Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Summer 2006, vol 4 no 2

TANKA

M. Kei

 

How many nights spent
lamenting with the fireflies
of Cloud Mountain,
hoping one will prove to be
an approaching lantern light?

 

I was not lonely
with the snow-capped heron
as my company;
but when my lover returned
the silence was desolate.

 

When my boys are here
      the autumn nights fly past like
          swallows in the dusk.
Autumn nights are long
only by repute.

 

I am too old and slow
to keep pace with the whirlwind
the world has become.
Mansei's boat rowed away
without a trace this morning.

 

The Palace of Boundless Cold

A threadbare quilt in
the palace of boundless cold
covers my body;
too chilly to sleep, so I
spend the night watching the moon.

 

The Hotel Maid

In the early hours
with my head on my pillow,
I hear the maid's steps;
I bet she wishes her door
at home said, "Do Not Disturb."

 

He writes poetry
for her birthday,
but fearing
it won't be enough,
he adds a scented candle.

 

the police officer
questions the autistic child
and receives back
scribbles that mean nothing
in this world of ours

 

When the rain pelts down
fair weather fishermen leave
the old wooden dock;
an old black man dons his hat
and stays a little longer.

 

Full well do I know
that this transient pleasure
is like foam on the sea;
Yet even so I want it
to last a thousand years.

 

Langston Hughes
was a sailor
and a lover of men.
I thought I'd see more of that
in his verses.

 

'snake gardens'
the country folk
call them,
full of weeds and
rusting tractors.

 

Poetry is not dead,
it's on sale at Hallmark.
All of life's most tender banal moments
are gently organized
by clerks paid $6.75 an hour.

 


M. Kei M. Kei is a poet who lives on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Cecil County, Maryland. He is a volunteer crewman aboard the Martha Lewis, a historic wooden oysterboat and the last sailing vessel in North America to still be employed commerically at the trade for which she was built. When he is obliged to earn a living he is an instructor in a program for at-risk youth who have dropped out of school.

In these tanka by M. Kei we see and hear the bright, sage wisdom of an ancient poetic tradition brought forward into the modern world, with many a lyrical resonance to put into our pocket and keep, as we would a letter from a good friend. --Michael McClintock