Thursday, December 19, 2013

Does Santa Claus Have to Be White?

A network that shall go unnamed provoked a furor when a (white) person said it's a historical fact that Jesus and Santa are both white, so get over it. Um, no. It's a historical fact that they've been portrayed as white. Jesus, although technically 'white' due to being Caucasian, was a Semite -- an Arab or Jew. His complexion was therefore most likely swarthy and his hair and eyes dark. He probably looked like all the other guys from the Middle East. In other words, if Jesus was alive today, he'd probably be racially profiled and on the Do Not Fly list.

Here are some possible ideas for what Jesus looked like/would look like today:

As for Santa, the historical St. Nicholas lived in Turkey. Turkish people are of Asian descent. Nicholas spoke Greek, so he may have been of Greek descent, and therefore white, but then again, just because somebody speaks a particular language doesn't mean their ancestry is in that ethnic group, or that his ancestors didn't intermarry. In other words, he too was probably a swarthy guy with dark hair and eyes.

Here are some traditional religious depictions of St. Nicholas:

When we get to Santa Claus, the jolly old elf, we're on more certain ground. Elves have traditionally been depicted as Celtic types with blond or ginger hair. But then again, thanks to modern fantasy games and novels, we now have dark elves and a host of other colorations for elves. Elves aren't just for white people any more.

Some dark-skinned elves:

What does Santa Claus stand for? Calcified racial attitudes? Or goodness, kindness, and generosity with good will toward all? If it's the latter, why shouldn't Santa Claus be portrayed as a black man, or by a person of any other race? Santa Claus is a myth. Myths evolve to explains things about the world to ourselves. What is the myth of 'only white men can be Santa' explaining to us?

If you have trouble getting over the traditional expectation, let me point out: Santa Claus is magic enough to be able to fly around the world in one night. If his magic is that powerful, why couldn't he appear any way he wishes? And why wouldn't he? I can readily imagine Santa Claus appearing in whatever way he thinks is suited to a particular part of the world. For instance, is he really wearing a fur suit while delivering to tropical countries? Maybe he adopts the local attire so that he's dressed for the local weather. His sleigh holds toys for all the world's girls and boys; I'm sure there's room for a suitcase for Santa Claus.

Santa Claus has to be white? Bah, humbug!

But how do you explain it to the kids? That this Santa Claus is black, but the one they saw in the other store is white!?

Well, there's always the same old 'Santa Claus helpers' story my mother told me when I was perspicacious enough to ask why there was more than one Santa Claus.

But I just thought up another explanation: 'Santa' means 'Mister' in the languages of elves. Therefore, he's 'Mr. Claus.' And all those Santa Clauses are Mr. Clauses, and they're all related: brothers and cousins and uncles and grandpas and so on -- the Clauses are one big happy family who work together to give children a happy Christmas.

Isn't that the message of Christmas? Family coming together and setting aside their differences to focus on what Christmas really means?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tana's History of Japanese Tanka Poetry in America

I have posted an introduction and the complete master's thesis by Tomoe Tana, one of the most important figures in North American tanka from the 20th century at the Resource section of Tana's research covers the publication of tanka in Japanese and English in North and South America during the 20th century. Tana was an award-winning tanka poet, a translator, editor, publisher, and scholar of tanka.

She accomplished all this in a time when the Japanese were actively discriminated against. She and her children and husband were interned during World War Two. Her husband was separated from his wife and young sons and sent to a camp in another state. In an interview, Tana said that she was glad of the barbed wire in the camp—American hostility was so severe she was certain Japanese people would have been murdered if they had not been interned. Tana was among the many internees who burned all the tanka they had written for fear that it would be used against them when they were arrested.

