Tanka Writing Roundtable • Fall 2009
Dr. Randy Brooks

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Joseph Bein

Sapphire Dreams
A collection of Tanka

by Joseph Bein

Four months ago, I had never heard of tanka. To label myself a neophyte would be a grave understatement. But perhaps that is the unique beauty of tanka – and part of the reason I have fallen so fiercely in love with this form of poetry. I did not have to be a master of the art form; these powerful, concise poems spoke to me all the same.

It is astonishing to me how so much can be packed into so few syllables; in just five lines, I have seen tanka convey a full spectrum of emotions and experiences. As a writer, it delights me to read, and create, these poems in which no word can be taken for granted, no sound crafted accidentally. But as a living, feeling human being, I love them even more.

They speak to every facet of the human experience – the feeling, and the knowing, the abstract and the absolutely real. I feel something like the father choosing his favorite children in selecting poems for this collection, and have been forced to settle for only those images and ideas that are most dear to me. In the end, this is a collection of poems about the physical and the emotional as two inseparable entities: feathers and fatigue, polka-dot umbrellas and undying affection, glass doors and gut-wrenching longing. It is but a taste of what tanka means to me, and perhaps will not mean so much to another. But I can only hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

marching band moves
in the distance
my fingers remember
an old, old tune
and play without sound

as you walk ahead
with me behind
I remember
my hand on your shoulder

velvet seat covers
and tears
so much to fit
in a little truck


I never stopped
to look in your eyes
til now
I’m afraid I can’t
get out

gazing up at stars
I wonder
is your infinity
larger than mine?


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

in a silver band
I close the lid
not wanting
to remember


if a feather fell
on my heart
it would be
to break me

so close
and my piano
in this small room
like lovers


revolving door
so slow
to get to you.
why must these walls
be made of glass?

shaking off
the thought of you
I throw on
a clean


feet splash behind me
you offer
a polka dot umbrella
an attempt
to say goodbye

waking up
after the same dream
I know
I want to live


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