Tanka from Footsteps in the Fog

The following are my twenty-one tanka from Footsteps in the Fog (Foster City, California, Press Here, 1994), a book I edited and published that Sanford Goldstein, in his review for Albatross IV:1,2, Autumn–Winter 1995 (page 233), referred to as “bringing together that contrapuntal diversity of the unexpected.” See also the Press Here page for this book. You can also read my introduction from the book.

the rose you gave me

has dropped all its petals

to the windowsill—

overnight, I did not hear the rain

as each petal fell

all my books collect dust

except the one of love poems

you gave me that day

when the spring rains

kept us indoors

still fluttering

in the mountain wind,

a thousand paper cranes

hung on the pine

by your window

waking from my dream of you

to gaze out through the window—

I cannot tell, this morning

if the distant peaks are whitened

by clouds or by snow

beneath the lilacs

the April wind

ripples the pond—

in every petal

the curve of your cheek

when I touch this leaf

curled, once red, now brittle

I wonder where you are

and if you, too

have seasons

tonight I had hoped

you would sleep with me

and inhale

the freshly laundered starchiness

of my sheets

a leafy willow

brushes our window—

after undressing me

she soaks her hands

in hot water

morning sun

warming our sheets . . .

for a moment

as you slide your body down,

your nipple in my navel

a snail has left

its delicate silver trail

on my book of love poems

left out on your porch


perhaps I dream

to much of you—

but, for all the world

that summer cloud

is the shape of your face

so far the distance

between us,

yet how easily

the mourning doves

fly above this prairie

this cold lonely night

without you, with no chance

of seeing you again,

how I wish

I could turn off the moon

so much still to say

as I hang up the phone . . .

all I can do is listen

to the pigeon’s coo

outside my window

so lonely

again this night . . .

the moonlight

spills over the levee

toward your street

compared to broad night

the darkness of your love withheld

is a deeper darkness, still

I long for you

for the cold frost of dawn

on this hillside once

were wildflowers—

their blooms are now gone

hidden with our footprints

by layers and layers of snow

so far apart

yet tonight

as we sleep

we meet again

in our dream

for now the roses bloom,

but tomorrow

when their fragrance has gone,

will you still remember me

and my poem?

like a songbird released

from the bounds of a cage

I dance in the light

released from old love

and yet . . . and yet . . .

at last we depart

after lingering

in embrace—

the echo of your footsteps

in the fog