koi sidebar

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 12, Number 1, March 2018

Charles D. Tarlton
Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

Viola Marie (1914-1994)

Trying to make up a story to go with this old photo, I went back and forth between what it made me think of in general—that it was a smiling young woman posed in a Persian alcove, showing a bit of ankle—but then, more specifically, that it was a photo of my mother. I don't remember her like this, of course; my childhood memories of her are sketchy, and she really doesn't come into complete focus until I was in high school and she and my father had settled into the numb and frustrating routines of approaching middle age.

she died at eighty
the age that I am now
overtaking her
we become ageless we two
the old man with a boy's thoughts

time was the teacher
taught her delicacy gets squashed
by vulgarity
by constant wear and banging
by insensitivity

you can't throw little
birds into a brawl of dogs
snarling and biting
who will sing the sweet songs then
who kiss the gentle lips?

I don’t think the longing in that little smile was ever satisfied, much as she tried and dreamed. She was alone in that place, in what she craved, in the simple things. She dreamed of an old-world delicacy, of politesse, but rigid opinions, rough language, and prejudice make a corrosive strong enough to melt the strongest feelings down, peel away the thinnest skin.

camera shutters snap
the session's over. She comes down
off her perch, a bird
condemned to fly to the edge
of the cage, against the bars

her beauty squandered
even the wildest eagle
falls in the forest
unheard, becomes carrion
the end of its trajectory

from this moment's hope
an empty but infinite
released untried unbroken
like the flutter of dove wings



| contents page | next tanka prose |

koi sidebar r