After being released from the camps, her family was reunited, but her husband was ill. Tana went to work as a maid and took in sewing at night to support her ailing husband and children. During this time, she still wrote tanka and even won the Imperial Poetry Contest in 1949. Approximately 40,000 entries were received. During the 1950s, she was employed as a maid by Lucille Nixon, an American educator. They became friends, and Tana tutored Nixon in Japanese and writing tanka poetry. In 1957, Nixon won the Imperial Poetry Contest, and attracted quite a bit of press attention. Tana and Nixon worked to translate Japanese language tanka written by North Americans into English, publishing them in the newsletter of the tanka circle to which they belonged, as well as books.

Together they translated and edited Sounds from the Unknown, a major tanka anthology of the 20th century. When Nixon was killed in December of 1963 and the only copy lost, Tana reconstructed the manuscript. The book was published in 1964. Tana continued to translate and publish, and in 1978 she self-published Tomoshibi, an attempt to document the life and tanka poetry of Lucille Nixon, and her influence on tanka in English. For example, Nixon was able to get tanka included in the elementary school curriculum in California. This is possibly the first time tanka was tanka in the public schools. It is now a staple for elementary schools in Canada and the United States.

Later, Tana attended university and achieved her master's degree in 1985 from San Jose State University. Her master's thesis, The History of Japanese Tanka Poetry in America, is the first history of North American tanka, and also touches on South America. It contains a great deal of information not available elsewhere. It also includes useful appendices, such a listing of all American winners of the Imperial Poetry Contest 1949–1984. It also includes the winning and selected poems from Zaibei dōbō haykunin isshu / One Hundred Tanka by our Countrymen in America, which had previously only been published in fragments in Japan. The anthology was the result of a poetry contest with 5000 (five thousand) tanka submitted. It was judged by a trio of Japanese judges: Kubota Utsubo, Saitō Mokichi, and Shaku Chakū. Readers of tanka will recognize Mokichi as one of the great Japanese tanka poets of the modern era.

Tana had an indomitable spirit, a spirit that was inculcated in her by her husband, the Rev. Daisho Tana. On the day they arrived in America, he gave her some money and dropped her off, telling her to find her own way home. The new bride, not speaking any English, on her first day in America, found herself alone. She made it home, and thereafter knew that she could do anything she put her mind to. Although it seems cruel, Tana herself felt it was a useful lesson. Her husband explained to her that life in America would be extremely difficult, and she needed to know that she could meet the challenge.

Although at first they were comfortable due to his position as a Buddhist priest, they were all interned and her husband was sent away to a camp in a different state. A prisoner behind barbed wire, she had to take care of her young children by herself. After the war, her husband's health was very bad, and she had to go to work as a domestic servant and seamstress to support her family. Their modest prosperity was gone. Nonetheless, she pulled through, raised her sons, and put herself through college and obtained her master's degree.

Tana has strong opinions backed up by a faith in herself and her abilities. Although modern tanka will not necessarily agree with all of her views regarding tanka (she advocates for 5-7-5-7-7 syllables), it must be remembered that she was dead before the modern era of scholarship that has provided so much information about tanka and the best way to adapt it to English. What she has done is to preserve a significant piece of tanka history.

The details of the literary accomplishments of internees, for example, is a tale of quiet heroism. She tells us that Tomari Yoshihiko formed a tanka circle in the internment camp where he was and published its newsletter by cutting stencils by hand. Not only that, but he published several books by the same method. For some reason, references books were denied to the internees, so Tomari published textbooks by the same method. This same highly educated man, due to discrimination against the Japanese, was obliged to earn his living as a gardener after the war.

The modern tanka poet lingering over coffee and notebook in a café today owes their literary comfort in large part the hard work of Japanese Americans and Canadians: seamstresses, maids, factory workers, gardens, valets, and other manual and domestic laborers who did not allow the hardship and discrimination they faced to quench their love of literature, or to embitter them to their American hosts. After the war, Tana was engaged on a quest to introduce tanka to Americans not of Japanese descent in the belief that it could bridge the differences and bring both sides closer together.

