Trying triple tanka


[Photo by Erica Marsland Huynh on Unsplash]

These three poems tell a similar story conveyed in different poetic forms. These are #1 traditional tanka 5-7-5-7-7,#2 minimalist tanka which has two requirements, brevity and 5 lines, and finally #3 a poem with 4 line stanzas making it a quatrain with line 2 and 4 rhyming.

Do you like any of them? If so, which one is best? Is that also the one that best tells the feelings of the person who found these objects, brought them home, and is now enjoying them in a home surrounding?

The author had the feeling that the easiest way to start the process of creating this poem was to use traditional tanka. Would you have taken this approach,or would another suit you better? If you don’t like the process at all, that’s OK.

One of our editors commented that she believed the three poems on the same subject were better together than any single poem alone. Each added additional insight.


#1  The Curio Cabinet
Traditional Tanka
(according to count 5-7-5-7-7)

mute objects speaking
of people, distant places
suspending time by
recording a life once lived.
sharing memories to hold

new, they charmed our eye.
finding, bargaining, weighing.
pack to carry home.
cheap, heavy, and breakable
remained the criteria.

once home how to show?
hanging on the wall is best.
artist’s genius shines
adding light to the living
shaping a life that honors

the heaviest rest
defining their own spaces.
Indian maiden,
proud kingfisher, buffalo
sake jug, carved shackled hands.

these objects have voice
speaking volumes without words.
recreating life.
showing us what we have seen
who will use them after me?

maybe no one will
the living seek life ahead.
not in what has been
the fleeting now is going
time moves on for all

Gene Helveston


#2  “Curios at Home”
Minimalist Tanka
(only limit 5 lines brief with sparse punctuation and one capital)

mute objects speak
to us from distant places
we capture them by
trading places
making them our own

at first admired
we looked and bargained and weighed.
then packed to carry home.
those cheap and heavy breakables,
fitting our criteria.

at home the thrill endures
hanging on the wall seen best.
artist’s genius on display
now home it passed the test
bringing pleasure each day

the heaviest rest
defining their own spaces.
Indian maiden,
proud kingfisher, buffalo still yielding places
for sake’ jug, carved shackled hands.

Their words
speak volumes without saying.
recreating a life we glimpsed
now with us all our days
but who will use them after us?

maybe no one cares
the living seek a life ahead.
not what has gone before
all now’s are numbered
time moves on

Gene Helveston


#3  Curios at home
(in a quatrain with the 2nd and 4th lines rhyming)

Mute objects tell a tale
of things from distant places.
Quietly suspending time
by sharing welcome faces.

First seen they stirred a wish.
We bargain and decide.
Packed carefully to journey home,
in cases they reside.

At home the prize possessed
resting on the wall seen best.
Artists genius on display
its beauty now at rest.

The mightiest with pride displayed.
defining their own space.
Indian maiden shackled hand
secure in this new place.

They speak in moods
but never utter sound.
Reminding us of what we saw
resplendent they surround.

Perhaps no one will care.
The living look ahead
Ignoring what they can’t enjoy.
That is for the dead.

Gene Helveston


From the Editors

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