Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year-end leaves

year-end leaves
rotten potatoes
misspoken words—
assorted things I fling
deep into the woods

kernels ("featured poet"), Summer 2013

H A P P Y  N E W  Y E A R !

Friday, December 27, 2013

No pear tree

A repeat from last winter:

no pear tree

no partridge either . . .
I wake up 
to a chill on my face
a million crows-a-cawing

Who knows, maybe you'll see this a third time too. ;)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Childless, yet ...

Excuse me, time for a little holiday cheesiness now. We decided to give Santa a thrill one year long ago. I'm the older one, on the right, with the puffy hair. 

childless, yet ...
memories of crimson suits
and ermine beards
..........drift to the surface
of my snowy mind

—Ribbons, Winter 2006, Vol. 2, No. 2

B E S T  G R E E T I N G S  O F  T H E  S E A S O N 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A nativity

a nativity
small enough to fit
in a matchbox ...
I turn the key
to play Silent Night

—GUSTS, #18, Fall/Winter 2013

Where Franz Gruber composed the beloved song Silent Night

During our Danube trip last month, I perked up as I heard the announcement that we were passing by Arnsdorf (Austria), where schoolteacher, church caretaker, and organist Franz Gruber composed the melody for Silent Night. When I was around 13, one of my grandmothers gave me a small book about Gruber and the history of that familiar Christmas carol. So, we quickly clicked away with our cameras. 

P.S. See the preceding post for a picture of the music box described above.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tiny skaters

tiny skaters
twirling round a pond . . .
until now, this world
inside a music box

Skylark, 1:1, Summer 2013

Pictured above, the miniature music box I bought last December—from a shop in Illinois that I visited with my sister and her kids. In the tanka, though, I'm actually describing one of the other similar music boxes they had for sale; maybe I should buy it next. I wonder if my fascination with things delicate and diminutive will ever leave me.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Toy iron

toy iron,
miniature kitchen ...
who'd have known
my penchant for housework
would end with childhood?

—GUSTS, #17, Spring/Summer 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sequence: At Oso Bay

At Oso Bay

wildlife refuge—  
a friendly welcome sign
plus a warning
      human visitors
      under surveillance

by the hundreds
at the bay's edge
my camera and I
trying to blend in

how the world
can change in an instant:
white wings
of a pelican
low over my shoulder

this mussed hair
dampened by drizzle;
on the bank
of a waterway
a heron preens its feathers

my skin's pallor
in the light of home . . .
for my profile
I choose a photo
of a roseate spoonbill

Corpus Christi, Texas—named "America's Birdiest City" for 10 straight years.

—Ribbons, Spring/Summer 2013

Tanka sequences: It's generally accepted that each unit in a sequence of tanka should be able to stand alone reasonably well; in other words, it should make reasonable sense if extracted from the sequence and read by itself. So, the various tanka in a sequence don't function in quite the same way as verses do in a longer (for example, free verse) poem. 

English-language tankaists continue to explore sequences. I tend to think of sequences as involving progression or development and using links, even if subtle, from one tanka to the next. Readers might be interested in checking out an article by M. Kei on sets (a generic term for groupings of tanka, including loosely organized ones) and sequences in the recent Fall issue of Ribbons, the Tanka Society of America's journal.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Haiga: spill your tanka

artwork courtesy of Karen A. Smith; dedicated to Sanford Goldstein
—Prune Juice, #10, July 2013

This is known as a haiga, sort of; haiga typically refers to a marriage between illustration and haiku, though mine contains a tanka (or kyoka) instead. I call this one, not surprisingly, a "cartoon haiga." 

Most poets in the tanka community probably are very familiar with the concept of "spilling." The expression above is attributed to Sanford Goldstein, scholar/professor, translator, and tanka master of the past few decades—also candid mentor and kind friend to many of us. I'm not a terribly prolific writer; Sanford told me several times to get myself to a cafe (as he himself would do) and then "spill" (without "thinking")! Maybe someday I'll better heed his advice, though I suspect I'll always prefer my own home, where my words tend to come out in the form of occasional sputters instead of flowing out.

