tanka prose — 23 June

Photographing in Wollongong cemetery looking for old 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. ‘I just like them, they’re peaceful,’ she replied. 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 
tidy plots with fresh flowers
then Ryan’s pine cross 
10 years and still no headstone
— which will be my grave?

Before we part, the woman points to the old part of the cemetery and we discuss masonic styles, urns and torches and what these symbols mean. Aside from the trees, we’re the only ones breathing in all this crowd. We agree people should be encouraged to visit cemeteries more often. 

in the cemetery
thinking I’ve no grave to visit
— gave dad’s ashes 
to the ocean off Perth

I remember beach walking

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.

a daily tanka — June 22

still so much to do
winter snows, my toes ache
eyes too           I lean back
and it’s you: your perfume
lifts this heavy bloom to gold

Image: For everyone enjoying warm weather, here’s a wonderful photo by Aral Tasher on Unsplash.

I just wasn’t happy with any drafts this morning, so I’ve updated an earlier post and squeezed it through the tanka-matic.

And for music today, here’s the multi-instrumental, multi-lingual, multi-talented Savalises (Jordi, Ferran and Arriana) with Monsterat Figueras and Pedro Estevan with their 2005 album of eclectic Spanish, Catalan & World music, Du Temps & De L’Instant (maybe start with La Salve feat. Arriana.) (Youtube album; La Salve).

cento tanka — June 21

             who wrote these lyrics?

the house is loud with autumn rain

            the night air is...bright

it’s already 2 a.m

            this strange thing must have crept

Image: Hill 60 is the ‘exclusive’ end of Port Kembla (doesn’t stop lime leaking from their cement render does it?)

A cento tanka comprised as follows:

  1. Blackbirds, Greg Rappleye
  2. Three Tanka, mikajima yoshiko (trs James Garza)
  3. This House, Katie Condon
  4. Already Two, Vladimir Mayakovsky.
  5. Fork, Charles Simic.  

And for music this morning, more solo instrumental joy with American guitarist Michael Hedges with his 1984 album Aerial Boundaries (thanks Lisa). (Youtubers).

a bridal tanka — June 20

the bride barefoot

shivers on early sand 

— the camera guy

seeing how perfect the light

stands her in icy seas 

Image: Scott Broome on Unsplash. And it was freezing on the beach the other morning and there they were…

And for music this morning, some suburban banjo (!) – from Australian composer Andrew Tuttle – with his 2020 album Alexandra. The album is about Alexandra Hills, a suburb of Brisbane. (Youtubers)

“Andrew Tuttle grew up in Alexandra Hills, a quiet slice of rural life in Redlands, a city which lies 20km or so from Brisbane, on the East Coast of Australia. Or at least that was the plan. The reality proved to be somewhat different, the area changing quickly after his family’s relocation there, resulting in his home being quickly absorbed by rapid urban sprawl, leaving him in a limbo between nature and suburbia…”

a daily tanka—June 19

supermarket fruit

so upbeat    each luscious piece

a picture (of health)

— perversely tho     (like love) 

I hesitate to bite * 

* unless there’s a duck prepared to feed me berries while I sit in this blue tessellated sphere

Image: Hieronymous Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, detail c/- @BoschBot on Twitter.

And for music this morning, some cool jazz with Isreali born, New York based saxophonist Oded Tzur – with his 2022 album Isabela (start with the The Lion Turtle). (tubers). I’ll get off the jazz kick tomorrow, I promise.

a restless tanka — June 18

white-black-white all night 

          dust devils across the veldt

wind beats the screendoor

        windowpanes zebras herd

                                   nickering     dreams rattled

Image: Game on the High Veldt – illustration from Oates, F. Matabele Land and the Victoria Falls, A Naturalist’s Wanderings in the Interior of South Africa (1889), Kegan, Paul Tench & Co. p. 71 c/- Wikimedia Commons.

And for music this morning, something to keep you going if the wind’s blowin and the bedroom’s full of stampeding wildlife, here’s Miles from 1957 with The Birth of the Cool (reach for sunglasses before playing) (Youtube cats)

a daily tanka — June 17

late, a lone ibis 
lands on orchestra island 
kerfuffle among
the bassoonists tuning 
— aahnking n honking begins 

Image: An Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) at the local lagoon this morning. I know, a bit of anthropomorphism but they make a beautiful racket arguing for best perch or ‘keep your distance pal’. (Here’s some audio fun from Centennial Park in Sydney c/- Greg McLaughlin on xeno-canto).

And keeping in the woodwind theme, for music today here’s Percy Grainger’s Music for Saxophones (maybe start with Lisbon Dublin Bay) (Youtube)

mediocre tanka – June 16

the crescent moon
prows the rolling clouds
like ...  
         ... a ship ... 
                  ... in a storm ...
(tired simile founders 
                            in intermittent light)

Image: Moon through Clouds (detail) c/- Shinyphoto.co.uk.

Some days are just like that, some poems too… and moons.

And for music this morning, here’s some chill West African music: Ali Farka Touré collaborating with Ry Cooder on their 1994 album Talking Timbuktu (Youtube)

a daily tanka — June 15

the pub is just
as you remember it

tho it’s all changed

             the barman still serves port

             invalide chilled from the fridge

Image: The Hotel Wellington, Sydney 1930s by Sam Hood, c/- State Library of NSW. (Please, no unkind comments about ears). This photo would have been taken during what was known as ‘the six o’clock swill’ which saw public bars across Australia close at 6pm. This practice continued from post-WW1 through to 1954 in NSW and later in some other states and resulted in heavy drinking and some hotels with very long bars. Invalid port (or ‘port invalide‘) as far as I know was port wine marketed as having medicinal properties.

Today’s musical offering is some deep listening by Stockholm sound artist Ellen Arkbro For Organ and Brass (YouTube)(It’s only three tracks but Mountain of Air is a good place to start).

a daily tanka — June 14

praise each grower
train driver coal loader
car and seafarer

grace of bright gantries 
at each berthing, each grain

Image: Coal loader, Port Kembla. After living here for nearly a decade, we finally did a tour of the port part of Port Kembla. While I doubt that late-stage capitalism has a future that includes us working poets, the port with its gargantuan machines was impressive, almost exciting — maybe it’s a boy thing.

I was between two offerings for today’s music and couldn’t decide. So here’s Chopin’s Nocturnes (Youtubers) played by Tunisian-French pianist Brigitte Engerer. And my other choice, thinking back to the docks, is Lee Dorsey with Working in a Coal Mine (“Lord I’m so tired”) (tubers). The whole collection is pretty good (Youtubers).

Bonus: Two additional photos of the coal loader for Misky and Mr Misky and fans of big lifts.