Japan–U.S. Peace Treaty Reading

Previously published in various journals. I read these tanka on 9 September 2001 at the Japan Day celebration at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California (where I also used to teach haiku workshops). This reading was part of the fiftieth-anniversary celebrations in honour of the 1951 Japan–U.S. Peace Treaty. It is hard to believe how the world would change just two days later.

 

 

Two poems in memory of pioneer tanka poet and longtime Saratoga resident Pat Shelley, who died in 1996:

 

words do not come

for you

on your passing

till the first warm day—

     the blossoming plum

 

April comes

and now you are gone,

you, who told your guardian angel

each year on your birthday

not yet

 

 

Two poems written in response to writing by others:

 

I’d abandon all my peaches

to exceed my joy

from a thousand nightly dreams—

just one nod from you

passing in the market

                (after Ono no Komachi)

 

the book of love poems

     laid aside . . .

through the window

I see a man and woman

get into a London taxi

                (after Virginia Woolf)

 

 

Four poems of yearning for love:

 

an overcast day

without rain—

she sends me email

to tell me

of her new boyfriend

 

I am at your door, knocking—

as I turn away

in a gathering rain

I wonder if you stand at my door,

knocking, knocking

 

this cold lonely night

without you, with no chance

of seeing you again,

how I wish

I could turn off the moon

 

this is but a moonless night,

and my pillow has no tear stains—

it is in the grocery aisle

amid the frozen vegetables

that I long for you

 

 

Four love poems:

 

our ladder propped

against the gutter—

you turn to see

if I am here

steadying it

 

a snail has left

its delicate silver trail

on my book of love poems

left out on your porch

overnight

 

all my books collect dust

except the one of love poems

you gave me that day

when the spring rains

kept us indoors

 

at last we depart

after lingering

in embrace—

the echo of your footsteps

in the fog

 

 

Four poems on contemporary topics:

 

dried persimmons

on the kitchen counter—

again you tell me

of your son’s

promotion

 

puddles

in the gutter . . .

a man sleeps

in the darkened doorway

of the pet shelter

 

I tell her I grow old

have a paunch and need new clothes

that the wild geese have flown

and winter is approaching

—my mother laughs

 

overcast sky—

for the first time

I wonder

where my parents

will be buried

 

 

Two poems on nuclear bombs, in the hope that no nuclear bomb is ever dropped again:

 

Los Alamos tour guide

discusses nuclear weapons—

as I walk into window light

her voice

         grows fainter

 

a book on Hiroshima—

in the picture

of survivors

       the one man

       with closed eyes