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Sanford Goldstein: Tanka


trying to make room
for an inch of nature
in these five lines down--
ah, dots of winter red
along this country road

my mate
works each day to complete
our rural house--
me? I let old age
get away with it

sometimes the fear
that all my vision will fade
and arms or dogs will guide me--
each morning, though, I test my left eye
and lo! this monkey face leaps out

at forthcoming funerals,
will there be the usual post-food,
the slipshod talk of memory?
and why not--death stuns
and all the mechanics help

no bright red flowers
no brilliant blues above,
no spotlight sun--
a lonely corridor walk it was
the day I retired

reading over
the answers I spelled out
for an interview,
I wonder if this Sanford
isn't someone I made up

Sanford Goldstein has been writing tanka in English for more than forty years. During this period his co-translations of classic Japanese tanka poets include Akiko Yosano's Tangled Hair, Takuboku Ishikawa's Sad Toys, Mokichi Saito's Red Lights, Shiki Masaoka's Songs from a Bamboo Village, Yaichi Aizu's "Mountain Doves," and Ryokan's Haiku/Tanka. Goldstein's own tanka are highly autobiographical, and range from moments of intense, simple, personal joy to more anguished reflections on life's fragile comforts and elusive meanings, personal achievement, and the inevitable processes and discoveries of aging. The Tanka Society of America Newsletter begins publication of an extended, two-part interview with Goldstein by poet Patricia Prime in its June 2004 issue.

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