tanka

tanka--
small songs I sing
to join
my voice to other voices
hidden in the grass

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Descent

Be prepared for darkness
to overtake you unawares,
from the heart of the white sky.
Think how it flows
down the dark mountain,
rubs out the rock face
with its broad thumbs,
erases the edges of leaves
and moistens the bark of the maple
with absolute color.
It closes the door of the clearing
without a sound.
Think how it seeps
into the pores of your skin
and strokes your clavicles
with the touch of fingers
caressing the strings of a harp.
And think how your body
must resonate
with unseen rustlings
and with the myriad questions
filling your bones like mist.

Pinesong: Awards 2009 (The North Carolina Poetry Society)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Neighbor


“The most we can say is that
 the world is lila, God’s play”
                          —Huston Smith

The neighbor-lady’s mad.
They say her name is Lila,
but she always speaks in tongues.
Some days it’s beetles
that come flying off her tongue—
that tongue gray-green and curling
like the fiddlehead of a fern.
They put me in mind of Granny’s jewels
I pawned so long ago, them beetles,
the shine of their hard wings
so many colors in the lamplight.
They rattle loud as hail against the windowpane.
Other times she speaks nothing
but starfish and the house smells
of salt. They scuttle over the sandy floor
and under them wide blue skirts she always wears.
I don’t mind the butterflies—some purple,
and some with wings clear as glass—
but other days her tongue’s like pink elastic
and shoots out teeny frogs bright as sunrise,
only louder.               I never know
what she’ll be speaking next—
snakes or peacocks or some great beast
with tawny shoulders and a wild green eye.
It ain’t natural.          So I says to her,
I’m moving back to town—
I got to get away from the everlasting
clatter of your tongue.  She just throws
back her head and laughs
birds.


Earthspeak Magazine 9, Autumn 2011

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Rosewood Bird


summer mornings
your whistled tune
a bridge
into wakefulness
the valley echoes

tying the kite
to the lilac hedge
to sail alone
all afternoon you fashion
tethered dreams

fragrant shavings
curl from the planer
the child fancies
manes and beards
for a plywood menagerie

the birds you made
feeding their young
and flying
somehow
on mahogany wings

shape engrained
already in the seed
your hands
that guide the chisel
at the lathe

fitting the brass lid
on the memory jug
blue and white crockery
shattered into shards
your scarred hands made whole

summer evenings
the glow of your cigarette
under the elms
your gaze
far down the river valley

still folded
in a trunk
the sweater I wore
the day I learned
what you had done


 Twenty Years Tanka Splendor, 2009 (AHA Books). 
Three-way tie for winning sequence in the 20th Tanka Splendor Awards Contest.