Tanka Writing Roundtable • Fall 2009
Dr. Randy Brooks

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Aubrie Cox

Rearranging Lilacs

Aubrie Cox

Author's Introduction

Coming into tanka with a haiku background, I came to tanka with a bit of reservation. It felt somewhat like emotional overload, and hyper-egotistical. I suppose in some ways, I still approach it with such, but not a fraction of what I did. I appreciate subtlety. That is not to say tanka do not have this, no. The best tanka are those that do not outrightly say what the feelings are. Merely, something beneath the surface triggers an emotional response from the reader. Understanding the poet's emotions is good at most, but for the reader to be able relate is best. Learning, reading, and writing tanka has complemented my understanding of the haiku tradition, even though I had previously known they were interconnected.

When I pulled the tanka for this collection and began to put them together, a ghost of a story crept to the surface. The overtones melded together, one poem influenced the next, and altered the understanding of the previous. It could be argued that this is true of most collections, this one in particular took me by surprise. The overall mood of this encouraged the title of this collection, which comes from one of my earlier tanka attempts. While not my initial intention, I do feel these eleven poems could be read as something of a sequence; however, I encourage any reading.

dark side
of the moon
a war prisoner

watching the war
from the bedside
wedding ring
on the nightstand

leaves plaster
the damp walkways
for my father


I see
an old man
talking to himself

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


dark starlight
in your eyes
you ask me
what happened
in Afghanistan

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

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


she asks again
about her father
quietly, I
the lilacs

catching snowflakes
again and again
by their empty hands


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