my blouse strings caught
in the dishwasher door
by this reminder that
I am not a dish
—Autumn Noelle Hall, All the Shells, 2014 Tanka Society of America Members’ Anthology
I love the wordplay in Autumn’s poem. The first two lines give us a common literal picture. The word “undone” at first applies to the blouse strings but switches to the person feeling undone, adding emotion to the everyday experience. The last line is also both literal and metaphorical. The woman in the poem is not a dish to place in the dishwasher, but may also no longer be a “dish,” in the slang meaning of being an attractive young woman. Thus, intertwined with the humour of wordplay, we also feel tinges of sadness for getting older. The freewheeling fun of flirting and dating that this “dish” may have had in her younger days has been replaced by the mature routine of domestic chores. Yet the wordplay keeps this realization from being too sad, creating, instead, a contented sense of acceptance. This is an alluring dish of a poem.
Poem originally published in All the Shells: Tanka Society of America Members’ Anthology 2014, M. Kei, ed., Perryville, Maryland: Tanka Society of America, 2014, page 33.