Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tanka Prose

No room at the inn

We're among the first to arrive this afternoon at the local drug store, our haven from this storm of storms. Bedecked in our "emergency" ponchos (mine with Mickey Mouse on the back), we tromp in, rain beads sliding off onto the floor. A short while later, a lady bursts in by herself, animated, rattled. She briefly describes, to anyone and everyone, her harrowing experience on a nearby flooded road: "I asked myself, did I want to be one of those people they show on TV who has to be rescued?" She immediately answers her own question, "No!"     

Others trickle in little by little. A soft-spoken woman relays to us how her grown son, who tried to drive into town to pick her up, did have to be saved from the waters, his car lost to them. And a thin man who must be nearly seven feet tall commands attention. "This is the fifth time in the past year, the fifth time, I've been flooded out of my place." I begin to feel as if I'm part of a classic Christie whodunit—disparate guests gathered here, unable to leave, all roads out, both big and small, impassable. 

It's amazing how we manage to whittle away the hours, alternately cruising the aisles, curling up in cold faux-leather chairs in the pharmacy waiting area, and stepping outside to check out the scene: the lights, the clouds, the rescue boats carried on trailers. From time to time, one of the store workers shows us updated radar maps on his smart phone. (We have no smart phone ourselves, and our shared old-style phone has run out of juice.) My husband keeps talking about finding a clean room for the night. That is, until someone new bolts in and announces there are no more rooms to be had in this town—even if we could get to one.

see-through case
with travel toothbrush
and tube of paste—
life's essentials
for a dollar or two 

While it makes no sense to us, the store shuts down at its usual time, 10 p.m, forcing all of us to move to our vehicles in the near-packed parking lot. Just before then, a line forms in front of the women's restroom. I feel possibly more concerned about having to suddenly relieve myself at 2 or 3 in the morning than I do about threats of tornadoes not so very far away. Even the employees station themselves outside, one of them leaning against the building, guzzling wine from a bottle half concealed in a brown paper bag.

Sometime after midnight, through the window of her large black Cadillac SUV parked next to us, a woman we'd chatted with bids us kind farewell as though we are longtime friends. She has decided to try her luck at leaving, hoping a road or two have reopened since the earlier police warning—but she does live a little closer than we do. Over the course of the night, three more rounds of rain, even a little hail, beat down on us, the last starting at approximately 3:45 a.m. My husband manages to snooze through the heaviest of it; not so me, however.

Come 5:30 or so, the lot is only a third full. (Did others know something we didn't?) I'm oddly glad to still see the white pickup truck two spaces over. A flicker of brightness, I assume from a cigarette lighter, lets me know there's life inside. A short while later, the occupant hops out and disappears round to the back of the building. I believe I know what he's about to do there.

the shelter
of our Kia Soul
this storm-drenched night
with other travelers
we share the restless sky

Atlas Poetica, Summer 2017


For part one to this story, read "Deluge." 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tanka Prose

Singing Pines

In the center of the quiet road, a small tangle of thin cable, barely visible against the tarry surface. I determine that it's a pair of earbuds, one badly cracked, partially flattened. Who would have worn these? Who would have needed them when the sounds of nature—these woods, this sky—are all around? I resume my brisk pace, dismissing my own questions.

Moments later, the world opens up, flings itself at me with whistles, warbles, caws, chatter. With flapping sounds, scampers, whish-whooshes, crackles, and thuds, from the forest floor to the tops of the tallest pines. Everything amplified. I find music even in the human-made: distant buzzes and hums of lawn equipment, the repetitive clanking of construction a mile or so away. From then on, each time I walk along that stretch of road, the same magic, the same amplification. Days pass, weeks pass; remarkably, the earbuds stray only a foot or two from their original location.

the rattle
of threadbare branches
into an aria
of unfurling leaves

as if someone
suddenly cranked up
the bass . . .
from a pond's reedy edge
the breeding calls of bullfrogs

My husband joins me on today's walk. This time, when I see the little puddle of cable, I make an impromptu decision—to gently kick it off to the edge of the asphalt, out of the way. I notice that the damaged bud is finally missing altogether. But as we pass by again, on our second lap, I recall that a crew will soon be out to mow down the tall, wild grasses. I kick the former listening device back, ever so slightly, into the road. My husband appears baffled by my behavior, why I would want to protect such a battered, useless thing. He doesn't seem to realize that, when it comes to certain matters of importance, I need reminders.


Contemporary HaibunJuly 2017, vol 13 no 2

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A change

a change
in the mood of the day—
along the roadside,
seedpods in my pocket

red lights, spring 2017


I'm a little late with this post. Bluebonnet season here is roughly mid-March through mid-April. But now, in the worst of the scorching Texas heat, maybe it's nice to think of bluebonnets again?

I'm also slow in updating my blog in general and in visiting other people's blogs, unfortunately: busy with special poetry projects, not always in town, problems with my PC, problems with Blogger. But here I am again, for now!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tanka Pair

From a seedling

on one branch
early slaveholders, 
on another 
an abolitionist . . .
the shades of my forebears 

beneath the ground
the remains of a tree—
till I phone her
she doesn't realize
it's Mother's Day

Skylark, winter 2016

I had intended to post this here in time for Mother's Day. I believe "beneath" was written in May 2015.

The abolitionist refers to a colorful, English-born great, great grandfather of mine who was acquainted with the well-known antislavery figure John Brown. Luckily, he didn't ride with the gang that fateful day to Harper's Ferry. Other ancestors of mine, from another line, settled in Virginia Colony from England around 1650. It appears that ancestors on that "branch," early on, were landholders and possibly surveyors. And, yes, apparently at least some of them had a few slaves.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

I gather

I gather
clumps of aloe vera
for my neighbor—
life spreads hither and yon
from my mother's garden

Earth: Our Common Ground (a Skylark Publishing anthology), 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tanka Sequence (Set)


splashed all over
my dress—
bare-armed, I scattered
the seeds of childhood

for so long
she draped it around herself
the same thick cloak
that near the end
slipped off her shoulders

Skylark, 5:1, Summer 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017


soaks into my pores ...
sudsy with the scent
of crisp Iowa pine

—Earth: Our Common Ground (anthology), Skylark Publishing, spring 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tanka Prose


veins of lightning
flash their warning
to the earth …
the silent rivers  
that daily course through me

Despite the rain, we have all the hope of safely arriving home this spring afternoon. But then the heavens open wide. Sky soon blends into road, which blends into flash-floodwater. A massive wash of gray, a lengthy line of traffic.  

We make the decision to turn around in our tiny vehicle at the last-possible opportunity to do so—just before the tall pickup truck ahead of us goes barreling through, water up to its taillights. It appears that a second pickup, from the other direction, could be floating. (We later realize this is where the highway dips and that the stream has risen well above the small bridge.) But halfway into the turn, momentary panic engulfs me: could the way back now be as treacherous as the way we were headed?    

—FM 1774, Waller County, Texas, USA

—Atlas Poetica, Spring 2017


This event took place last May, about two weeks after my mother's passing and two weeks after the first set of spring rains, which caused much flooding in Houston and the surrounding areas. What a shocker: we heard that a foot of rain fell that afternoon in just one hour. This story is part one. The second part, "No room at the inn," will be posted in a few weeks, once it's been published.