The Tanka Challenge Project


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No hero this, saved
From blushes by dim firelight, 
Facing her hero. 
Scribblings are poor reward for 
Handfuls of undying blooms.


They circle above
A field of waving banners 
And fierce combatants. 
What must the vultures think of 
Our bloodless battles today?


I hear him in
All his virtuoso song, 
Pining for a mate. 
I whistle a few brief notes, 
Delighted when he answers.


Trapped in the mirror
As I pass, I glimpse a wild 
Halo of silver. 
I look a bit mad and yet 
A bit magnificent too.


Having overslept,
My whole day felt off kilter 
And out of balance. 
At least the night has fallen 
With a fresh start tomorrow.


A picture may be
Worth a thousand words, and yet 
It may still mislead. 
An image shows a viewpoint 
That tells a certain story.


Rushing gusts rattle
Every window in its frame,  
Shaking this old house. 
A late winter squall tears through 
As I sit here, sipping tea.


Now the rain whispers
Soft but insistent against 
The darkened windows. 
I am too tired to worry 
About what secrets it has.


Ticking clocks and the
Refrigerator's hum give 
Lie to the quiet. 
Yet it is peaceful enough  
To hear street noise a mile hence.


Yoked to a partner
Who takes no initiative 
Is a harsh duty. 
One can lead by example 
And yet some just won't follow.


A wash of grey cloud
And the scent of coming rain 
Follow my footsteps. 
Yet still he sings from his perch 
Atop the telephone pole.


So many duties
Clamor for my attention, 
One was forgotten. 
Yesterday's challenge unmet,  
But my bathroom is sparkling!


Graceful canvas wings
Spread themselves against the breeze 
And darkening sky. 
On deck and in the rigging 
Busy hands work their magic.


Footsteps in the street
Set the neighbor's dog barking 
Somewhere in the dark. 
I do not bother to look 
As trees shield every window.


Rain drums on windows
And dark branches gesture in 
Silhouetted rage. 
I burrow deeper into 
Cosy warmth and drift away.



Across centuries
Voices carved in stone whisper, 
"I lived, I mattered." 
So many stories to read,  
So many voices to hear.


Oh, look. You're helping
With your pompous pronouncements 
From your mountaintop. 
I might value your input 
If you ever did something.


My sword is useless.
Slow hands, slow feet and slow eye 
Conspire against me. 
All setbacks and no breakthroughs 
Make this the hardest battle.


I suppose I must
Write tonight, though I feel I  
Am an empty cup. 
Inspiration is fickle 
And, I think, overrated.


Another sunset
Hides behind curtains of grey,
Shielding her bright face. 
Heedless, the lights of the port 
Will light the sky through the night.


Heavy eyelids drooped,
I resisted with a start 
At each tempting nod. 
All in vain: sleep vanquished me 
And I did not write last night!


I reach for my tea,
Wishing I'd worn something warm 
To get through my day. 
That sneaking draft is no lie:  
Truly the season has turned.


Across a table
Or across space measured with blades
Eyes meet as minds do. 
Friendship is its own treasure 
And laughter the finest prize.


Those awful voices
Find ways to whisper their lies 
In quiet moments.  
The constant battle is to 
Not say such things to ourselves.


Perhaps it did rain
Though I was asleep while the 
Sky shed quiet tears. 
Already puddles are dry, 
The only clue is fading.


The neighbor downstairs
Is a chronic door slammer,  
No matter the hour. 
The dog next door marks each crash 
With barking protest.


Not a fire this time,
Those streaks of orange and red 
Crowning the hillsides. 
It is only a sunrise 
Before the autumn rains come.


Clouds chase each other
Across the hilltops, heedless 
Of my shivering. 
Are they the cause of the rain 
Or have I imagined them?


It is barely rain,
This fairy veil of cool mist 
Flecking the window. 
At the door I am met by 
A thousand tiny kisses.


A sudden stinging
Reveals an angry red scrape  
Upon my left arm. 
That sword thrust landed over 
Five hours before I noticed.


My head throbs with it,
The heaviness of the air 
Before the rains come. 
I wait for relief in vain, 
Too restless to think of sleep.


It's a slippery thing,
Memory, a dream of things 
That may have happened. 
We encrust with meaning these 
Impermanent tears in rain.


A tap on the wall,
Then another, is how 
The night's rain begins. 
From a patter on shingles 
It grows to a wild gallop.


Another day ends
With errands run and duties 
Finished for awhile. 
The house smells of rich spices 
As pies for tomorrow cool.


A rustle of leaves
Underfoot greets me as I 
Gaze up at the night. 
If the moon is up there 
I can't see her for the clouds.


Turn and pull and turn
Long tails of silk cling and snag 
On the rough ray skin. 
I tried a new art today 
Only to tear it apart.



Practice makes perfect
Only holds true if practice 
Is done perfectly. 
Sometimes perfection eludes. 
Sometimes done is loveliest.


A spill of treasure
Gleams golden on the wet path 
Downed by steady rain. 
Beyond the gingkos the road 
Is paved red with maple leaves.


I have been remiss.
What with chores and holidays 
I forget to write.  
Inspiration is fickle,  
I can't always wait for her.


Copyright 2017, 2019 Lisa A. Joseph. All photos by Lisa A. Joseph.  

No HOBBY LOBBY products were used in these projects.