Conversation in Tanka

Gratitude List:
1. Learning to swim.  How and when did that boy learn to swim?  Last September, he was nervous and just barely able to keep himself afloat.  Throughout the winter, after several sessions with his grandparents in the pool at Landis Homes, he has become a fish.  Today he was jumping off the diving board and swimming most of the way across the pool.
2. They keep eating vegetables without complaining.  No one has complained or fussed about supper for two nights now, and they both keep asking for seconds.  No one even mentioned the zucchini I grated into the roux I made for the macaroni.  They just ate it.
3. Poets.  Poetic conversation.
4. Reading with the boys.  We have gotten back into the rhythm of reading together again.  We finished The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler tonight and started a book of Patricia Wrede’s short stories.
5. A clean house.

May we walk in Beauty!

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My friend Mara Eve Robbins, a poet with gift for exploring the landscape of the heart (and I keep wanting to insert more and more notes about her here, such as the fact that she is the one who got me started on the spiritual practice of gratitude and that she is the person who helped me finally name myself Poet), hosts a Tanka Tuesday thread on her Facebook page every Tuesday.  She posts a tanka (5/7/5/7/7 syllable count) and invites friends to respond.  In the true conversational spirit of tanka, these little poems sometimes develop into rich and heart-opening conversations.

This week, I joined in one of these poetic conversations with Mara and my friend Daryl Snider (another heartful poet who weaves his words into powerful music).  They both gave me permission to re-post the conversation here.  I wanted to share it, to offer a way in which healing and hopeful conversations can occur outside the realm of intellectual discussion.  Sometimes we would write one stanza at a time, and sometimes several.  Each bold name is the author of the stanza or stanzas which follow.  I love the way this one carried our ideas like little leaf boats in a stream, how it felt finished when it was finished.  Still, I ached for it not to be ended–even putting it here, I felt like I wanted to keep it going, on and on and on. . .

It began with this tanka by Mara:
This can hold many
missing elements, or can
still miss the many
elements that are held. When
will a new path be forged now?

Hold on elements,
for you are elemental:
simple, being, true.
To be is the way; the path
is the traces of footsteps.

As the poet said,
“We make the road by walking.”
Sometimes I follow
the roads others made before,
those footsteps in shifting sands.

Steps of one walker
leave tracks that only steadfast
trackers might follow.
Roads trampled by hungry herds
Leave nothing living behind.

Elemental, my
dear Daryl. Flesh on earth, bare
to consequences.
What fire in the center holds
true when accuracy rains?

Beth, I follow your
steps into the shifting sands,
strengthened by fragile
threads. We make a road again
and again that’s more traveled.

Heating elements
give off the fury of fire.
Lighting filaments,
yes, the finer the better,
give the luminance of light.

Yet the energy
at the source of heat and light
is always the same.
That which burns me at the core,
transforms and Illuminates.

Dear Mara and Beth,
Your lights shine bright on my path,
pushing me to play
with words that say more and less
than I ever intended.

A poem’s value
is not in accomplishment
but in the doing:
Time spent doing nothing else
but being … still.

Yet now I must go
and succeed in something else,
something that will make
unpoetic evidence
of bodily existence.

Leaving the small cloud
under the larger cloud, rain
waits for the sunrise,
packs suitcases of water
to carry into drier places.

I have returned here
to this place of words, pathways:
a-quiver now with
the way these words leave a trail,
clear, for my heart to follow.

The flow of trust finds
replenishment or dries up,
waiting for rain. Strong
sun today must find a way
to infuse with light what waits.

Two catbirds; holly
tree. One scolds and one defends.
Flash of underwing.
Open window. Everything
to be done waiting for this.

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