Five Tanka-Cleaves

Mt. Rainier

"when I compose poetry
I compose only for myself"
—Nakamura Kasatao

I'm obscure—insignificant
my cleaves—immature
my expression—inadequate
the falling rain—how far
away—Rainier is receding

Hodō (Pavement)

mishima yukio—is dead
how many—postwar periods
does it take—to revive tanka
each time—boyhood wisteria
ancient fossils—limestone sidewalks
moonlit night—crinoids wiggling

Saitō Mokichi (1882-1953)

one foot on a—rotten banana peel
only a few steps—away from me
yolk of death—fricassée à la ancienne
the wretched rain—reminding me of
elizabeth taylor—rains of ranchipur


a self-portrait—of van gogh
weekend—swirling stars overhead
a cross-eyed man—Carnivàle-esque
making me feel—like gulping down
the palm of my—screaming hand

Mt. Fuji / Mt. Rainier

in the evening—darkness sunsets
untouched by—freeway headlights
a seagull flies—flying upward
aspiration for heights—clouds tailing
across the face—Mt. Fuji / Rainier

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