Retooled tanka poem

Today Cara Fortey invites teacher-poets to compose tankas for VerseLove on Ethical ELA. A tanka has thirty-one syllables and, in English, is usually arranged in five lines of 5/7/5/7/7. Cara offers the example of Harryette Mullin, who reduced the lines to three, for flexiblity of form. In honor of Mullin’s nature walks captured in tanka, Cara extends this invitation: “Write one or more of your own tankas in the style of Harryette Mullen. Take a walk, literally or imaginatively, and write what comes to you in three lines with 31 syllables.”

Mourning Walk

Last summer when I walked here 
the fallow field at the end of the lane opened up before me
an undulating sea of green

Long before I reached the shimmering expanse
I could feel the mystical, quivering aliveness
in the depths of the grasses

Infinitesimal orchestra, vast insect choir
assembled in its tabernacle, offering lifesong
to all the Earth

Today, I stand here in memoriam
for the field is no more, shorn of its green tresses
its body ravaged by bulldozers

An unseasonably cold wind
whips with knife-shivering emptiness
even doves, high on the power lines, bear silent witness

Dear Goat

Dear Goat In The Pasture At The End Of The Street Where I Make a Right Turn On My Way to Work Each Morning:

I just want to say thank you for lifting my spirits on weekday mornings as I drive by your pasture. You cannot know that I look for you and your herdmates, or how the sight of you fills me with inexplicable peace. Perhaps it’s the idyllic setting, the pastoral scene with its inherent restfulness. Maybe it’s the continuity. Your pasture remains as it always has, while all around us fields are being bulldozed and sculpted for the coming of houses. The trees farther down this road are being timbered this very moment… I wonder: Had birds already nested in them? Were there any little eggs that are now lost? It’s possible; this is March. Isn’t tampering with birds’s nests and eggs a crime? I digress. I cannot help it, watching the trees come down even though I know the new houses to be erected will be homes where people will build their lives and live their stories, where children will grow up… meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a man is busily destroying people’s homes, sending them fleeing from danger like animals trying to outrun a raging forest fire, in search of a different place to survive…

Yesterday as I came through here I heard a bird calling and wondered if its tree is gone. Will the big, beautiful,snowy-feathered hawks soon be gone, too? I haven’t seen one for weeks now. I keep watching. And in all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen skunks until last week when I saw two dead in the road and my son saw a third. We didn’t smell them, thankfully. Makes me wonder about them never seeing the end coming…

I don’t know why I should be telling you all of this, dear Brown Goat in your green pasture so often dappled with new morning light when I drive by. All I really meant to say is thank you. I see you grazing in the grass and a tiny bit of balance returns to the universe. Your placid nature spills into mine. You somehow impart the right and needed mood for the day…

I am grateful for you.

Sincerely,

An Admirer

P.S. I would deliver this letter to you in person but I suspect you would only eat it… I’ve had to eat my words before and it’s not a particularly pleasant experience… trust me.

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with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.