Two autumn tanka

18 March

the tomato vine
once supple with promise
dried, a squat fruit
of autumn—life’s lesson

(as if it needed underlining)

19 March

smokey sunrise
gorgeous pinks and scarlets
street lights haloed
horizon a Rothko smear
crimsoned over charcoal

Image: Mark Rothko – No. 46 (Black, Ochre and Red over Red), 1957. Oil on canvas (1903-1970) Panza Collection. MOCA c/- Rob Corder on Flickr. The Southern Hemisphere moves into Autumn, the vegies die off and hazard reduction burns on the escarpment drape the valleys with smoke.

And for music this morning, I’ve been a bit obsessed of late with Caroline Shaw’s composition Orange (Youtube). So here it is again for all you gardeners.

illawarra likes – a solid 4th

Delighted that my poem, illawarra likes – won 4th prize in the Melbourne Union of Poets International Poetry Prize 2022 announced Feb. 26. Thanks to the judge Nathan Curnow and Melbourne Union of Poets and honoured to be in company of such fine shortlisted and prize winning poets. The poem below probably won’t read well in reader, so here it is as a PDF.

I’ll update this post when MUP publish details of the award winners.

the banyan on northcliffe

in the road a century tree
guard railed, buttress of grasses

encirclement of kerbing 
captive and indomitable

speaks of road-makers’ charity (or cowardice)
its roots extend—feels the traffic above 

suckers appear in gardens
blocks away

it shades, a brief dark pool
sudden respite from the tumult

cruelly pruned to allow trucks
its leaves caress, its arms

wounded but beautiful
as you descend 

Image: The Australian Banyan (Ficus macrophylla,) tree this morning.

And for music, here’s Tom Verlaine (former guitarist with Television who died in January after a long struggle with cancer) with some gorgeous de-tuned guitar work from his 2006 album Around (only available on Youtube). RIP Tom.

tanka on the arrival of a new symptom… Feb. 3

refractory gang — 
eyes, toes, night sweats 
a heart overthrown
like my dad I yell 
at the screen, what new thing now? 

Image: Skeleton dancers and band on theatre stage, Sydney, c. 1928. Photographer unknown c/- State Library of New South Wales on Flickr. Musing on the body and what we inherit (including a dodgy heart) from our parents…

And for music today – here’s Gianluca Littera on harmonica with Quartetto Energie Nove playing with Gordon Jacob’s Divertimento for Harmonica and Strings (Youtube). The whole album’s worth exploring (as long as the harmonica wasn’t spoiled for you by listening to years of Max Geldray playing in the musical intermissions on The Goon Show on the BBC).

Afternoon tanka – Jan 27

impatient the air
slams a door, a saucer
certainty of downpours
evaporates before 
reaching this far

Image: Utagawa Hiroshige, Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake, from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo 1857. c/- Metropolitan Museum

And for music this morning, here’s Japanese composer Isao Tomita with Claire de Lune (Youtube). The whole album (sorry couldn’t find it on Youtube but there’s plenty of Tomita for you to enjoy) is pretty fab from the master of synths. (I remember my father bringing home one of Tomita’s LPs and we sat fascinated that all this music was without a single instrument being bowed or blown into or orchestra being conducted)

A complicated song

This poem was written with thanks on unceded Wodi-Wodi land 

Here I am grateful to be up early 
while the house is still asleep and 
the sky is the colour of blood plums. 
To slip into the kitchen, take the last orange 
from the china bowl, quarter it 
bleeding juice and cells, and give thanks.

Thanks for the orchard near Griffith
6 hours west of here where it’s still night 
the whoosh of frost fans, the fruit like lanterns 
hung in the bladed leaves. And for 
the Italian diaspora, out of poverty 
and crumbling fields to new south wales — grazie, milli grazie.  

And ever for the Wiradjuri Nation on whose land 
this fruit grew. For quartz knives and scrapers 
singing trade routes thru the alluvium. 
For the mottled cod on a rock face and 
a deep well of water hidden by a flat stone 
— say mandaang guwu (that’s Wiradjuri for thank you).

To the picker from Kiribati grateful 
for our wages (less board, less diesel, less this ‘n that). 
In three months, he’ll see his family
they’ll buy a Chinese solar battery 
so their daughter can do her homework at night
sitting up out of the tide — and they’ll give thanks. 

Such abundance, such good juice. 3 aussie dollars 
buys a netful from my grocers. There’s Damascus pop 
on the radio and in season you get the best broad beans. 
They pile nets of glorious navels in bins by the doorway 
and help mothers in hijabs and elders in duffle coats 
load their trollies high — and say shukran.

Wait. Time for one final thanks:
for this morning’s morning chorus, the honeyeater’s tchlik
the blackbird in the casuarina — another settler 
another feral import, useless but to assuage 
an Englishman’s nostalgia at breakfast and 
to bless us in our loud, complicated song. 

Image: Postcard, the Parent Navel Orange Tree, Riverside, California, c. 1930, Boston Public Library c/- Wikimedia Commons. This is the image of the ur-navel orange, the mutation that occurred in oranges around 200 years ago that produced the navel. All other navels are clones of this one blessed tree.

I’m sorry for not posting for a while but here’s a new poem which I hope you’ll enjoy.

And for music today, (I know I’ve linked this before) to celebrate seasonal change wherever you find yourself, here’s Max Richter’s Four Seasons (Youtube).

a daily tanka – 27 May

what to write? what to write?

dawn, and in rushes poem 
enunciates ocean
eucalypt bird factory
traffic and so on...

Image: The muses, Emmy Towsey (Taussig) and Evelyn Ippen, Bodenwieser, Ballet in Centennial Park, Sydney, c.1939, photo Max Dupain c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr. I know, not a strict tanka today.

And for music today here’s The Carpenters with the Royal Philharmonic with Masquerade. The whole album is a lush delicious bath. Released in 2018, the album features The Carpenters’ original vocal and instrumental tracks accompanied by new orchestral arrangements by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Richard Carpenter produced, arranged and conducted. (Youtubers: Masquerade, Album)