This is the 2nd portion of the “Cold Dew” season for Colleen Chesebro’s #TankaTuesday challenge based on the 24 Japanese seasons.
At this time every year in Arizona, we pull out the “summer flowers,” the annuals that we plant in May. We replace them with “winter flowers.” Usually red geraniums are featured, as they are this year. In the last few years we have much fewer choices than we used to have. This year, we had even less choice–and the red geraniums don’t look very good. I hope they perk up once planted. Today is the day we plant!
The topic of my tanka is our winter flowers.
Our summer flowers
have drooped and browned by the house.
Today we release
them from the earth to make room
for winter’s colors.
I made up the kigo “winter flowers” because it is such a part of this season.
On another note, I heard yesterday that my poetry collection Rooted and Winged, which was a Book Excellence winner, is Runnerup in the PenCraft Book Awards 2023. Woot!!!!
On another note, I don’t know how about anybody else, but I am feeling very drained and saddened over world events. I am also horrified by the anti-Semitism rampant on Twitter/X. I’ve joined Bluesky and am only following writers and people I know. Friends, if you want to join, I have a couple of codes. First come, first served.
This week’s #TankaTuesday is at the bottom of the post.
This past week we had two new animals show up in our yard. The first was an adolescent javelina. These are not pigs, but peccaries. Because they are very destructive to flowers and cacti, we eventually had to get permission to fence them off our property. But now this little one showed up alone. They travel in herds, called squadrons, and the babies are always twins. I think this one became separated from his people after the @#&*s had to have their fireworks.
Then we were visited by the king snake two days in a row. The first time the snake was climbing a wall. The next day he was near the pool. We love king snakes because they keep rattlesnakes away!
Today’s #TankaTuesday prompt by Colleen is to write a poem with imagery that incorporates the phrase Sun, Sand, & Sea and uses this photograph for inspiration.
This photo taken in San Diego is a far cry from my desert world, but I did used to live in California, not that far from San Diego. At one time, the gardener and I thought we would move to San Diego, but we changed our minds. I wrote a haibun about a different San Diego beach and something that happened not long after we moved to California.
How I Became a Californian
That first year in California, on a sunny late October day, we skipped our grad classes and pulled the kids out of school. The four of us lay on beach towels, mesmerized by the push and pull, the rhythmic crashing, of the waves as they broke upon the beach. My chin rested between my forearms, and the smell of my own warmed skin pleased me. The sun, sand, & sea of California, even enjoyed this late in the season, seemed unreal in comparison with all my Michigan winters. The flowers were so different, I thought, as I spied spiky orange bird-of-paradise flowers along the restroom building. A whistle sounded, and we all looked toward the road. There we saw a train rushing toward us. I only noticed then that the tracks were laid in the sand along the sidewalk. The train slid in to a stop right in front of us. Only three people alighted: young men in board shorts, each carrying a surfboard. They ran past us and straight into the ocean as we watched with our mouths hanging open. The train departed and with it my midwestern innocence.
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested writing a syllabic poem about the mythological Phoenix or Thunderbird.
Because I live in Phoenix, Arizona, I wanted to write about the city. Phoenix was named after the bird of myth, but is often associated with it because of the extreme heat of the summers. In reality, it earned the name because it was a new city built on the ruins of the Hohokam civilization. I wrote a double tanka so I could work with both notions.
With flat-roofed houses
and white adobe mission,
they built a city
on the ancient vill ruins
of the Hohokam nation.
of the fiery eponym
the city’s named for,
every summer it burns
to ash, then rises in fall.
Fall brings perfect weather, new and colorful flowers, and relief after the hellish summers.
As we move into summer, though, we do have lovely cactus flowers.
When I take Theo out I try to walk in shade because I am very aware of the danger of heat to his paws.
Lion Scream by Robbie Cheadle is not a poetry collection or an expository nonfiction book about African animals. It’s not a memoir of personal encounters with wild animals or a picture book of animal photography and video links. The book is not a cautionary tale about the harm that humans are doing to our world’s animal populations. At least, it’s not just any one of the above—Lion Scream is all of these at once and is the most important book I’ve read this year.
By writing this book as an interactive casebook, alternating various approaches to the subject of wild animals and mass extinction, Cheadle grabs and holds the reader’s attention. She structures the book by the multitude of animals found in South Africa, from dung beetles to hippos. Within each short section are various brief approaches to the subject. Sometimes a poem that might be written “in character” as an individual animal introduces the topic and is followed by a knowledgeable description of the animal, its habitat, and some unique features.
In this way, I learned so much that I did not know. For instance, cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, but there are only 7,000 of them left in the wild! And a real dilemma is that they are in great danger in protected lands because they are prey to lions and other animals. Still, in unprotected land, they are under threat from the most dangerous, worst animals on the planet—humans. Likewise, I learned that wild dogs are very endangered animals. Cheadle says leopards are already “extinct in 67% of the country.” The information includes details such as that female hyenas have a penis-like appendage, and sometimes their babies suffocate in the birth canal. In addition, the female and infant hyenas eat before the males.
