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Mosaic Musings...interactive poetry reviews > Poetry Forums > Poetry Education -> Karnak Crossing
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Note: I'd thought there had been a post on this form earlier, but I could not locate it. If I'm incorrect, please let me know.

Tanka is a Japanese form of poetry of 31 onji; the closest we Americans come to that is to think in terms of 31 syllables. The lines are generally 5,7,5,7,7 syllables in length -- or preferably less -- short-long-short-long-long.

I'm told that the earlier tanka shifted rhythm after the 12th onji; the more modern ones de-emphasize the location of shift or switch after the 17th.

At any rate, here are some of my own attempts, for whatever they may be worth:


Stumbling into growth
may be bloody painful stuff,
but scars remind me
this vulnerability
opens my heart to loving.

© MLee Dickens'son 05 July 2002

Jesus’ Earthy Dad

kept her a virgin
miraculous conception
of Mary’s Joseph
whose union was further blessed:
four sons and unnamed daughters

© MLee Dickens'son12 Dec 2003

- Matthew 1:25; Mark 6:3

annuals vs. perennial

‘lovers’ seek to come
seasoned and with wild bouquet
pretending to root;
a love is but one… who blooms
when planted in nurtured ground

© MLee Dickens'son 18 Dec 2003
Lori... since you've asked about Tanka (and I'm no expert)... let me merely offer a few of mine... some tongue in cheek and some serious:

casting wile d'autres

small stones gave holeness
to old homes’ naked windows
when I was a stud;
some of us got our rocks off
or went on flings diff’rently

© M Lee Dickens’son 12 Dec 2003

dancing thoughts

though eye'd love to watch
feet would far more rush to join
and arms long to hold;
nose knows ascent of its own
and fingers ache but to touch

© M Lee Dickens’son 16 May 2004

do the arithmetic

teach the hollowness
of dull, worn mathematics...
students age, crumble,
ourselves spent, bent willows
who’ve wept till our branches droop

© MLee Dickens’son 27 June 2009

composed of Ten Words from Jack LaZebnik’s The Day the Tree Fell Down:
age, wept, branches, dull(ed), mathematics, bent, hollowness, crumble(ing), ourselves, worn

LIGHT + TRIALS = growth

Light is where He dwells;
it shines indescribably.
God leaves us speechless:
Holy, Unapproachable…
though His arms reach out, embrace.

Trials provide growth:
review in Dark what we’ve learned
in Light, His presence;
all difficulties purpose
lasting fruit. That’s holiness.

© Daniel J Ricketts 29 May 2005

many a kiss
becomes a wake-up slap
define who we're not
where we'd like to be

© MLee Dickens’son

days when you ran
with the wind
they have passed away
like your knees

© MLee Dickens'son 2012
I can't
like your knees
and knobbly
unneccessarily so


Daniel, you say 31 sylls or less, but HOW much less is still OK ? DSoes this qualify as short-long-short-lon-long ?
Standing among stumps
where a forest once florished,
life has departed.
Looking for the reason why,
eyes are blinded by my tears.
QUOTE (Alan @ Apr 11 12, 09:34 ) *
I can't
like your knees
and knobbly
unneccessarily so


Daniel, you say 31 sylls or less, but HOW much less is still OK ? DSoes this qualify as short-long-short-lon-long ?

The length of your lines here would be fine, in and of themselves, Alan. However, there is usually a PIVOT at the third line, so that the first three lines each are a self-sufficient part of ONE observation, and either the last two lines, OR the last three lines (using the third line in both pictures) each form a self-sufficient part of ANOTHER observation. Does that make sense? [ I picture a tanka kind of as a haiku/senryu with two long lines as an additional (or part of another) observation of the same phenomenon. ]

Let me ATTEMPT to use your pictures to give an example of this:

it is painful
to like your knees
since they're gnarled
they seem knobbly
so unnecessarily

deLighting in your sharing, Daniel sun.gif
Pictures are painted
depicting what artists see
or wish to reveal.
Beauty is self-evident
but epiphanies take time.
a yellow splash
on an indigo canvas...
a burst of radiance
comes out of the blue
A Current Scene

Look at your King...
shall I crucify him?

"Our king is Caesar!"
The government nails the Lord
in the mix with criminals

© MLee Dickens'son 2013
Hi Daniel,

Timely and nicely done! I'll have to get back to you with a continuation of your post.

