Tanka For Almost Spring…..and some poems from “The Kimono”

Cherry trees, Japan, march 2011

Tanka is an ancient Japanese form of poetry. It is based on five lines, 5-7-5-7-7, in syllables, but of course, these are different in the Japanese language: morae, or sounds.

Tanka was one of the primary forms of poetry in the great 8th century Man’yoshu, a collection of 4500 poems.

These tanka are my own attempts below in this form.

Lady Nyo

The moon floats on wisps
Of clouds extending outward.
Tendrils of white fire
Blanketing the universe
Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.

Come into my arms.
Bury under the warm quilt.
Your scent makes me drunk
Like the wine we gulped last night.
Too much lust and drink to think.

Give me a moment!
To catch my breath and settle.
Give me some peace now.
Stop kissing my hands, stop it!
What if someone is watching?

Presence of Autumn
Burst of color radiates
From Earth-bound anchors
Sun grabs prismatic beauty
And tosses the spectrum wide!

Bolts of lightening flash!
The sky brightens like the day
too soon it darkens.
My eyes opened or closed see
the futility of love.

Had I not known life
I would have thought it all dreams.
Who is to tell truth?
It comes at too sharp a price.
Better to bear flattery.

Cranes wheeled in the sky
Their chiding cries fell to hard earth
Warm mid winter day
A pale half moon calls the birds
To stroke her face with soft wings.

Glimpse of a white wrist
Feel the pulse of blood beneath-
This is seduction!
But catch a wry, cunning smile
One learns all is artifice.

How could I forget
The beauty of the pale moon!
A face of sorrow
Growing thin upon the tide
Creates a desperation.

Thin, silken breezes
Float upon a green-ribbon
Of spring—pale season.
Scent of lilies, myrtle, plum
Arouse bees from slumber.

– Poems below from “The Kimono” between Lord Mori and Lady Mari, two characters in this novel.

“How long will it last?
I know not his hidden heart.
This morning my thoughts
Are as tangled as my hair.
My blushes turn my face dark.”

—Lady Mari

“How can a woman
Know a warrior’s heart?
We have the sound of
War drums drumming
Out weaker sentiments.”

— Lord Mori

“Who attends to the wounds?
It’s only women who care.
Our hands– soft and strong.
They comfort and make heal.
Best medicine after war.”

—Lady Mari

“A woman only knows a man’s heart
By her silence.”

—-Lord Mori

“Who knows the depth of my hidden heart?
Perhaps a ravine in the mountain?
No matter. A firefly of my love is flashing.”

—Lord Mori

“What can dispel the
Blackness of a man’s heart?
Never mind, even the torch of a firefly
Is a start.”

—Lady Mari

After hearing Lady Mari is very ill, he writes a poem on his fan and leaves it by her bedside:

“The fireflies are bright this evening.
They light up the night
And make me remember
Your laughter.”

—-Lord Mori

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2008, 2013

Jane Kohut Bartels, black and white image

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4 Responses to “Tanka For Almost Spring…..and some poems from “The Kimono””

  1. Yousei Hime Says:

    I no you don’t, but I’m missing the “Like” button. 😉 I ordered my copy of the Man’yoshu last week.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Sweetie! It’s there somewhere, but hell….hating it at least forces people to talk to me. LOL!

    I hope you got it at Amazon.com, and a used book. I at times hate Amazon. (like this Xmas when my dear befuddled husband bought me an “Easy Bake Oven” at 280.00 clams, I returned it promptly and Amazon only credited my account for 194.00. I don’t buy anything from Amazon and RunSkipScam again …big item things like this oven….just their damn used books! and CDs.)

    You will LOVE it! There are many editions but I guess you are talking about the edition I featured on the blog? Beautiful, can’t be trumped except that it only has a very few tanka….but the translations/papercuts/commentary is excellent!

    Write me privately when you have a chance….would love to hear what you are doing.



  3. Fred Bartels Says:

    Just keep in mind it was your inner child that wanted the Easy Bake oven. Definitely not my first choice of a Christmas gift.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    After all these years of marriage, that you thought of a choice was nice. You redeemed yourself very well with the Kitchen-Aid.

    Much better…..


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