Underlying the book is a premise that makes this such an important book: we live in a time of the Sixth Mass Extinction. A mass extinction is when a large portion of biodiversity dies out. Natural events have caused previous extinctions, but the Sixth Mass Extinction is caused by human activity. If we think of what is happening with so many species endangered or becoming extinct in this long-view lens, we can see that this is a huge subject and one that we all have a hand in. If we are causing it, we ought to be able to fix it. The time to change this trend toward extinction is yesterday, but since we’ve already gone past that, it’s NOW.
Cheadle concludes the book with a short story, “The Nutcracker,” about a girl with extreme anxiety and depression over the Sixth Mass Extinction. The story is well-told and thoughtful. But Cheadle’s analysis of the story that comes afterward is particularly fascinating as both a push to the reader to read deeply into the story and as a summary of the importance of the book itself.
I am so glad I read this book, and now I want to make some changes in my life!
You can purchase Lion Scream at Amazon in either paperback or Kindle version. Note that there are photographs and links to videos in the book. I hope that will help you decide which version to go with. Here is the link: LION SCREAM AT AMAZON
I discovered Robbie because I started participating in Colleen Chesebro’s #TankaTuesday syllabic poetry fun, and I am amazed at all Robbie’s talents. In addition to being a prolific writer and baker/cook, she is a beautiful artist as well. Robbie is also a generous spirit to the blogging and writing community. That she also has published this important ecobook in an effort to help save the planet really warms my heart. Thank you, Robbie!
ROBBIE CHEADLE’S BIO
Award-winning, bestselling author, Robbie Cheadle, has published thirteen children’s book and two poetry books. Her work has also appeared in poetry and short story anthologies.
Robbie also has two novels published under the name of Roberta Eaton Cheadle and has horror, paranormal, and fantasy short stories featured in several anthologies under this name.
The ten Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.
Robbie’s blog includes recipes, fondant and cake artwork, poetry, and book reviews.
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested writing a syllabic poem about a color using a word from a color chart she provided. I chose orange because it is close to my favorite color which is coral. For a word I chose joy.
Last year I posted a photo I took of one of our gorgeous Arizona Flame Skimmers, or orange dragonflies. This beauty is my inspiration.
Here is my tanka:
On a day of cares,
when the water heater leaks
and I am in pain,
I step outside and notice
with joy orange fairy wings.
The following photo is a closeup from the free photo library.
I had a poem published today in a cool Australian lit mag. It’s called Trash to Treasure Lit, and the idea behind it is that “every writer has a piece of ‘trash’ that we can treasure.” Look through your drafts, your poems you figured you could never do right by, and if you can write something that explains why this “trash” can be a “treasure,” they might publish it. In my case, I wrote a love poem to my cat Perry, who as you may know, suffers from a couple of terminal illnesses (so far so good in case you’re wondering). I hope you can tell from this poem that Perry is the real treasure.
Colleen Chesebro’s prompt for #TankaTuesday this week is in celebration of her 65th birthday. (Happy birthday, Colleen!) We were to create a poetic form using 65 syllables.
I created a form I will call the aînée, which is the French word for a female elder. I was going to use the Spanish word anciana, but I didn’t like the connotations which seemed less positive. Plus I like that I am honoring the French language which is a language that has originated a lot of syllabic poetry. 65 syllables are arranged this way: ten lines of six syllables each, followed by a line of 2 syllables, and a final line of 3 syllables.
I have this great photo to share with you. I did not take it, but it is one of the bobcats from my neighborhood. My neighbor found the animal resting in his yard, so he snapped this image. What luck! And what gorgeous animals the bobcats are.
This poem was in Poem-a-Day this morning coincidentally.
I was waiting for something
to arrive. I didn’t know what.
Something buoyed, something
sun knocked. I placed my palms
up, little pads of butter, expecting.
All day, nothing. Longer than
that. My hair grew, fell out,
grew. Outside my window, I felt
the flick of a tail in September
wind. A bobcat sauntered across
the grass before me, the black tip
of its tail a pencil I’d like to sharpen.
I immediately hushed, crouched,
became a crumpled shock of
joy to see something this wild,
not myself. It turned to look
at me, its body muscular in
the turning. In its mouth was
the tail of a mouse drained of
blood, dangling diorama of death.
Sharp eyes looking at me and then,
not. Its lack of fear, its slow stroll
across the stream’s bridge, fur
lacquering its teeth. Sometimes
what comes to us, we never called
for. How long had I been crouched
like that? I stood up, blood rush
trumpeting. My arms wrapped
themselves around myself, lifted.
It was as if a bank vault had
opened and I was just standing
there, stealing nothing.