Our New Tortoise—Tanka Haibun

I went into Petco with my son yesterday ready and willing to shell out (pun completely intended) about $450 or more on a juvenile Redfoot Tortoise and accessories. I had done my homework searching around the internet to know exactly what we would need to house the little guy. I already had an enclosure and a heat lamp. I knew I needed a UVB light, some bedding, a soaking dish, and a larger hide. And I had all those things in the basket when we finally got someone’s attention. I also knew that the tortoise was going to grow too large for the terrarium that we have. The tortoise was going to grow to 13 inches in length, but it was going to take 10 years before it was that big. And we had at least 2 of 3 years before it outgrew the terrarium we have. The young woman in the Petco shirt asked, “Have you cared for tortoises before?”

I said, “I haven’t, but I have read up on it.”

She shook her head and sighed. She said, “Well you don’t have everything you need.” She took us over to a 50-gallon terrarium that cost another $350 dollars on top of the $450 that we were already expecting to spend.

I said, “We have a 20-gallon terrarium at home.”

She said, “That is way too small. The tortoise would not be able to live in something that small.” The look on her face told me that she thought I was inhumane for simply entertaining the notion of putting it in something so small.

I said, “20-gallons is bigger than the display he is already in.”

She said, “My manager won’t allow me to sell him to you unless you buy the terrarium too. It is against Petco policy.”

I said, “By the time that he is too big for the 20-gallon tank, I will have him in a tortoise table or have built him a pin outside.” Her body language showed she had clearly never heard of a tortoise table and thought the idea of keeping a tortoise outside absurd despite the fact that every care guide gives instructions for building a pin in the yard

 But when I said I was going to leave without buying the tortoise, she changed her tone. She was almost begging me to buy the overly expensive and unnecessary terrarium even without the tortoise itself. I guess Petco must pay their employees commission because none of this makes sense otherwise. Anyway, after we left, we called around and found a Russian tortoise for half the price at another store several cities over, and we went and bought him today. They did not even bother trying to upsell us on a terrarium. They said, “A 20-gallon is fine for now, but you will have to get him something bigger in a few years.” And that was that.

Self-righteous and

Uninformed Petco employees

Breaking children’s hearts

With the hard sell feigning the

Interest of the animal.

***

According to Word Craft Poetry, haibun is a Japanese poetic form that combines prose and haiku. If you would like to read more about haibun and other short poetry forms, check out Word Craft Poetry here: https://wordcraftpoetry.com/tanka-tuesday-poetry-cheat-sheet-for-tanka-tuesday-poetry-challenges/

Camouflage, New Jersey–American Tanka

Have you ever been to Camouflage, New Jersey? Every time I take

The trip, I end up lost somewhere way out in the forest.

***

American tanka is what I call a couplet of unrhymed verse where the first line of the couplet is seventeen syllables and the second is fourteen. It is a variation on the five line tanka that is broken up into lines of five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables, seven syllables, and seven syllables respectively. I modeled the American tanka after the American sentence which consolidates the three lines of a haiku into one single sentence of seventeen syllables.

I try to write American tanka as one single sentence carried across the two lines. From time to time, I write them as standalone couplets, but I think they work best strung together into longer stanzas. Also, the length of the American tanka makes it ideal for use narrative poetry because it allows room within the long lines to develop your ideas while still offering a definite poetic structure.

Alone in the Lot–A Trio of American Tanka

You are still waiting among the lot of white parked cars, the lone sedan

In a line of trucks designed for little more than shopping

Foot on table, toes facing machine, projecting red line laser,

Taking ghost angles of forgotten pictures and past.

And I was there to see the lightning in his face and false bravado

Painted on the tight lines around his thin quiver of lips.

.

American tanka is what I call a couplet of unrhymed verse where the first line of the couplet is seventeen syllables and the second is fourteen. It is a variation on the five line tanka that is broken up into lines of five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables, seven syllables, and seven syllables respectively. I modeled the American tanka after the American sentence which consolidates the three lines of a haiku into one single sentence of seventeen syllables.

I try to write American tanka as one single sentence carried across the two lines. From time to time, I write them as standalone couplets, but I think they work best strung together into longer stanzas. Also, the length of the American tanka makes it ideal for use narrative poetry because it allows room within the long lines to develop your ideas while still offering a definite poetic structure.

A Hole in the Plaster–A pair of American Tanka

A hole in the plaster ceiling of time sliding east toward morning

Blanketing everything like heavy clouds after the rain.

A thick gray mucus on the sky coating everything it touches held

In meditation like a spasm of cough felt and then gone.

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American Tanka is a term that I made up. I follow the rules for an American Sentence, but I extend it for another fourteen syllables, and break the tanka into a couplet. The first line of the couplet is seventeen syllables long, and the second is fourteen syllables. I am sure I am not the first person to ever write tanka this way, but I have yet to see it described anywhere as a variation on the tanka. However, that may simply be a result of the tanka being overshadowed by the popularity of haiku in English poetry.

Soft April Sunrise–Tanka Haibun

Sometimes the day imposes itself breaking you out of your own concentration. At least that is what you like to tell yourself when you have a short bout of writer’s block. But what is really in the way are the clothes that need folding, and the podcast that you just don’t want to turn off. Plus, the step back to standard imagination-based poetry composition was giving some trouble because google painting and other types of collaging take a more analytical type of creativity. Adding all of these things together created the recipe for me staring out the window blankly ignoring the natural poetry in front of my eyes.

Soft April sunrise,

Grey green morning trees, and bird

Squawk in the distance

Taking in the silent clock tick

Moving forward through the year.

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Haibun is the combination of simple prose and haiku.

Tanka is a five line poem related to haiku. The lines are 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, 7syllables, 7 syllables respectively. Tanka follows many of the same rules as haiku. It is unrhymed usually, about nature, and typically has a reference to the season or time of year. The last two lines are often used to give context to the first three lines and can transition away from the theme of nature if you so choose. Because tanka is slightly longer than haiku it is allowed to use simile and metaphor which are usually frowned upon in haiku. Of course, I seldom follow any of these rules, but today I did.