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.


  1. A very effective pairing reflecting on the complexities of family history. I especially like the poignant jux in the second tanka.

  2. Families are fascinating - present and past. Two evocative tanka ... and a thoughtful paring.

  3. A fabulous pairing. Families are a colorful mix. I always enjoy your work so much, Janet.