Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bright Stars Tanka Anthology, Volume 1, January 2014

black and bitter
the crow I have tasted
upon my feathered tongue
the caw-caw cacophony
of all my murdered words

at the moment
her twin sister died
she felt
their connection break
into the static of stones

fence posts
wearing prairie crows
and dust shrouds
we strum the rutted road
with barbed wire fingers

a fishing tree
cast its hand into night
and caught
the white-bellied moon
on hooked fingers

hollow eyes
look backward
as the walls
you built
become dust

you watch me
with flaming eyes
my skin sizzles
I am ashes
in your hands

the telegram
advised he was a P.O.W.
but she saw him
return in a waking dream
(he never ate turnips again)

in the library
we avert our eyes from
the homeless
expanding minds over
the matter of shrinking bellies

drips from my fingertips
in the honeyed moments
of a thousand bees

every poem holds my breath
until I exhale winged words
into cupped hands
and release them
into the open book of sky

I am driftwood
curves undulating
worn smooth
my windswept bones
the flute of tides

with a raven's feather
I wrote my shame on snow
then rolled the words
into a crystal ball
and flung them at the sun

padlocked to history
my skeleton key is lost
in this life's dwelling rooms
we are water-stained
with secret sorrow

tamarack and aspen
the mountain called our names
before your spark
became my flame
we laid our bodies down

my glacier heart
when you shed
your avalanche skin into
the blue moan of echoing sky

on the rotting dance floor
our father built
in the ash grove he planted
between rows of aching years

she sets sail
through oceans of grain
anchored to her father
trailing fingers in his wake
untangling beards of barley

after the divorce
we sisters in the back
of a pickup truck
vagabond wind stealing tears
from homeward-looking eyes

my grandfather
broke earth's crust
stone crumbs
behind his plough

last night
shadows in the yard
this morning
only stems remain
in my deer-proof garden

I see
lightning flash
my eyes are closed
and I am barely breathing

in broken bottles
all those words
you didn't say
glinting in the sun

I carried
your stone heart
in my beak
until I lost
the will to fly

on my back
in sky
my hair in clouds
my hands in fire

she picks
at the blanket
her food and skin
she picks at threads of memory
forgets how to pick flowers

she is a dried rose
in an empty vase
an untouched bed-tray
a ghost
no one visits

at the funeral
wearing a neon pink dress
I made in school
a conspicuous parrot
keeping the company of crows

her sad piano
plays an argument
anger's red curtain
billows out the window
not everything is black or white

on sagebrush prairie
the whirring grasshoppers
and trilling larks
sing a lamentation hymn
for my sister's stone ears

those silent
bones of words
that mean goodbye
the distance between us
further than the crow flies

etched against
the star-stamped sky
arthritic branches
scrawl the naked poetry
of old-growth forests

snow geese
scribe an ancient mystery
across the moon
their soft murmurs
catching winter's breath

the last loon on the lake and I
our echoes vanish in that
sad impermanence of air

they called us
to collect her things
not knowing
what to do with her teeth
we left her smile in the trash

sky cauldron
roiling with funnel clouds
and rooks
we take shelter in a crowd
of broken shadows

in shadowland
where mist wraiths nestle
between hollows
a phantom owl spills my name
into the broken glass of night

a busker
plays cello at the market
his little dog
wears a sign
"will play for dog food"

Tanka Prose


I am ignited by you
          (my paper to your fire)

I am polished by you
          (my stone to your water)

I am nourished by you
          (my seed to your earth)

I am lifted by you
          (my feather to your air)

we are
e l e m e n t a l
forged by
fire, water, earth and air
we soften into ourselves


Kneeling beside the looking glass lake, we see ourselves reaching for the other side of knowing. We set our lantern boats afloat in the midnight sky and wait for the wind to show us the long way home.

we are
homeless clouds
w a n d e r i n g
a cardboard sky
begging bowls filled with stars

The Detritus of Dust

You are gone, and I am left with nothing but the bittersweet need to excavate the architecture of your past. Layer after layer of your thick life has been peeled away—exposed, excised, and exhibited for my perverse pleasure and pain. I thought I knew the very you of you, but I mistook your first mask for someone else's face. Even now, though my ruthless wrecking ball has demolished your facade and the sunlight has faded your untrue colours, I still yearn for your fingerprints to cover me in the sparking detritus of your dust.

in my hope chest
a box of disillusions
the dust
of love letters
never meant for me

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