Tanka Kukai 2 Favorites

Roundtable Tanka Kukai 2, Fall 2009

looking around my room
thinking of what to write
I see a Bavarian clock
and a bag from Prague
I’m not here anymore

Lainie Pahos (4)

The thing that grabs me about this tanka is the final line. The reader gets the sense that these items were acquired during travels, and personal the "I" is reliving his/her journeys, or maybe thinking about the "what if I went here" if these items were brought back to the author. But rather than saying "I remember [blah]" you have the simple statement "I'm not here anymore." And it doesn't matter. There's no regret, and no bliss from it either. Just not there. Aubrie

head in my hands
the sandy butterfly
drifts to the ground
silent as my sobs

Jackson Lewis (5)

This tanka above evokes peacefulness and sadness at the same time. The butterfly that flies to the ground could symbolize hope. A butterfly is an insect that can be associated with beauty. In life, there are a many situations that can make us sad and are not so beautiful. There are many aspects of the world that are negative, but there are a many aspects of the world that are positive. Sometimes the positive weighs out the negative. There is always a brighter day, and progress does not come without struggle in many cases. The butterfly is a symbol that can make readers sense that everything will be alright in the end. Brianna

The juxtaposition of the happy-go-lucky butterfly and the sobs connected through silence. That’s what makes this tanka work. It’s meditative and full of emotion. The head in the hands, the raw sound of a sob—these are bookends that momentarily capture (before language sweeps in and away again) nature moving about oblivious to the woes of humankind yet connected none-the-less through our glance. Carmella

a few stray leaves
on the lake's
the one
that sinks

kids asleep
we stay up
about what to do
with the baby starling

Aubrie Cox (3)

the train passes by
in the late hours of midnight
my eyes wander from my window
to the bright
light of my computer screen

candle. next to a picture
of a husband
a father
a man who once was.
he is remembered.

I stare at the phone
await the rings
the minutes,
hours and days
such silence

Brianna Martin

The tanka expresses loneliness. The narrator of this tanka is waiting to hear from someone who is special to them. I am waiting by the phone for a long period of time and never hear from this person. There is no communication between us although I would like there to be. This person is now missing from my life. Like many tanka, a story is told by using few words that mean much. The author leaves mystery to the poem that leaves readers to analyze the poem for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

my secret
you turn away
          i catch myself
falling in love again

Carmella Braniger (2)

coming home
a man
from the war
that started
in middle school

Aubrie Cox (3)

vine ripe tomatoes
steeping in jars
gentle rattle
the pop of vacuum seals
what will you say next?

Carmella Braniger (3)

a girl in white
waits alone
under the streetlight
kicking her legs
in impatience

Jackson Lewis (4)

This Tanka makes me think critically about a young girl scared trying to find her way home. Also maybe an image of a young girl in white who is actually a ghost. The third image that appeared in my mind was a young girl waiting, and waiting, and waiting, when no one come to pick her up from some type of event. In any way I think of it it is very sad. A young girl waiting impatiently for someone or something to help her. Heather

one black balloon
rises over campus
with a prayer
the others

at the bar
I met a goddess
several drinks later
I don’t know where she went—
what was her name?

Don Gorjuan

I loved this tanka. I thought it was simply hilarious. It definitely shows the true effects of alcohol. I really enjoy tankas that have an element of comedy in them. I would love to learn how to better incorporate comedy into my tanka, but it is a lot harder than I thought it would be. They author of this tanka did a very good job. Lauren

asleep in day
awake at night
in my dreams
I see your eyes
disappointment awakens

the misty rain
tickles my face
as I search
for a dry place
to scribble down tanka

Jackson Lewis (6)

The imagery in this tanka is amazing. I also really loved the use of the word “tickles” when describing how the rain hit their face. I could also feel the rain. I love the simplicity of the idea of it just running through the rain trying to get dry, but how beautifully it was written. I really enjoyed this one. Lauren

bird hits clear glass
breaks a leg
its nothing new
I feel his pain

Nikki Evans (4)

t's nothing new, the author has probably seen this before. The author may even think of the other times he/she has seen a bird (or maybe this same bird) ram into the glass day after day, but something in particular about this time, this moment that strikes a chord with the author. This tanka captures the immediacy well; I like how it seems so blase, yet there's a connection with the poor creature. Aubrie

the clearing at dusk
you take my hand
lead me deep
into forests
of dream

in the section called
modern artists
I run into a hanging string
the guard bellows
don’t touch the art!

a tie dye scarf
looks cute
but matches nothing
I wear it
because it’s from you.

