Tanka Poems, by Ron Tuohy

Should we never meet,
and entwine, threads making cord,
now this way, now that,

upon what line shall I string
all the jewels of my life.
–Sakenoe no Korenori (died 930)

Beads on a string were a common metaphor for the ordering of the characteristics and events of one’s life. And the breaking of the string and scattering of the beads a metaphor for incoherence and death.

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Unbearably cold,
sanderlings cried in the wind
across the river

the night I went to see her
whom I loved beyond bearing.
–Ki no Tsurayuki (872-945)

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Double Vista Bay.
Taking leave at autumn’s end.
We part like these shells

Opening on tender flesh,
Like eyelids upon the eye.
–Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Actually, the original is a haiku, but I was unable to fit all the substance of the poem into that short form, so I turned it into a tanka.

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Now out of the dark
onto the path of darkness
unwilling I go.

Linger to shine on me, moon,
poised at the rim of the hill.
–Izumi Shikibu (976?-1020)

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The road curved away
from that which had lain ahead
in the predawn light:

fog heavy on a brown field,
a lake now blue in the sun.

–Ron Tuohy (1948- )