Tana lived long enough to see the earliest fruits of her work as Americans of all backgrounds, classes, and colors wrote tanka poetry. Today she would no doubt be pleased to see how tanka has grown and improved. Although she might not agree with all the different tacks taken with tanka today her overarching goals of preserving tanka history and teaching tanka to bring a mutual appreciation between the two sides formerly divided by war have been realized.

Read more at:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Excerpts from Bathhouse by Ishii Tatsuhiko

The following tanka are excerpted from Bathhouse by Ishii Tatsuhiko and appear in Partings at Dawn : An Anthology of Japanese Gay Literature. Translated by Hiroaki Sato.

Martyr's pomegranate like wounds you say and the bar also turns into a catacomb

Looking for father or for whom? Reflected upside down in a glass constellation

The young ones though male paint eyebrows dazzlingly green the night has deepened

Ask the false moon no less how much is the value of the boy with a pigeon chest

Since I wandered into twilight town my body filled with sleepiness has been dark

All those dreams drowned in wine cups this body too had days it was an innocent child

Satiated and yet starved, starved and yet . . . tonight what kind of pleasure shall I buy

Probably this is madness nay I grow ever more transparent tonight this sanity

Mediterranean nudes! I don't want to boast, no, but we are such an elegant tribe

Pull them a little closer and lift them a young man's eyebrows (oh ocean!) so beautiful

Having exchanged a modicum of money for a key (to my palm this key feels like ice)

Bronze automatic door every soul goes in there in silence (as if wishing to die)

They turn to look, again, they turn to look, as they pass in the hall, souls, so, lonesome!

(Love is just like wrestling) the way they love each other they appear ever so noble

(The throat is another sexual organ) at a faint sound of gargling I prick up my ear

The Kingdom is in this steam now, a man rising from the bath a wandering knight

Smelling like some apocalyptic event in the dark lies the body of a man half asleep

Cursed sleep what the man has on his shoulder is the <head> of someone unknown to him

This body grown thin with no reason these days increasing among the dead the number of friends

A man is a single duct (blocked by the arm of an angel burning like fire)

A man runs pelted by a rain of fire (ah) my heart resembles him more than anything else

Hold tight a young man's innocent nude body . . . else tightly tie it up with a rope

What kind of bird is a cuckoo? On silent tv a video showing a man being dissected

I shall be too late! I chase a shadow that runs away through the midst of my soul

A man possesses (as a means of having himself saved?) a dew-drenched sinful soul

I dreamed of falling unstoppably toward the bottom of a grave my skull covered with mud

The ear is an oyster in a deep sea. It gets sucked by gleaming teeth and scarlet tongue

Snow-white bedsheets and tablecloth all the countless lives and deaths that fell into this throat

Keibooks Announces circling smoke, scattered bones by Joy McCall, edited by M. Kei

Keibooks Announces circling smoke, scattered bones by Joy McCall

Press Release – For Immediate Release – Please post to all appropriate venues

31 October 2013– Perryville, Maryland, USA

“There is a veil in this world, a mystery. Everyone knows it, or senses it; those who don’t,  perhaps, sense it most of all. Maybe more a skeptic than a believer, Joy McCall knows all about spirits for, you see, she, too, is one. The beautiful verse, the tanka herein, are not about nature in the conventional, Western sense, not in the sense so often found in Eastern-inflected work. They are nature.”--Don Wentworth, Editor and Poet, Lilliput Review

Joy McCall’s collection of tanka poetry, circling smoke, scattered bones, published by Keibooks, is the debut collection of a powerful new voice. Intensely autobiographical with a focus on the details of her daily life, they are also intensely social. Joy is not an island, but a mother, daughter, sister, wife, friend, neighbor, nurse, helper, and witness to the tribulations and joys of her community in Norwich, England. 

