Three Ugly Kyōka

a gnarled branch
twists its sinewy limb
from a crag;
its grotesque beauty
reminds me of me

on the rice paddies
show the sky
in an angry gray,
but dampen its scowl

glacier melt
leaves a great scar
gouged in the earth;
the gray and brown wound
looks like man’s doing


Three Tanka on Impermanence

grass growing
through the concrete cracks;
roots spreading
and loosening the stones —
nature’s transplant rejection


mossy roof,
a cabin in the woods,
nature swallows
and digests all intruders
if given enough time


every living thing
becomes food in due time;
i’m fungi food;
should a wolf crack my corpse bones,
who am i to complain?

Stormy Shore Tanka

seas churn
under darkened skies
raindrops arrive
pelting the sandy shore
with wind-blown violence

the rocky shore
becomes a fierce fountain
as wave water
hits and shoots skyward
to be blown sideways

this storm lingers
as metaphorical storms
are known to do
natural storms are
always in motion

A Trio of Tanka

beware the wolf
wearing sheep’s clothing,
but – more likely –
you’ll meet sheep wearing
wolf attire while talking shit

light green leaves,
in early amber light,
flare brightly,
drawing the eye from
mundane forest greens

a lone tree,
standing atop a hill
doesn’t feel lonely;
a nexus is assumed —
invisible or not

Three Kyōka

the post-perched bird
remains still, but for its eyes,
which dart about —
below, fish shoot and jink,
thinking the post oddly shaped

the mountains reflect
off of that glassy lake
with such clarity;
all know which mountains are true
except for the fishes

behind the barracks,
some local women gather
to bath at the well.
he pretends not to look
they pretend not to be seen

Three Tanka

plucking strings
the player feels each note,
his eyes closed
he lets himself be surprised
by vibrations of bone or soul


the butterfly
splays its wings and holds,
in that stillness
it becomes a flower
’til it must butter-fly



wind tousles
the grain-weighted heads
of ripe wheat
the sway is erratic
the sound is subtle

Rainy Day Tanka [Day 10 of NaPoMo: Tanka]

[A tanka is a Japanese form closely related to the shorter form, haiku. In fact, a haiku can be thought of as the upper phrase of a potential tanka. Traditionally, the tanka (a.k.a. waka) is a 31-syllable poem. In modern notation, the additional 14 syllables are  put into two seven-syllable lines below the three haiku lines, i.e. 5 – 7 – 5. (That said, there are many — myself included — who feel that the 5 – 7 – 5 – 7 – 7 approach applied to English language poetry loses the sparse, Zen feel of Japanese poetry because English syllables can be — and frequently are of — much longer duration. Personally, I’m more partial to the 2 – 3 – 2 stressed beats approach.) Historically, a haiku presents an image devoid of analysis or commentary. In Tanka, there is a pivot and the lower phrase often presents a response to the image.]

dry season
afternoon downpours
come daily
like one bird nesting
in another’s nest

soggy forest
oppressed smoke hangs low
unseen, but smelt
bone dry wood exists
but only within flame


drippy garden
a bright orange flower
hangs its head high
you warm my mind,
if not my bones

POEM: Three Tanka City

Stiff iron trusses
skeletonize a building
outlining order
wind whistles over I-beams
flexing,  moaning, and rising

Steel lugged upward
welded into false order
chaotic city
don’t pretend order reigns here
litter skitters on the wind

From: the Butterfly
To: the city residents
Sorry my flapping
caused the storm that destroyed your
lovely burgh. I didn’t know.