe the date
On the calendar.
How can I wear autumn clothes
On a day such as this one?


Curtains of white mist
Beset my morning route for
A number of miles
Not until I climb autumn
Seared hills do I escape it.


They tore down buildings
To make way for new, making
A mud lake next door.
In the meantime, the gap makes
For unobstructed moonrise.


Overnight it seems
The lawn has vanished beneath
A flood of scarlet.
Each step is heralded by
The rustle of maple leaves.


Blustery breezes
Stampede through the treetops with
Rustling abandon.
Time to close windows against
The chill and make some more tea.


Auschwitz, Tule Lake,
Manzanar, Dachau, Topaz,
Birkenau and Heart Mountain.
Have we not been here before
Amid those barbed wire fences?


Too many thoughts whirl
Like dead leaves scuttling before
A capricious wind.
Sometimes the only relief
Is retreat to solitude.


Exhaustion so thick
I did not make time to write
After a long day.
Rain chatters at windowpanes
So I shall sip tea and rest.


To my left, sunrise
Breaches a rampart of clouds
Heavy with raindrops.
Briefly a rainbow straddles
The island before the storm.


Old houses whisper
And creak, all settling timbers
And groaning hinges.
Who comes and goes downstairs is
Reported by slamming doors.


How can I be her,
That girl peeling apples at
The kitchen table?
"These Foolish Things" remind me
Of Grandmother even now.


I miss the gingko
That stood on the street corner
Across from the house.
Chain link fencing takes its place,
Houses promised for that lot.


We sit in the dark,
Entranced by a tale as it
Unwinds before us.
Hero and villain battle,
Lovers unite, credits roll.


At sunset a bugle
Tells mournful tales of service
And sacrifices.
Instead of Gion's sad bell
We have a Marine barracks.


Rain in the morning
Makes it hard to leave my nest
Of cozy blankets.
Go to sleep, whispers the rain,
Alas, I must go to work.


A troop of bare trees
March the top of eastward hills
Against a cold dawn.
I do not know what they guard
But still I am glad of them.


A world roofed in grey
Presses in, its damp embrace
Lingers in the air.
Stop lazing about, you clouds,
If you're going to rain, RAIN.


Copyright 2016, 2019 Lisa A. Joseph. All photos by Lisa A. Joseph.  

No HOBBY LOBBY products were used in these projects.