how lovely you look
in the green silk coat and hat
barefoot on the path
by the river; above you
the green silk of the willows

witches, demons
and all those dark ancient spirits
stalk the streets
in the guise of passersby
in the faces of citizens

the silver labyrinth
with one finger
always wondering
where the road will lead

“Joy has compassion for all creatures: the spider dangling from its thread, mice, birds, madwomen, felons, old nuns, drunks, ghosts, and the unnamed dead with their broken gravestones. To read Joy’s tanka is to walk the unseen world that overlaps the streets and fields of her hometown. The veil that separates us from other people, living or dead, is a gossamer that parts when she waves her magic wand.”--M. Kei, author of January, a Tanka Diary

circling smoke, scattered bones
by Joy McCall
Edited by M. Kei
ISBN 978-0615880006 (Print) 176 pp
$15.00 USD (print) or $5.00 USD (Kindle)

Purchase in print at:

Also available in print and ebook at and other online retailers.

P O Box 516
Perryville, MD 21903 USA

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Keibooks Announces January, A Tanka Diary, by M. Kei

Keibooks Announces January, A Tanka Diary, by M. Kei

Press Release – For Immediate Release – Please post to all appropriate venues

28 September 2013– Perryville, Maryland, USA

"Step inside this book and meet a magician—a man who knows the secrets of the sea and the land and the sky; a man who can catch the vastness of oceans and the smallness of sparrows in the same few words in five lines."—Joy McCall

Opening with the cold days of January and following the poet through a year of his life, January, A Tanka Diary, is the latest collection from the internationally respected tanka poet and editor, M. Kei. Melancholy, hopeful, or satiric, these are poems alive to the beauty of the world. He has the ability to capture subjects as small as a single snowflake or as big as history, all told with an intimate honesty. In Kei's hands, the ancient five line tanka poem breathes with contemporary life. 

Each tanka appears in the order in which it was written with a date attached. We can see the poet sitting down to write on New Year’s Day, and the multitude of poems and subjects that flow from his pen. We can follow him as he hikes and writes tanka over the bones of a dead deer, and as he explores the mysteries of the natural world. Of course, we follow him to sea in the company of sailboats and pelicans. 

A large collection, January, A Tanka Diary, contains 640 poems of which more than 220 have never been seen before. The rest are collected from the scores of venues in which he has published around the world. Fans of his work will no doubt recognize some of their favorite tanka, but will see them as they were written in the company of other poems from the same date. The author of Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack, shows us that he is as sensitive to life ashore as at sea.

in the darkness
inside my heart
the lights of a distant city
are burning

but still attached, 
two clamshells
something like
a husband and wife

my hand on the tiller
like Water Rat and Mole,
with no particular place to go
and no particular desire
to get there any time soon

Comments from Sanford Goldstein, author of Journeys Far and Near:

“In the past sixty-five years I cannot remember a tanka collection as long as M. Kei’s January, A Tanka Diary. The collection contains 640 tanka, 420 published not in his previous collections, but in journals and other places, and 220 new poems. It is a fascinating voyage of discovery of a Kei we have not known this well. The book starts from January 1, 2007, to the next January 1. It surprised me that Kei is so interested in flowers, birds, grass, clouds, sky—of course with his duty aboard floating vessels he is intimate with the ocean. The subjects vary of course, but what I found particularly fascinating is that the two final lines of the tanka bring a surprise and hold up the entire poem. 

“I have no room to cite individual poems, but one that appeals to me is a laundry day in which Kei’s larger underwear is drying outside with his son’s much smaller underwear. Another poem is about his daughter—Kei has come home, opens the refrigerator door to find the chicken inside had been plucked, so he knows his daughter had visited him. Poems of a sexual nature occur, one of which I once criticized as not being in the right order for a sequence. 

“Such an enormous undertaking cannot be read at a sitting. Take your time in reading it. On a second reading I discovered elements I had not thought of. Yes, do read it and experience a new tanka view of Kei’s world.”

