tanka prose — 23 June

Photographing in Wollongong cemetery looking for worn angels and broken columns, I met a woman who used to be in the ‘industry’ and we start talking. As an ex-funeral director, she pointed to those she’d put in here — one over there, a couple further on. Even family members, a cousin, an uncle. Not her husband tho, he’s buried elsewhere. 

Since he passed, she’d been touring the country with her friend looking at cemeteries. I asked her what she was looking for but all she said was ‘I just like them, they’re peaceful.’ They’ve even visited western australian cemeteries, driving across the nullabor in their white diahatsu with purple wire wheels. 

in the cemetery
some graves ostentatious in black
— lawns and marble squares 
and then the little grass patch
for the stillborn babies 

Originally established on the outskirts, over the last hundred years the city has grown to surround the cemetery. Light industry on one side, new housing and a school on the other. It takes effort to block out the road noise and the clanking of equipment being unloaded.

in the cemetery 
tidied plots with fresh flowers
then Ryan’s pine cross 
10 years and still no headstone
— which will be my grave?

We talk about masonry styles, urns and torches, the broken column of a life cut short. She points to the earliest plots of the cemetery dating back to the 1850s, now an enclave behind the courier depot and the indoor sports centre. Aside from the trees, we’re the only ones breathing in all this crowd. 

in the cemetery
I have no graves to visit
— gave dad’s ashes 
to the ocean off Perth
bloom on dark waves 

Image: Bronte Cemetery, 2016. Today, tanka prose or tanka tale (a bit like a haibun) for you. There’ll be no tanka for the next couple of days as I’m off travelling, so I thought this installment might tide us over.

And for music, something beautiful but appropriate to the theme of this post, American composer Gregory Hutter with Tears (Youtube) from a poem by Walt Whitman. This from a 2019 album of Secular Choral Music (Youtube). You are going to want to listen to this album several times, then go and buy a copy, it’s that good.

9 thoughts on “tanka prose — 23 June

  1. A nice sense of repose in your writing here, Pete. And you are very welcome to visit my Cornish grandparents, GES & Clara Mitchell, both buried in the old Methodist section at the back of Wollongong cemetery.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This strikes such a chord… I’ve often wondered and it’s there in one or two of my poems, about how when I die, because our culture cremates rather than buries, there will be no grave, no place for grieving. This is a beautifully put-together set, Peter.

    Liked by 1 person

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