Lainie Pahos

I really like the amount of obligation in this tanka. I have so many pieces of clothing that I don't like or doesn't match my style from relatives - particularly parents and aunts (uncles and brothers seem to know better and either give me non-clothing, a gift card, or take me shopping themselves ;-)). And the great part is that you wear it anyway to make the people you care about happy and its as simple as that. Michelle

I sit
in my chair
cold weather
brings back

looking at the picture
of us together
i hope
she misses me
or at least thinks about me

Jackson Lewis (2)

I think that I was drawn to this tanka because I am in the same situation. It’s is sad when something ends especially when facebook shows you what they are up to and that they are moving on. It’s hard not to look at the pictures of them and wonder if they think about you and if you’re not over them, you want them to be thinking of you. Lainie

This Tanka gives me the picture I have of my sister and me. We are holding hand sharing an icecream cone. My sister and I were very close until recently when our lives have just gone in completely different directions. I have all sorts f pictures of us around my home and she is always on my mind, and in many ways this poem brings back the bond I must sadly say we no longer have. Heather

i never stopped to
look in your eyes ‘til now, and
now I’m afraid that
I can’t
get out.

outside the rain falls
inside the tears pour—
how long before
the sun shines
and the tears dry?

you send me a photo
of a cute puppy
a smile turns into sadness
my own mutt

walking under the
leaves that haven’t fallen yet
a squirrel throws a
nut to scold me for something
I probably didn’t do.

I slowly
scratch my beard
for new ideas—
an old
Philosopher’s trick

Don Gorjuan

I really liked this one for two reasons. First, it’s pretty funny and I like that aspect of it. People do often scratch their beard as a stereotypical thinking pose and I liked that it alluded to the origin of this common practice. Second, I like the contrast between the new ideas and the old trick. I think it’s interesting that in order to generate new thoughts he resorts to old methods. Lainie

waking up to the
sound of a bluejay on my
window-sill, I can’t
shake the feeling that I dreamed
of something cruel last night.

i drop by for a visit
her picture still
in the

Carmella Braniger (3)

First of all, I just love the tumbling/minimalist structure of this poem. I like it because it’s organized, which I’m partial to personally, and because it guides your eyes to the focus of the poem just as a painting would do. It seems to me that photos are a very popular item in tanka because they’re a great way to hold memories, and to hold sadness. Jackson

football game over
our slow walk
to the gate
not wanting to say
goodbye again

Randy Brooks (2)

i find myself
blindfolded by ignorance
i learn
to ask for help

as the responsible one
I should have
told her no
now lilies grow on the banks
of our childhood

Aubrie Cox (2)

One of my favorite aspects of tanka is that it tells so much in so few words. Also, the image of the lilies in contrast with the destruction of innocence is a very meaningful symbol, and because of this symbol the deep regret of the poem is very apparent. This poem has a soul, and it is a mourning soul. Jackson

who tucked me into bed
and told me stories
that filled my head

these hands
these steel toed shoes
what can I build
so the end is not
merely more dust?

winding road
to the monastery
so many questions
rehearsed before
a vow of silence

Randy Brooks (2)

drawing circles
in my palm
you say that
I will grow old
without you

Aubrie Cox (7)

...circle, circle, dot, dot... This tanka reminds me of grade school and the fun kids can have with brutal honesty. I remember something about a square as well. :-) Michelle

Reading this tanka, I remembered the first time I read White Noise by Don DeLillo. My grandfather had just died suddenly of an aneurism. The two main characters in the novel always talk about who will die first, expressing their fear of being alive without the other. I started to understand my grandmother in a new way. Only recently have I actually experienced the emotion of this tanka, ten years into marriage. Circles. Carmella

I admire you
Eiffel tower
for your beauty
and wonder—
how many more stairs?

in the background
when did
become loud?

I love you
with all my heart.
How many more times
do I have to say it
before you believe it.

cutting through the fog
sweet and tender
your voice
the melody of a song
we both once knew

© 2009, Randy Brooks • Millikin University
All rights returned to authors upon publication.