For those in the U.S.: H A P P Y  T H A N K S G I V I N G!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My eyes

Meant to post this one earlier in recognition of U.S. Veterans Day:

my eyes 
scan the wall of heroes 
at Walmart— 
why should I expect
to understand bravery? 

—Haiku News, Nov. 5, 2012

This headline/link accompanied the above tanka: "Colleges offer veterans classes to ease transition."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

False positive

Well, since I've just returned from a long journey, maybe an airport tanka is fitting:

false positive
from the airport scanner—
so quick
I don't see it coming,
a woman's hands on me

Fire Pearls 2, 2013

That didn't happen this time. :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Too stunning

too stunning
for a simple pasture
the horns

of these longhorn cattle
curve up into the sky

kernels, Spring 2013 (premier issue) 

at a nearby ranch

Fine creatures, especially up close. I hate to reflect upon their fate.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A cutting chill

a cutting chill
till the last rose is placed ...
through the ether
he breathes words into me
for his death poem

Ribbons (Tanka Cafe, "The Afterlife"), Spring/Summer 2013
Posted recently at Haiku-doodle, the blog of poet Margaret Dournaus, as part of her All Souls Day/Day of the Dead series

This tanka refers to a longer poem I wrote several years ago about "his" (my grandfather's) death. Or maybe I should say, "we wrote," because I felt I may have gotten a little help. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Announcement: Three Minus One

I've received news that a previously published free-verse poem of mine posted here earlier, "Pinwheel," has been accepted into a new anthology by She Writes Press titled Three Minus One, which was inspired by the upcoming film Return to Zero. It was selected from about 600 entries as one of 75 pieces (consisting of poems, essays, and artwork). While I'm happy about this, the theme of the collection is a very sad one: infant loss. Here are a few links:


Thanks, everyone, for your continued support in reading, and commenting at, twigs&stones!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Long cracks; the way lines

long cracks
in the asphalt road
near our house—
each morning I walk
my own damaged trail

the way lines
seemed to form overnight
around my mouth
... as if I had smiled

one time too many

—both individual tanka: kernels ("featured poet"), Summer 2013 
Note: The online journal kernels has morphed into cattails, but the archives are available.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Guest Poet: message in a bottle?

Fellow poet-blogger Wendy Bourke has a clear, distinct voice, her work ranging from light and humorous to poignant and wise—all of it relatable and with vivid details. Thought you might enjoy reading a poem she posted recently at Words and Words and Whatnot, one of her three blogs:

message in a bottle?

there’s a shelf 
near my tub,
piled with baffling mixtures 
of potions and oils,
extracts and elixirs –

to renew  
and restore, 
reinvent and refine: 
olive butter my body 
and  . . . 
mint julep my mind.

there are masks for my eyes  
and cheeks . . . 
chin, neck and nose . . .
and a bottle that offers me: 
strawberry toes.

little gifts, through the years,  
from my dear ones to me  –
selected, and given with thought, lovingly.

a shiny assortment of jars, tubes and bling – 
all, to boost and diminish, 
define, hide and cling.

a magnificent, fine, alchemistic array.
though, I wonder:  
what is it, they’re trying to say.

“A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.”  - Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Moral Essays, Volume III:  de Feneficiis.

—copyright Wendy Bourke, 2013; reposted here with permission from author

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Driving through; swirls of fog

driving through
this basket of fog
if I'll be the same
when it clears 

red lights, June 2006

swirls of fog
along these country roads
by evening
we turn into strangers
beneath our own moon

—Atlas Poetica, #13, Autumn 2012

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sandy patches

sandy patches
where only weeds
ever grow ...
a family of deer
leaving their imprint

kernels, Spring 2013

Maybe someday I'll be able to snap a photo around here of deer. At this time, they're still quite timid.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I don't fret; water flows

I don't fret
about privacy,
these blinds open
to the midday sun
and the crow-black night

water flows 
down our seasonal creek
as before
we learn how to let
the ripples just be

