He, a tall, kind man – who loved those large camphor trees – Leaves, seeds, on our porch – His apologies, too – All cut down now before spring. – a tanka grief poem In fond memory of Shinagawa-san

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Look, Move Accordingly

The ridge holds the moon – while red fox glides up the slope – and snow cat descends. – Look, and move accordingly – Sometimes go up, sometimes down. – a tanka protest poem This week we are in Hokkaido staying at an Onsen (hot spring) hotel and snowboarding in Niseko. In addition to world […]

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A mother’s worried eyes

So far away – a mother’s worried eyes – fall short of her son. – Gasping for air and vision – This is not democracy. – a tanka protest poem We must not… H.R.861 – To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.115th Congress (2017-2018) H.J.Res.69 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United […]

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Harbor Tugs

Work tugs, halide lights – Rolling gently, evening swell – Floating styrofoam – Fenders whine with dock lines taut – False appearance of order. -a tanka poem

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Macha Tea

Melting spring snow- Flows down the mountainside- into the sunlight. – Why not sit on tatami – and whisk macha tea?   -a tanka poem  

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Nansen’s Fox

Sitting with stilllness-
and sounds of a winter’s dawn-
A fox runs barking.

Speaking on his own behalf –
So not to be cut in two.

-a Tanka poem

On the morning when I wrote this tanka poem I was sitting by a nicely maturing wood fire in the fireplace at our family mountain house in Karuizawa, Japan. It was a little before 6am and I was thinking about Nansen’s Cat when through the early morning forest I heard a repeated whelping. Rushing to the window, I saw a red fox running down the snow covered road barking as he/she went. To the best of my understanding, this behavior is most likely related to the arrival of mating season and demonstrations to attract a suitable mate. In other words a fox just “foxing” in the cold morning air.

The image above was taken very near to the path the fox took with the red in the pine cone perhaps paralleling the stunning red coat of the barking fox.

Feb 28, 2016

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A student without a teacher

I came to the fields –  A student without teacher –  and met winter trees –  Who said to be dynamic –  and strike fantastic poses. -a tanka poem This tanka poem was inspired by the scene in this winter snowfield captured and edited on my Android phone. The following from Charlotte Joko Beck author […]

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The Winter Forest’s Silence

Sunrise to sunset –
Changing clouds never settle –
Except for today –
Listen for winter’s silence –
Listen to the falling snow –

– a tanka poem

This photo and poem both were taken from the early winter of Shiga-kogen in Nagano prefecture. The first phrase was inspired by a poem entitled, “Written on the Lake While Return to Stone Cliff Hermitage” by the 4th century Chinese nature poet Hsieh Ling-yun which begins, “Dawn to dusk, the weather constantly changed, mountain and lake sometimes vibrant in sunlight…” as translated by Sam Hamill. The “crack” at the end could really have been any sudden sound word but I chose crack as it felt to be in greatest opposition to the silence of the winter forest. It also felt to best convey the dramatic impact of all those pops, creaks, and snaps that continue to go on in the winter woods and also the break of satori.

In the tradition of the koan – What is the sound of the winter forest’s silence?

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The Valley Spirit

The valley spirit – Lies awake through the winter – Undisturbed by cold – Her seeds already planted – Listen for her unheard voice. – A tanka poem This tanka poem was sparked by the scene captured in this image taken on my Android Phone at Mitsumata Ropeway Station at Kagura Ski Resort in Niigata, Japan along with the […]

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Cold Dawn

It dawns cold outside – A fire fills the room with warmth – Blue morning light grows – Until the air is so warm – That the grey smoke disappears. – a tanka poem

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A Pale Light

Placed up on a hill – A small home casts a pale glow – On the blackened earth – This moonlight shines from within – Family, clouds, and laughter – a tanka poem Note: In Zen poetry clouds are frequently used as another term for monk and the moon is typically symbolic of enlightenment. Writing […]

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Soaking In


Colors wash over –
Reflected in an onsen –
Mountains in autumn –
Soaking in contemplation –
Soaking in contemplation  

– An onsen is a hot spring bath and are particularly common in the mountains of Japan where volcanic activity is closer to the earth’s surface. While an onsen bath is popular year round, they become particularly enjoyable when the weather turns cooler.

Tanka are haiku with two 7 syllable lines as a cap at the end. Sometimes tanka are written by two poets with the first writing a 5,7,5 haiku and the other demonstrating understanding in the final two lines. The cap of understanding was the image that kept coming to mind when writing this poem, as if another person heard the haiku and echoed back the original sentiment twice using a repeated phrase.

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