Tanka Kukai 4 Favorites

Millikin University Roundtable Tanka Kukai 4, Fall 2009

your face
reminds me of
soft snow
on a cold winter's morning
I catch flakes with my toungue

an empty
calls to me
I wonder
who I should be

Lainie Pahos (5)

The first tanka is one that many young adults can relate to. In college, our lives are about exploration and finding what path is right for us. An empty stage is like that question mark that fills our lives with mystery. Who am I suppose to be? This is an important question that is addressed at this stage and time in life. Brianna

you tonight
after my awful dream
you remind me
I will always be safe

I see
an old man
talking to himself

Aubrie Cox (6)

A wonderful little slice of life tanka. Whenever I read tanka I like to think of it as a very short film going through my head, which is why I’m always very quick to point out the imagery of the poem. It’s just good to know that you’re not the only one out there acting a little crazy, even if the only companion you have is a possibly slightly senile old man. Jackson

I’ve been here
I’m back once more
perhaps the door never

This tanka is about finding yourself in the same situation twice. It is the realization that a door approached in the past is not behind you but is wide open and staring you in the face. I like this tanka because I understand and relate to this circumstance. Brianna

changing leaves
glassy lake
everything’s perfect
with you

my phone rings
bursting with song
it's my mother—
what should I do
with this cigarette?

Don Gorjuan (7)

The key thing this tanka accomplishes is capturing the moment; not only that, but it captures the universal feeling of being caught, even if someone (in this case, a parental figure) can't even see what you're doing. It's easy to imagine being outside and smoking when suddenly that familiar ringtone sounds from your pocket, one you have set to alert you specifically when it's your mother. I like the juxtaposition of bursting with song and the cigarette, the joyousness of music and the anxiety of what to do with the bad habit. Aubrie

out at the corn
thoughts of me
in a different alternate universe
am i still me

you ask about our baby
who went back
to the sun
and why i did not come
to your Halloween parade

At the party
you portray
a Russian Communist
looking at you
it's hard to find my boyfriend

Nikki Evans

Dracula’s castle
Frankenstein’s monster
the best place to be
in the aged pages
of a classic novel

for apples
she runs back
to her bedroom
for swimming goggles

with old friends—
climb in
and curl up
with the past

all around me
yours is the only one
that matters

The simple use of “tombstones” as a first line creates immediacy. Quickly, I am in the cemetery, where all the stones look alike, despite efforts to differentiate monuments with names and words. The use of “although” as a pivot line could be problematic in some tanka, but is not here. Instead, it creates a nice shift from a tactile, concrete space into memory. Suddenly, without notice, we are reunited with one we love, the one that matters, the one whose name we need not utter or read or inscribe. This person we know without mark. Carmella

college girl
hums in contemplation
convenience store speakers
playing Bach

Jackson Lewis (3)

I like the way this tanka lets us enter into the college girl's consciousness and how she is "tuned in" to thoughts and Bach while going about every day business of shopping in a convenience store. I like the mix of environments/worlds in this tanka and how the world is dusty but doesn't stop art or music or humming or contemplation of more important thigs. The girl transcends where she is and yet lives in the dust of this world. Dr. B

blinds shut
door closed
one would think
I have something
to hide

Jackson Lewis (4)

the gaze
when I
offer her money
could wilt
plum blossoms

calling me
by name
from the back seat
the hitchhiker
in Jesus sandals

Randy Brooks (5)

For some reason, whenever I read the second line, I imagine the hitchhiker saying the speaker's first name. It could be because of the stranger aspect of the hitchhiker and the familiarity of Jesus. It could either be that the narrator thinks a higher power is trying to speak to him, or it could be simply that the hitchhiker takes the position of the wise outsider (much like the Shakespearian jester). Simply the concept of the stranger using such a familiar thing as your name is unsettling to most people, and they often suspect that something is amiss. In this case, it's the question of whether the stranger in the back is really a stranger. Aubrie

how long can we
keep pretending
everything’s the same?
the tide keeps turning,
the waves keep crashing

cluttered stacks
of cards
we play through the night
using tootsie rolls
as counters

early morning
cold feet
she’s stopped
putting me
in her pictures

so close
and my piano
in this tiny room
like lovers

Joseph Bein (4)

I admire the intimacy created between the “I” and a concrete object—the piano. Having been a music vocal minor so many years ago, I immediately return to the creaky old practice rooms of Paul Hall, where I spent many hours training my voice. The tango with the piano is characterized in terms of a relationship between lovers. The last line of this tanka connects the author’s art to desire. Carmella

First of all I really like the placement of the word “I” in this tanka. I think giving it a whole line all by itself is a bold choice that was pulled off very well. I like one word lines to be powerful, and nothing says power like referring to the self. It also brings a very clear image to mind, and gives the writer a great connection to the piano. This poem almost reminds me of song lyrics too, which fits the situation very well. Jackson

summer days filled
with playing
changed to nights
playing beer pong

Lauren Modlin (2)

to think
if I never changed
my major
I would never have
met you

I use a pencil
to write out my thoughts
just in case
I change the once image
I had of you

leaves plaster
the damp walkways
for my father

Aubrie Cox (3)

answering the phone
I hear you crying
and this time
I don’t
want to hold you

Joseph Bein (3)

Knowing the same songs
before we knew each other
a sister to me
now I have no idea
who you are

Monopoly game
Auntie Sharon
teaches me
how to cheat

we take him
to a shelter
sad farewells
a candle in the dark

in your arms
the limp body
of a wolf
snow dust
on your jacket

the wolf
is on the scent
not a track
for the trackers

my mom
asks about high school friends
once so important
now there is only

Michelle Dixson (3)

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