—both: Atlas Poetica, No. 14, Spring 2013

Today I walked out back to the wet-weather creek. It's been empty again for quite a while, due to our "extreme drought" conditions. Despite the recent rains, including heavy downpours this weekend, there is no water "flowing" down it now. But we do have mud—a good sign, I think, ha.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bit by bit

bit by bit
we load up the vans
our possessions
following us around
like offspring we never had

A Hundred Gourds, December 2012

Late August 2011—Ooh, I can barely stand to remember that time. We finally sold our house, for quite a bit lower than we should have sold it for (mostly due to the recession), and we were given barely one week after accepting the offer to get out of there. (We'd earlier partially moved out, but we still had some dishes, clothes, small furniture, and plenty of other stuff there.) My husband was away on a business trip that week, so he could only help on the weekend after closing. The temps were above 100 degrees F, and it was quite an experience. 

Shortly after we completed the move, we were evacuated from the new house—for eight days—because it was in the path of a massive, record-breaking wildfire. I'm leaving out a few additional colorful details (to do with our health, our realtor going ballistic, a car tire, and our refrigerator), but that's the gist of it. Good news: fire did reach our little community but affected none of the homes. I later told part of the story to a stranger, who burst out laughing. I guess that can be a good thing to do—laugh. Or write a poem—or both!

Edit: I see I already talked about some of this in an earlier post or two; sorry for any repetition.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A clearing

a clearing—
without this camera
the flock
of black-eyed Susans
I might have missed

GUSTS, #17, Spring/Summer 2013

The "flock," huge, but it never returned this year!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Early art

Art in Kindergarten
should have been a joyful time,
the rounded tops
of so many crayons
sailing smoothly across
clean sheets of paper.
But I was scolded by the teacher,
as old as my grandmothers,
who labeled me predictable.

Once again I composed
my drawing—little-girlchild
beside a small square house,
delivering her bouquet
to the person lying ill inside.

Then the public rebuke,
"What you do is always the same.
But look at this picture"
(by the new girl in class):

Someone flat on a table,
globs of blood dropping.
And the elaborate tale
to accompany it—
an accident with a saw.
This, the bar that had to be met.

And so I learned I must have stories
of gore and pain and hope
and raw, rugged flesh
and began to draw my life
in varied themes, with colors
befitting a wounded soul.

ken*again, Fall 2013

My first longer "free-verse" poem in several years—currently appearing in the online e-zine ken*again. I think I'd like to write more such poems in the not-too-distant future, while not abandoning tanka, my "true love."

P.S. The "new girl in class" became my best friend in first and second grade.

This marks an end to my 2013 "Back to School" theme. Thanks for following along!

Sharing with Poets United, Oct. 6, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Just taking a break. Things were looking a little dull here—no photos for a long while. Shhhh.... Don't tell anyone that I've posted a picture of my niece's park soccer team. Abigail is in the center of the row. I think I might have found soccer fun, had such an activity been available to little kids back then. My brother and I played it in the back yard when we were older, but that was about it. 

I'll post another poem soon!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Playing scales

playing scales
day after day
the ritual
of her reprimand
with every wrong note

Presence, #48, June 2013

Not necessarily "Back to School," but I figured it might be close enough.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Music Room (tanka prose)

It was her punishment for chatting after "lights out." Marched out of the bedroom by Mrs. M., one of the watchful house staff members responsible for the boarding students' care, she knew full well where she'd be taken. There, she'd spend time alone, in pitch blackness, to contemplate her transgression. 

how she'd hide 
from Bach and Mozart—
their busts 
on the piano
their ghosts in the dark 

~ Girls school, Surrey, England

Atlas Poetica, No. 14, Spring 2013 

Note: For those who missed my other school-related tanka prose, posted earlier, here's a link: Ad Vitam Paramus.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Whistling Dixie

whistling Dixie
in a land of cotton—
songs we learned
in grammar school
when all we knew was white

—A Hundred Gourds, March 2013

I set out to write a post here about the evolution of the above tanka. But after a sentence or two, it appeared my words might be giving birth to a tanka prose piece instead. So, I'll keep working on that and see where it takes me. 