Comments from Joy McCall, author of circling smoke, scattered bones:

“Step inside this book and meet a magician—a man who knows the secrets of the sea and the land and the sky; a man who can catch the vastness of oceans and the smallness of sparrows in the same few words in five lines. M. Kei blazes a trail. This is a big beautiful gathering, to keep forever.

“There is great sadness in these poems. There is deep longing. There is humour, too. He makes me smile. There are insights which surprise. There are poems of great beauty that catch the breath. There are everyday poems which remind us we are all human.

“This book will be going with me everywhere I go. I love every poem in it.  But if I have to pick a favourite, it's this one: 

it's a day like any other,
full of melancholy
and yet—somewhere
there are herons

“Some things are beyond my words. If you buy nothing else this year, not even food, buy this book.”

January, A Tanka Diary
ISBN 978-0615871561 (Print) 275 pp
also available for Kindle
$18.00 USD (print) or $5.00 USD (Kindle)

Purchase in print at:

Also available in print and ebook at and other online retailers.

P O Box 516
Perryville, MD 21903 USA


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Still More Twitter Tanka

the first cold night
of August,
and the shirring of
crickets mourning

I take
another bite
of the apple,
the gibbous moon
wanes a little

a morning
without sparrows
just the debris
of a long winter
tapping the window

the tips of 
the leaves of 
the chokecherry tree,
yellow in the 
summer rain

it’s another night
spent waiting for 
long past the season
for thunder

the bay breezes 
at cross currents with 
the wind off Bulle Rock;
so it is with
the affairs of men

orange needles
even pine trees
come at last
to the autumn
of their lives

if I wanted
to turn the world
upside down,
I’d be
a possum

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More Recent Twitter Tanka

two eyes staring
out from the glass coffin
of my skull,
Snow White, I wish I could sleep
as peacefully as you

waking from a nap 
to sunshine and 
Frank Sinatra singing, 
“The Sunny Side 
of the Street” 

stuck to the pavement
like melted ice cream
     your words 
     a gathering of flies

argue about stars, 
Orion and his hounds 
continue across 
the winter sky 

ladled out of
mother’s womb,
I continue to 
splatter and spill
this life of mine

the motorcycle riders
didn’t stay long,
a cigarette or two
and they were 
gone again

it was 
the kind of moon 
that called for
train whistles, 
but gave only memories

so many windows 
on yesterday,
but none 
that see into

Recent Twitter Tanka

I enjoy Twitter. It's so much simpler, but so ephemeral. Here then are some of my recently tweeted tanka. Some of them will appear in my forthcoming collection, January, A Tanka Diary, due out this fall.

I don’t seem
to have anything
profound to say,
limp leaves on the tree are
just another juxtaposition

graveyard of insects
every morning
the heap of the dead
who flung themselves in vain
at the light

the Prince
with butterfly wings
and tinfoil sword—
when I was ten,
what was my quest?

but still attached
these two clamshells
something like
a husband and wife

I am not Basho,
I am that peasant
he found
digging potatoes
along the road

the trees 
begin to talk,
tossing their green heads
and whispering 
about the weather

cargo shorts,
what dreams 
will I stuff
into these pockets

three dollars 
to live on 
until Friday
slips in 
through the keyhole

Friday, July 26, 2013

Man in the Crescent Moon, a Pirates of the Narrow Seas Adventure, Available in paperback and ebook

Man in the Crescent Moon, a Pirates of the Narrow Seas Adventure, Available in paperback and ebook

26 July 2013 — Perryville, Maryland

Keibooks is pleased to announce that Man in the Crescent Moon, the latest installment in the Pirates of the Narrow Seas series by M. Kei, is now available in trade paperback and e-book. Man in the Crescent Moon opens a new story as we meet Captain Isam Tangle as a youth of nineteen, just starting the career that will ultimately make him the most notorious corsair of his age. 

