A Cup of Snow

by Hortensia Anderson, John Carley (sabaki), Carole MacRury,
Alan Summers, and Michael Dylan Welch


A renku in the rokku form, the second known to be written in English. It was composed by email from 
January to May of 2008. First published in Frogpond 36:2, Spring/Summer 2013, pages 67–70. For more information about the rokku form, please see John Carley’s Renku Reckoner website.

laughing with delight
a cup of snow
a moon-eyed girl                                                               John

half gone, the last jar
of ginger jam                                                                     Carole

roadside shop
the chain-saw artist
asks me my sign                                                               Michael

a faint glow in the sky
before sunset                                                                    Alan

first chill night
the smell of cedar
in the quilts                                                                       Hortensia

tic by toc
the leaves begin to fall                                                   John

    *  *  *

dab, dab, dabbing
at her cards the old lady
yells ‘bingo!’                                                                      Carole

a mosquito bite
on the toddler’s cheek                                                   Michael

their second date
she drinks him
under the table                                                                 Alan

we roll with the waves
of the water bed                                                               Hortensia

and bathe eche veyne
in swich licour
of which engendered . . .                                              John

the scent of wild rose
in the birthing suite                                                          Carole

    *  *  *

deepening depression
the telephone
stops ringing                                                                      Michael

a late-night diner
the hum of the fridge                                                     Alan

constant as the
poverty of poets
autumn moon                                                                    John

three generations
peddling fallen walnuts                                                  Carole

leftover candy
the pumpkin’s toothy grin
starts to sag                                                                       Michael

candle wax obscuring
the way of light                                                                  Hortensia

    *  *  *

tamarisk honey
the el-tarfah of dry tears                                               Alan

with each breath
the desert’s fire and dust                                              Carole

searching for an airplane
without wings                                                                    John

                      affair the after
way wrong the home coming                                      Michael

each snowflake different
his wife’s kiss                                                                     Hortensia

the lack of a sharp knife
and a whetstone                                                               Alan

    *  *  *

abattoir—
the apathetic gaze
of man and beast                                                             Carole

from rock to rock
the grizzly’s nose                                                              Michael

the sniper scope
adjusted
on the Canon Sure Shot                                                 Alan

fighting through the shed
to reach the mower                                                         John

we fill our pails
with plum blossoms
and then?                                                                             Hortensia

the spring dawn
spills down the mountain                                              Carole
 

Notes

el-tarfah
The manna of the Sinaitic peninsula is an exudation from the “manna-tamarisk” tree (Tamarix mannifera),
the el-tarfah of the Arabs. At night it is fluid and resembles dew, but in the morning it begins to harden.
The Arabs use it like honey or butter with their unleavened bread.

 

and bathe eche veyne / in swich licour / of which engendered
This verse is in Middle English. It is taken from the second couplet of the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, generally dated between 1340 and 1370. As with all texts of this antiquity, there are many variants. A recent, reversified translation by A. S. Kline gives the full couplet as:

 

And bathed each vein with liquor of such power

That engendered from it is the flower

 

Afterword

“A Cup of Snow,” written by email in the first months of 2008, is one of the earliest examples of the rokku form in English. The rokku is a mold-breaking type of renku sequence originated in the early years of this century by the Japanese poet and critic Haku Asanuma. The form is modular rather than having a set length, permitting as many verse movements as the participants wish to complete, up to six. Season and seasonality are important, but not in a structural manner; the same is true for moon and blossom verses. A high rate of change is guaranteed as nothing may endure for more than two verses. Also, the penultimate movement of any rokku is inclined towards experimentation. I served as sabaki, but the renku effectively wrote itself, the very different personal styles of the participants being vital to the effort to break new ground. Sadly, one of us is no longer present, though her writing, as ever, stands out from the page. So we dedicate this renku to Hortensia Anderson, who passed away in May of 2012. For further information on rokku in English, please see http://www.darlingtonrichards.com/index.php/rr00/rr-rokku/. —John Carley