Can any of your relate to my poem, I wonder? Naive, strange times; though, really, all times may be strange, especially when looking back on them. I still have vague recollections of being on a stage, preparing for some sort of elementary school pageant during which we surely sang the "Dixie" song (also named "I Wish I Was in Dixie," etc.), no doubt with gusto and lack of understanding. The song has a complex history, certain details disputable, including authorship and intention; there have been many variations of its lyrics. Through my reading, I've learned of Dixie's immense popularity in both the South and the North; it was a favorite of President Lincoln's. A catchy tune, but I think I can leave it in the past. The possible origins of the nickname "Dixie" (with respect to region) also are worth reading about.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Little labels

little labels
sewn inside school clothes,
my name
embroidered on them
as if I might get lost

—A Hundred Gourds, June 2013

Well, I was planning to include a photo of the actual labels, my name on them in green, but unfortunately I can't locate the particular box they're hiding inside. Coming across them a couple of years ago, though, served as inspiration for this tanka.

Friday, September 6, 2013


For the rest of this month at twigs&stones, there will be a "Back to School" theme. The first one:

we made of ourselves
in grade school ...
how many know me
only by my profile

—A Hundred Gourds, June 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

My ear

my ear
crackling and aching—
the weight
of all those words
I didn't need to hear

—Ribbons, Winter 2012, Vol. 8, Issue 3

For those in the U.S., Happy Labor Day (though this poem, of course, has nothing to do with Labor Day)!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


When you unearth Atlantis
you will find me
my backroads
my passion
flung among the rubble.

You will find me
as embers
eros of energy
heaving through debris
like mountains
ascending from the ocean.

All you see now:
my lazuline eyes
and droplets of magma
glowing, creeping from their corners.
It is what you search for
this crusted chaos
is it not
(as souls seek out nests)?

But beware:
if you retrieve me
you must not keep me;
I could ignite

and so might you.

Ancient Heart, 2006

photo (of a puddle) copyright of Robert Curtis

Sharing with Poets United, Sept. 1

Perhaps this poem is fitting given the scorched conditions we've had here, in our tiny dot on the map in southeast Texas, during the past month or two. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hotel room

hotel room—
wind through the palm trees
muffles his snores

Presence, #48, June 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back home ... and a thank you

I'm back home from Tanka Sunday in Long Beach, California, followed by a whirlwind personal vacation trip up the coast. The Tanka Society of America (TSA) held its gathering, only the second in the organization's history, on The Queen Mary immediately after the Haiku North America conference. It was a relatively small group, and the time was short, but the experience was exhilarating all the same: discussion, various tanka readings, and an informative talk by Stephen D. Carter of Stanford University. We also spent a bit of time writing new tanka. I'm glad to finally have met some fellow tanka writers (and editors) in person. Many thanks to all involved in organizing this event. 

Near the end of Tanka Sunday, TSA president Margaret Chula announced the winners of the annual international contest; the TSA website will be updated soon to include the information. Deserving poems for sure!

On an altogether different note: A special thank you to Ellen Roberts Young at freethoughtandmetaphor for her recent blog post devoted to tanka—and also for kindly presenting three of my poems I'd previously posted here. I hope she continues her newly embarked-upon tanka journey! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013


hopscotch through my body—
I wasn't warned
my lighthearted days
were impermanent as chalk

—Ribbons ("back cover"), Spring/Summer 2013

A nice surprise—the editor selecting my poem for the back cover of the Tanka Society of America's journal, Ribbons.

I recall happy summer days of hopscotching on sidewalks with my friend Karen.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Reading tanka

reading tanka
and yet more tanka
about cherry blossoms
how I crave 
the top of a sundae

—red lights, Vol. 2, No. 2, June 2006
Note: Removed all the punctuation from the earlier version. Am happier now. ;)

It's been years, maybe decades, since I've had a real sundae.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our honeymoon; I tell him; an e-card

our honeymoon
spent choosing furniture
for our new home,
hopeful roots sprouting
from solid-wood legs

Fire Pearls 2 (anthology), 2013

I tell him
it's his anniversary
he tells me
it's mine too—the comfort
in our seeming nonchalance

—bottle rockets 18, 2008; Take Five, Vol. 1, 2009

an e-card 
sent from his corner 
of the house 
our anniversary 
hiding in my spam 

red lights, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2013

Anyone who watches the Bachelor/Bachelorette on TV with his spouse should be given a medal. Yes, it's true.

