Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Love Tanka

Since I am editing Fire Pearls: Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart, it might logically be asked whether I know anything about writing love poetry. I like to think that I do -- I started writing tanka to impress a woman. It worked. And, after further scientific analysis, purely for the altruistic reason of enhancing our understanding of tanka, I can also announce that it works on men as well.

In fact, I used to never think of publishing my poetry, but in 2004 when my friends started asking me if I'd written any more poetry, and listening to it dreamy-eyed, then beating up their boyfriends for not writing them love poetry, I was forced to conclude that maybe I had something. Normally sane people flee the other way when they see an amateur poet coming.

Nonetheless, we must remember that Fire Pearls is not just love poetry, it is about the passions of the human heart, which may resemble love, but is actually a much larger field.

The following tanka are provided with dates so that you can trace the development of my style, if you have any interest in that sort of thing. Or you can just read the poems and enjoy, or laugh and point. It's all the same to me. They're a tiny fraction of my output of love poetry; the really good romantic ones are all committed to Fire Pearls.

I was not lonely
with the snow-capped heron
as my company;
but when my lover returned
the silence was desolate.

~K~ 2001
Previously appeared in SimplyHaiku.com, Summer, 2006.

The evening ocean
reflects silver moonshine like
a polished mirror.
The boat that rowed out early
this morning has not returned.

~K~ 2004

The boat above is Mansei's boat, in one of the oldest and best know of Japanese verses. His boat has been rowing through Japanese poetry for as long as Japanese poetry has been written down. When we are beginning, slavish imitation and derivation is good practice. Do what the masters did until you understand them, then throw away the rules and do as your poetry dictates.

yo no naka o
nani ni tatoemu
kogiinishi fune no
ato naki ga goto

~Sami Mansei

Our life in this world--
to what shall I compare it?
It is like a boat
rowing out at break of day,
leaving not a trace behind.

~trans. Steven D. Carter, Traditional Japanese Poetry

Cinnamon mornings
follow silk moons of August.
Styrofoam tea sits
quietly at my elbow,
teasing with remembered taste.

~K~ 2003
Previously appeared in My Town , 2006.

When my boys are here
the autumn nights fly past like
swallows in the dusk.
Autumn nights are long
only by repute.

~K~ 2003
Previously appeared in SimplyHaiku.com, Summer, 2006.

A pearl of rain
trembles at the tip
of a holly leaf.
She passes by,
and my heart falls.

~K~ 2005

he discovers his new book
belonged to someone else;
love messages
inside the cover.

~K~ Jan, 2006

My sister grieves
over her own gold star;
so I dread the blue one
my daughter seems determined
to give to me.

~K~ Feb 2006

NB. During WWI, Sons in Service flags were displayed in the windows of families with service members serving. One blue star was placed for each family member on active duty. If the service member died, the star was changed to blue. My nephew, SFC Joshua Lee Omvig, committed suicide after his tour in Iraq due to untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His brother still serves. The men and women of our family have served in every war since the French and Indian War.

Beside the road,
only the hawk’s tail recognizable
amid the shattered feathers;
I say another prayer
for our fallen soldier.

~K~ Apr 2006

I’d sleep
if sleep were safe,
but I fear
the ruin
of my dreams.

~K~ Jun 2006

A single boot
tossed casually aside,
suddenly I remember
how long it has been
since I heard from her.

~K~ Jun 2006

Her going
is a bright loss
from which I
will never

~K~ Jun 2006

The sternest mountain
crumbles into dust and
washes to the sea;
it forms a sandy beach
where my love walks.

~K~ Jun 2006

if you came
(but you didn’t)
if you had come
(but still you won’t)

~K~ Jul 2006

coitus interuptus --
suddenly I realize
my dead mother
can see me
having sex

~K~ Aug 2006

Ah yes. It's a long way from Mansei's boat to coitus interruptus, but logically, if you believe in the afterlife, whether it be Buddhist or something else, then we must also conclude that the living have no privacy from the dead. It's enough to make an atheist of any man. Since I happen to be a person of faith, it's a real conundrum. I just hope she skips over those parts of my life the same way she skipped over sex scenes in the novels.


  1. Died in your eyes

    You said you love me
    As I look upon your eyes
    I can see just lies
    Stop pretending you love me
    ‘Coz I already died in your eyes