The adventure begins when a Turkish corsair, the Grey Wolf, under command of the short but fierce Rajet Rais, takes refuge in Isam’s hometown. Pursued by a Spanish frigate with guns blazing, the town must defend itself from the unexpected onslaught. Much to the young corsair’s frustration, his uncle is not the aggressive kind of leader he wants to follow. He is drawn to the fiercely effective Rajet Rais and joins his crew. Rajet promises to teach him everything he needs to know to be a successful corsair—including the ways of men between the sheets.

Meanwhile, Isam’s relatives are causing him grief. One of his female cousins runs off with an unsuitable man while Isam falls in love with the man’s Spanish slave. He and two of his male cousins, the clever but untrustworthy Samir and the loyal but dimwitted Umar, must pursue the runaway bride. Unfortunately, their adversary proves to be dangerous and resourceful. He ambushes them at multiple points along the trail, then bears false witness against them so that they are arrested by the local chieftain.

Meanwhile, the furious Spaniards have laid siege to Isam’s hometown and are shelling it to destruction. Refugees stream out of the city to be preyed upon by bandits as order breaks down. The sword and musket become the rule of the day, and where a bold frontal attack fails, the Spaniards substitute guile, sabotage, and assassination. Menaced from all sides, not trusted by his own government, Isam must use his wits to triumph over his enemies and defend his home.

Man in the Crescent Moon is a complete story that can be read separately from Pirates of the Narrow Seas, or in conjunction with it. Those who already know the characters will be pleased to watch the mighty Kapitan Pasha came of age, while those who don’t will enjoy the story of a young man with burning ambition. The adventure has all the hallmarks expected from Pirates of the Narrow Seas: diverse and engaging characters, storms at sea, desperate ship fights, hand-to-hand combat, captures, rescues, and escapes, all told with authentic detail.

Praise for previous novels in the series:

“A true literary first: a gay seafaring novel that’s every bit as good with the ‘gay’ stuff as the ‘seafaring’ stuff [...] Pirates of the Narrow Seas has thrilling action sequences, complex, conflicted characters, and a healthy dose of contemporary realism.”—Steve Donoghue, Open Letter A Monthly Arts and Literature Review

“A swashbuckling tale full of colour, adventure and romance – a good read!”—Gerry Burnie, Gerry B’s Book Reviews

“an action-packed swashbuckler of the Captain Blood tradition”—Nan Hawthorne, That’s All She Read

“well rounded individual personalities which it is a joy to follow” and “Recommended Reading”—Astrodene’s Historic Naval Fiction

“Please, Mr. Kei, write us another.”—Candice E. Frook,

The Sallee Rovers, the first book in the series, won a Sweet Revolution Award in the category of “best full cast” and “Judge’s pick”, and also won a 4th/Honorable Mention from the Rainbow Awards in the category of “Best gay historical fiction.”

Available in trade paperback and ebooks from: 

P O Box 516
Perryville, Maryland, USA

Or CreateSpace <>, or your favorite online retailer. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fire Pearls 2 is #1 in Hot New Releases in Poetry Anthologies at Amazon

Thank you all! Fire Pearls 2 is rated #1 Hot New Releases in Poetry Anthologies at Amazon

Fire Pearls 2 : Short Masterpieces of Love and Passion is a worthy successor to the classic of contemporary tanka poetry. Covering all aspects of love and passion from the delights of first love to the agony of abortion, over 90 poets featured in 750 poems present every aspect of the human heart from the romantic to the desperate. Edited and with an introduction by the well-known poet and editor, M. Kei, Fire Pearls 2 is an essential acquisition for lovers of fine literature.

Print for sale at Amazon:

Kindle for Sale at Amazon:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 Lyrical Passion for Poetry E-Zine

I am adjudicating the 2013 World Tanka Contest at Lyrical Passion for Poetry E-Zine. First prize, $150 plus a copy of Fire Pearls 1. Second prize, $75 and a copy of Catzilla. Third prize, $50. Entry fee, $2 per tanka, or $5 for a set of 8. For guidelines and more information:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ship's Cats of the Kalmar Nyckel.

