“Twelve Tanka”…..


"White Cranes of Heaven", cover painting by the author

“White Cranes of Heaven”, cover painting by the author

These tanka were composed when I was writing  ” The Kimono”, yet to be published. Some violate the pivot line and other ‘rules’ of tanka.  There are many parts to tanka and it is wise to learn them.  It just takes time.

A few of these tanka are published already in “White Cranes of Heaven”, Lulu.com, 2011.

Lady Nyo~

This is the problem!

Do not give over your soul,

it returns tattered.

What tailor can mend the rips?

The fabric too frayed by life.

A modest woman

does not seek comfort with thieves

Emptiness is fate.

Better her eyes turn upwards

to Heaven, soul comforted.

Human frailties

wounds that bleed such heated blood

leave a dry vessel.

Without the moisture of love

the clay reverts to the ground.

Tears soften venom.

Knives bring satisfaction to

hands still covered with love.

Trembling, can’t find the mark

but the shame returns, pierces.

The heart is brittle.

Hands can not soothe its aching

only honest words

can make the sore mind attend

unless pain ever constant.

A woman in grief,

is force that races nature.

Better now anger

contempt will replace her love.

She will be stronger for it.

Minute to the hour

The heart races on the edge,

sharpened existence.

Feet trammel the rocky ground

While pain flies up to Heaven.

Birds fly in the blue.

All is gray upon the earth,

heart is stopped with bile.

White crane lifts off lake water,

my heart follows them.

The tanka below is the Lady Nyo’s (from ” The Kimono”) death tanka.

Shall an old gray wolf

subdue a woman like me?

I shall be born soon.

The wolf head I will cut off

and nail the pelt to the cross.

The morning wren sings,

I stand in the moonlit dawn

kimono wrapped tight.

Last night my final peace made,

now free from all attachments.

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.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2014

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5 Responses to ““Twelve Tanka”…..”

  1. ManicDdaily Says:

    These are so cool, Jane! (Hi!) I especially like the ones from the Kimono–and the last–agh. Very painful. But they have this Japanese feel and yet your own voice too. The first also (for me) was especially compelling about turning over your soul. The wolf pelt so striking. The cranes lifting from the grey Earth. All beautiful. Hope all well. k.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi K! What’s cool is hearing from you!

    All is well here..just trying to put in form for spring publishing “The Nightingale’s Song”. And a novel. But I really bit off more than I can chew on this last one.

    Last time I checked you were also writing a novel? Writing long?? How’s it going, but so much of life does interfere, neh?

    So glad you liked these, K. They are very early and I don’t know if my tanka has improved since then or not. LOL! Once you get away from tanka form and ‘rules’ you can go far astray.

    The “Wolf Pelt” was written at a very emotional time…full of strife. But I am so grateful for anyone reading these and commenting.

    I’m reading Ruth Benedict’s Chrythenanum and the Sword to get back into the swing of Japanese literature, but it’s a haltingly slow.

    Hope you are well, too, and so glad to hear from you.



  3. ManicDdaily Says:

    Hey Jane–I did publish my book – Nice. http://www.amazon.com/Nice-Karin-Gustafson/dp/0981992358

    Thanks! k.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Congrats, Karin. I’ll get it.



  5. ManicDdaily Says:

    Thanks so much, Jane. k.


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