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

* * *


the apathetic gaze

of man and beast Carole

from rock to rock

the grizzly’s nose Michael

the sniper scope


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



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


“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