I learned today that Timmynocky, the cover cat for Catzilla, died over the winter. I wondered why I didn't see him at the ship, but since he was a rover who was often gone on shore leave, I wasn't too surprised not to see him.

Meanwhile, Toolbox, the senior ship's cat, has retired. Toolbox is so named because she was born in a toolbox when the ship was under construction in 1997. She is elderly and has gone blind, so she is now retired ashore. She enjoys her heated bed very much. She had a retirement party last winter.

The ship has acquired a new grey kitten. She's a grey tuxedo and very active and intelligent, so she has the makings of a good ship's cat. She is currently living in the galley while she is acclimated to her new home. She is seven weeks old. Her name is 'Ditty,' like 'ditty bag.' (All the KN cats have nautical names.)

Next time I go to the ship, I'll take my camera and take pictures. I wish I'd had it today because we were bending on the mainsail and raising the main yard. However, I was on galley crew, so I was below for most of my time at the ship. I did march around the capstan to raise the yard, though.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

More Twitter Tanka and Tall Ships

Ahab had
his white whale,
but I,
I go chasing
after white sails

Cape Cod Bay—
just one schooner
on her way
to the races
and a looming hurricane

deceptively quiet
at midnight
and slack tide
as we ghost through

the sea 
like rippled silk,
a blue 
no dyer
will ever match

spray flying
and clouds gathering
ah well
it’s a problem
for the next watch

a moment’s rest
before dinner—
scribbling a few lines
so I won’t forget
this day

a zephyr
with teeth,
thirty knots
howling through
the rigging

at sea
on my son’s birthday,
no way to call him,
but I think of him
all the same

fabled skyline—
pretty to look at
but I wouldn’t want
to live there

little traffic
in Long Island Sound,
whatever happened
to the great port of New York?

Manhattan sunset
white and red lights
like gems
as seen from the deck
of a passing ship

at the end
of a day’s sailing,
the cat’s grey fur
with salt crystals

a Yankee port
buried somewhere under
the yachts
and mansions
of Martha’s Vineyard

no king
on a gilded throne
could ever equal
the glory of 
a sailor at sea

God made 
the seas so large
so men would have
an inkling of
His majesty

sea legs—
the ship
standing still
in the middle
of a topsy turvy world

beam sea
watching the books
topple left
then right
on the bookshelf

the cruise ship
with her passengers
dwarfs us—
and so do
their wallets

I miss
the solitude
of a wintry sea,
just God, work,
and the clatter of oysters

Seamen's Bethel
with a hurricane coming
I sit in those 
bony pews and contemplate
the the hundreds of names not written

~passages from Cape Code to New York City

Twitter Tanka

It has been a long time since I have posted poetry or much of anything to my blog, so I thought I would catch up by posting some poems that have previously appeared only on Twitter.

a freighter at anchor
her bow turned to face
the onslaught;
sky and sea
and storm and wave

the tall ship’s captain
in a pirate bikini
a rhinestone 
skull and crossed bones
over her left breast

still in her bikini
the captain explains
mechanical advantage
and directs the re-rigging
of the gun tackle

“stand off, stand off!”
I cry, hanging in
the rigging,
curious tourists 
right under our guns

clothes make the man:
the Viceroy in his hat and wig
is a charming gentleman,
but without his costume
he’s just another creepy old man

a linen shirt
and waistcoat—
more compliments
at the pirate festival
than the rest of the year

he calls me “dashing”
the much too young
who says
he might be bi

“rum, sodomy,
and the lash”
here’s rum
and even a few lashes, 
but not a bit of sodomy

underage for sure—
but if he’s old enough
to carry a gun,
he’s old enough
to be ogled

too wet
to sleep on deck
too hot to
sleep below
a long night at sea

~Blackbeard Pirate Festival, Hampton, VA, 2010