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

TANKA

Horst Ludwig
 

Wind gusts blowing up
billowing dust from the fields.
It's getting sticky.
Somewhere there must be farmers
with those broad planting machines.

 

Some summer evenings
the Angelus bells still ring
from the rich city,
which the sea once swallowed up
many centuries ago.

Note: "There is a feeling of ancient history and legend in this haunting sound of the Angelus bell, reminding us of Claude Debussy's La Cathédrale engloutie." (James Kirkup, Judge). This tanka won a Supplementary Prize (¥100,000) at the 4th Hoshi-to-Mori Tanka Contest in 2002.

 

With his walking stick
the old man aims at the crow
on a little house.
When it, heavy winged, flies off,
he follows it with his eyes.

 

With one hand
the old man rocks the stroller
beside his bench.
Like this silence ends the year
in gardens with muted colors.

 

October morning.
Let us go then and enjoy
the park one last time.
There is something of me, too,
in those red, gold, deep brown leaves.

 

A wind has come up.
Acorns hitting the parkway,
I shudder somewhat.
My friend ties her scarf tighter
and the conversation stops.

 

Bent deep she collects
the few leaves from her old grave
until it's all clean.
A bell tolls in the distance,
for the cloister's Angelus

 

The old willow tree —
it was here that the girl drowned
some autumn evening.
The water's covered with leaves
slowly drifting in the

 

Thanksgiving dinner.
People loud at their feasting
don't care for the wind.
It's getting much colder
now that the night approaches.

 

Beautiful colors.
Folding the fall kimono
so it fits the chest.
Outside, the caw of a crow
and the flapping of its wings.

 

The dream catcher
turning slowly above
my sleeping children.
Outside, an icy wind
whips the antenna.

 

Softly it covered
first the earth and then itself,
the snow of my home.
In the prescience of new birth
we light the second candle.

 

Ice-cold Northwest.
Repairmen look at my pump,
shaking their heads.
It should warm up a little,
in three, four days. Then we'll see.

 

Meeting the New Dean:
Hearing what he has to say,
I think about it.
You see he has to do things.
My business is thinking.

 


Horst Ludwig writes: "You can see that I write my texts with a special cultural background; I don't at all feel compelled to fit myself into a pretty limiting imagism. I even consider — with my Silesian background —

Make me work with love,
unafraid of burning out,
of being a fool.
Being used by you, o God,
straightens my way into life.

---to be acceptable tanka. My Silesia has, however, come to an end: All Germans were ethnically cleansed from there at the end of the Second World War. And since I am 70, I am one of the few last ones to represent that culture in poetic language."

Horst Ludwig is presently Associate Professor of German at Gustavus Adolphus College and makes his home in St. Peter, Minnesota.