Tanka a lot, August
I am no poet, and I know it
But I admire poetry a whole lot (though if I didn’t, I’d never admit it — what kind of person doesn’t like poetry?). Although I write all the time, it’s very rare that I can crank my brain up to generating an honest-to-God, worthwhile poem.
Still, there are times when I feel the need. Last month, for example, while on a long walk with my husband I found myself counting syllables on my fingers as I compulsively created haiku (that’s the plural as well as the singular form of the word, by the way; I checked. Haikus are not a thing). By the time we got home, my husband was worried I’d developed some sort of tic, but I had my July-ku’s committed to memory:
Without the fireworks,
what is the month of July?
Safer, saner, sad.
We canceled our trip;
Distant family must wait.
But time won’t stand still.
(You carry a gun
because you want protection,
but not a face mask?)
The best we can do,
a barbecue via Zoom.
When is the vaccine?
Next year, huge parties
to celebrate our freedom.
This year, survival.
In an out-of-control time, a strict poetic structure is appealing
It gives the mind something to do besides fret, and I have to confess that when it comes to fretting, of late I’ve been doing more than my fair share. So far, I notice my hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing has had little effect on either politics or the pandemic. Time for a break.
To distract and refresh my beleaguered brain, I turned to a form of poetry you probably learned in grade school: the tanka. In case your recall is rusty when it comes to what constitutes a tanka, the rules are as follows. It must have five lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven, the third has five (so far, like a haiku), and the last two lines both have seven syllables. So, a 5,7,5,7,7 syllable count.
Lots of careful drumming of fingertips on the desktop is involved. It’s soothing and absorbing, somewhat like doing the crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine when you’re flying through turbulence.
All of which is a lot of wind-up for a very short poem, but here it is:
Covid still surges
But wait, there’s more (for the West):
Cue wildfire season.
Welcome to endless summer!
There’s no “back to school” —
The Beach Boys’ dream has come true,
And so have parents’ nightmares.
Feel free to let me know whether or not I counted correctly. Thanks for indulging me, and enjoy the dog days.