Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tanka Prose

In evening's hollow

I've always called it the dog bird, ever since we've lived at this house. Those nippy sounds that never seem to cease or vary in tone, the same long cry cycling over and over during spring-summer months. It's nothing like the melodic morning trill of the cardinal or the confident crow's caw. And it's loud, resonating clearly through double-paned windows. Why, I ask, must this bird haunt me—in that sacred space between dusk and the deepness of night when I wish to crawl into myself, to be left alone with my own thoughts and prayers, to give my rawest self free rein before I slip into sleep. 

There has to be more than one of those creatures lurking out there, making all that racket; I know that. Then one night, something is different. This time, each churring cry is followed with a faint response from somewhere in the woods beyond. The exchange goes on the whole time while I remain awake in bed. But whether there are two of them or dozens of them, to my mind it's still the (one) dog bird.  

I had given up long ago trying to identify this curious, strong-willed creature, much less ever coming face to face with it. But finally, just down the street, the answer awaits me.

my neighbor
says it's a chuck-will's-widow,
that nightjar—
how finding a name for things
eases us through the hours

Haibun Today, Vol. 10, Number 3, September 2016


After writing this piece, I stopped hearing the dog bird. 


  1. Clearly, it was trying to tell you something! I love the concluding lines of your tanka--they add so much depth & resonance.

  2. A fascinating, beautifully rendered tanka prose piece. Wonderful writing, Janet!

  3. What a cool piece this is. I am glad, though, you are no longer haunted by it!

  4. Thanks, Jennifer. I almost missed the bird once I no longer heard it!