Monday, August 5, 2013

iwritemyself: guest blog

Today please follow me on a visit to another poetry blog: iwritemyself, by Maurine Killough. Her blog is like a colorful, hip museum/gallery or boutique: bold original poems plus an eclectic mixture of poetry by guests (I was honored to be included there a while back), all accompanied by lively artwork.

Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wine tasting; taking sips

wine tasting:
his usual gruffness
into a bouquet
of oak and berries

a winery outside Fredericksburg, Texas

taking sips
of prickly pear wine ...
subtle swirls
of sweet and biting
together in one glass

—both of these, Atlas Poetica, Issue 14, Spring 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Railroad arms

railroad arms
rise up as I approach ... 
on the long drive
to the hospital
I hope for an "all clear"

—American Tanka, June 2013, Issue 22

Between the two of us, we've had three trips to the ER in the past year-and-a-half. One of those visits, almost exactly a year ago, resulted in a hospital stay—for "him." Long story, but he made it through fine.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Each morning

each morning
outside the bedroom window
the redbird
trills triumphantly—
but where, oh where is his mate?

—Megaera ("Taking Form"), Vol. 8, Issue 4, No. 27, Fall 2006

I had forgotten about this quirky poem until I found it recently when paging through an eclectic (and fun) journal packed away in a box. The new editor wanted to focus on different poetic forms and asked me to prepare a brief tanka write-up. I doubt I was the most qualified spokesperson, since I was pretty much a newcomer to tanka, but I was glad to help spread the word. :)

We had a lot of cardinal activity at the old house. I'm glad to say that cardinals frequently visit here too, though none of them seem to be as loud as the one described above!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I trace them; somewhere

I trace them
clear back to Jamestown—
of the grandfather
I knew little about

—Simply Haiku, Winter 2009, Vol. 7, No. 4

among mountain wildflowers 
like these
the grandfather I never met
both lived and died

—Modern English Tanka, Vol. 1, No. 1, Autumn 2006

Of course, these aren't "mountain wildflowers" (or, specifically, Colorado wildflowers) pictured above. The photo is one of a thinning summer field of blanketflower (that is, I think!) beside a winery not quite an hour's drive from us. Blanketflower, I've found, pop up "everywhere" around here, including along the ditches where we live. 

About the grandfather, my father's father: there's an interesting story or two related to my father's discovery of his whereabouts and death. 

sharing with Poets United, 7/21

Friday, July 12, 2013

How to prune a poet

I'm not prolific.
To get more lines from me
you'd have to prune me first—
grab your hand shears,
cut my creaking, errant excess out.

But do it right, at the right times,
never in winter,
during my hibernation.
Trim me with a cultivator's touch,
after lavishing me with water,
nourishing me, tending my petals
as if you were in love.

Don't hack, how brutal.
You could leave wounds
that would never heal.
I could become infected;
then I'd lower my limbs
in a defeated poet's stupor.
And at the most, I'd write of throbs,
an egregious injury
the likes of which you,
grimy gloved, would never feel.

Megaera, Vol.8, Issue 3, No. 26, Summer 2006

sharing with Poets United 7/14

Monday, July 8, 2013

The wildlife

the wildlife,
are they getting used
to me? 
I who bombard their space
with my garden statues

—Atlas Poetica, #13, November 15, 2012

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The brimming bowl

the brimming bowl
of potato salad
she made at home
.....my tub of store-bought
.....shriveling beside it

red lights, Vol. 9, No. 2, June 2013

To those in the U.S., Happy Fourth! Eat a lot of potato salad.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sun sizzles

sun sizzles
over the pavement—
in this heat
a single tear
can dry in seconds

—A Hundred Gourds, 2:1, December 2012

The sun has been sizzling here lately. We've already inched up into the triple digits (degrees F).