Oklahoma Tanka + Ars Poetica

Oklahoma Tanka

Ice storm. Close your eyes:
the wind through the last high leaves
in the trees could be
squirrels scouring nutshells or birds
pacing limbs, warming themselves.

October, summer
still a stifling dinner guest.
At last, first north wind
calls through my window like a
rowdy friend: climb out and play.

Just east, hundred-year
flood made a town an island.
Here, parade canceled,
we gasped with strangers at the
river swallowing its banks.

Vacant lot, morning
cold a fresh linen sheet snapped
over a bed. Wasps,
drowsy in sunlight on an
old black tire, ignore my hand.

Ars Poetica

Much like making a human, it grows quietly inside you for a time
before its delivery one morning, an odd-shaped, miniature version

of its adult self, covered in surplus stuff from God knows where,
which you must clean away so it can breathe. Then it cries to you

for its feeding and changing, sometimes even at two a.m., waking you
to turn a light on low and play with it, or just hum sleepily until

it rests again. As long as you do these things, it matures normally,
mostly, but still there are always the quirks making it unlike another—

a birthmark here, a crooked smile there. A talent for math but not music.
A perverse sense of humor. One minute you are certain of its genius

and the next just as equally sure it is missing a chromosome. But the day always
comes it should go its own way in the world. You raised it the best you could,

and you’ll both become strange and reclusive living by yourselves forever.
Yes, you’ll cringe when it spills family secrets in public, or uses foul language

it learned from you. Every flaw seems the proof of your bad genes and

Friends and strangers alike may whisper, “What went on in that home?”

But it has its own life now. You can’t make decisions for it anymore.
And if it knocks at your door some late night, needing money for a lawyer, say,

you can choose tough love and tell it to lie in the bed it made.
Or you can sit awhile on your front steps in the moonlight, reassuring it

that you had run-ins with the law yourself, even went to jail once. But now
you have this house to shelter you, enough food in the cupboard, a quiet


plus such a clear view of the moon tonight, so bright and close
you can follow the ragged lip of a crater and imagine the shape

of the meteorite that struck there millions of years before any of us
or our strange concerns were born down here.

Originally published in Abstract Magazine TV.