Thanks, Larry. I tried to utilize an old story to demonstrate a current reality as well.


scrape away lose flecks,
gouge out rotted ugliness;
paint an undercoat
caulk fills damage, prevents more;
final coat hides multitudes
in de finite life

multitudes hide coats
in moth-proof summer storage
to further the life
of dead animals and plants
pausing and stemming decay
since dogwood decayed
he constructed a cathouse;
good for his business
as his wife watched it grow
he ended in the doghouse
fulfilled prophecy

lots cast for his clothes,
"I thirst" and "It is finished,"
soldiers pierce his side;
mourners entomb his body...
three days later, "He's alive!"

© MLee Dickens'son 2013

Meditation on Psalm 22, Zech. 12 and John 19
three weeks later
I'm still here in rehab
to have my IV's:
simply antibiotics
for body to stave off staph
Christmas time is near
but people seem to forget
the season’s meaning
with what’s found under the tree
instead of the star on top
star studded at top
of the football team's roster
can't carry the ball
but no one expects him to;
he protects the quarterback
get a quarter back
when you’re buying a new car
and you pay with cash
so when you get a flat tire
you’ll always have some spare change
change your spare often
by rotating the new tires
to even their wear
so everything is balanced
though your checkbook may not be
checkbook may not be
mathematically correct
but when it add up
there is nothing left in it;
funds are gone but it was fun
Mafunzalo had
a habit of borrowing
he never paid back
family members would lend
so Theirfunzalo also
sew their funzalo
where it will be long enough
and won't show too much;
a careless seamstress finds that
ma's funzalo doesn't fit
funzalo won't sit
well with a neighborhood loan shark
he keeps his hand on
his assets; best that you pay
if you would keep your hands on
you would keep your hands
to yourself in crowded bars
or you’ll spill your drink
on someone bigger than you
and get shots you can’t swallow
shooting the swallows
frowned on in Capistrano
Goya won't can them
they are migratory birds
every year on March 19th
march on the 19th
and you are two days early
for MLK day
but you were off Saturday
and Sunday’s a day of rest.
on Sunday you wrest
strange verses from your Bible;
you've something to prove
on Monday you realize
you are just a pompous ass
just a pompous ass
is not very descriptive
for Congress’ people
with their heads stuck in the sand;
they are all a bray-zen bunch
yes, the bray-zen bunch
seem to all be jackasses
and their heads are not
buried somewhere in the sand;
they're in their large derrieres
Their large derrieres
are covered with big pockets
which the like to fill
with money from certain funds
from the special interest gropes

No Daniel, I didn't mean "groups".
interested gropes
are frowned upon by women;
enhanced derrieres
are only for the looking
not for attracted fingers
attracted fingers
with all her Rubenesque curves
and the thought lingers
in my mind but lack of nerves
cause tears as the eye observes

How about one that rhymes?
tears as eyes see
Kim Kardashian tonight
Fallon doesn't flee
but hugs her; it's quite a sight
so much packed in suit that tight
packed in their tight suits,
female stars flaunt each blessing
which no one refutes
but I must be confessing
I’d rather be caressing
I'll be caressing
without any confessing
'cause she is my wife
I enjoy my present life
and will not stir any strife
any strife will stir
pain or anger will occur
and may often blur
what’s said and what you infer
when you are speaking to her
when you are speaking
if you rope in your vowels
you will make no sense
if you toss out consonants
you can vocalize all night
vocalize all night
if you are a coyote
with the moon in sight
and you feel billy-goaty
when you’ve eaten peyote
if you eat oat pie
you are poorer than I am
try a few raisins
they'll help you get up and go
and even make you feel flushed
make a flush and feel
that you have a winning hand
so when your chips spill
in the pot and things seem grand
don’t cry when four aces land
when four asses land
in the four-seater out house
it's plop plop fizz fizz
oh, what a relief it is...
out before you're overcome
before you are out
from swinging bats through the air
you would like to clout
that baseball so hard you would tear
the cover off and stay fair
ball with no cover
and everyone will see you
do it under wraps
your mate will appreciate
your giving her privacy
her privacy gives
sufficient time to enjoy
the result which lives
in memories you employ
when old age looks might annoy
old age might annoy
Lori so she doesn't look
down here to see it
ours sticks out all the edges
and oozes onto the page
oozes on the page
are unctuous platitudes
which may be the rage
but with today’s attitudes
I’d rather have gratitudes
having gratitude
is the surest way to peace
the world keeps turning
and we don't fall off the globe
nor lose all of our marbles
lost all their marbles
when the ruling was announced
and Donald warbles
with tweets, their vendetta’s trounced;
heads will roll but some just bounced
he said heads would roll
and Old MacDonald proved it
go, and lettuce see!
cabbage is even better
because it holds together
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