8 Brand New Tanka
In 1956 Lund Humphries of London published a small grey paperback called Japanese Poetry, The ‘Uta’: 158 poems, nearly all tanka, in romanised Japanese, with student-helpful, literal translations and notes by Arthur Waley. The several Brand New Tanka that follow were inspired by this collection: an image, an effect, a rhythm, a thought, a character, the weather. They are neither translations nor versions of particular poems.
A thousand years apart, 31 syllables together.
Ratcliffe. Steam balloons
off the cooling towers. Across
Remembrance Way it
pales and fades, where shining sleeps
Ralph, the alabaster knight.
A trumpet winds jazz
somewhere. I can’t move, extinct
in the small, dark hours.
Distant scales tickle my ears.
Good. I’m asleep, but not dead.
Take my umbrella,
Maurice! Keep to the high ground.
Wear a life-jacket
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