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Autumn 2008, vol 6 no 3
 

TANKA

Michael McClintock
 

leading my horse
to the river at midnight
scattered stars
in such impossible numbers
we don't mind drinking a few

 

for breakfast
I'll give you bread
but for the afternoon
please carry the worms
and let's go fishing

 

a stench
that buckles the knees—
and so I bow
before the cave of the bear
on the mountain of tall pines

 

some days
I think, or feel, or sense
others—under the earth
want to come out and stomp
the surface-dwellers and me

 

I've nothing left
when the work day ends
boarding a bus
in my own little cloud
of stale aftershave

 

one at a time,
I step on stones
and cross the stream—
when I'm across, the stones
go back to what they were doing

 

listen, my friends,
you can keep your twig tea
and rice bowls;
today I'm drinking rain
and eating blue violets

 

gentle fingers
breezy with summer
rumpling my hair . . .
I'm glad to love a woman
who likes to fly kites

 

for gathering fireflies
in the garden
behind the temple
from momma's own cupboard
we choose a clean jar

 

the bust of Antony—
handsome, assured,
a knowledge of love
in the fulness of the lips
that cost him the war

 

cramped at a table
in a drafty coffeehouse
with bad light —
Takuboku, you were right
about a lonely heart

 

it doesn't matter
where the beach is, or how
you get me there —
lay me on a sheet of wind,
like a sand mandala

 

from visiting relatives
scattered in a graveyard
I've got that sickness
you bring home, unaware,
in a shirt-pocket

 

before approaching,
I asked a friend to carry
honey to the oracle —
does anyone really believe
good fortune comes by luck?

 

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following publications in which some of the poems presented here first appeared. Citations are arranged alphabetically by the poem's first line:

"a stench", Noon, No.4 [Japan], 2006;
"for breakfast," San Francisco International Tanka Contest 2003, Honorable Mention;
"from visiting relatives", Wisteria, October 2006;
"it doesn't matter", Gusts, No. 2, Fall/Winter 2005;
"leading my horse", Gusts, No. 5, Spring/Summer 2007;
"listen my friends,", from "The Songbook of Ra", The Dreaming Room (Modern English Tanka Press, 2007);
"one at a time", bottle rockets, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2006.

 


name Michael McClintock resides in South Pasadena and Fresno, California. His short poems have been widely anthologized, including in The Haiku Anthology, ed. by Cor van den Heuval (W. W. Norton, 1999). Letters in Time: Sixty Short Poems (Hermitage West, 2005) and Meals at Midnight (Modern English Tanka Press, due out in Spring, 2008) are his most recent collections, containing both tanka and haiku. His haiku collection, Sketches from the San Joaquin, is the 2008 winner of the Turtle Light haiku chapbook competition, and will appear in the fall of 2008.