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Spring 2005, vol 3 no 1


Tanka ~ Kevin Stein

my habit
of repeating
the last thing said
is all that keeps
this conversation going

standing in his
underwear my dad says
"what do you mean
by sophisticated"
and then he laughs

you don't want me
in the apartment
so I take back my
soup pot in the middle
of a busy sidewalk

why am I
in a place like this
I ask myself
even though when I set out
this is just what I had in mind

a few fireflies
amidst a swarm of cigarettes
glowing red in
the cool breeze from the river
that's how summer starts here

my father reads
the morning paper
hands pressed against
the table as if supporting
the weight of the world

"it's a really
interesting book,"
is all you say
so I try to read it
for the fourth time

the silence
that erupts after we realize
other than a deep
appreciation for Goddard
we have nothing in common

my mom asks
"when are you coming home?"
I don't know how
to tell her that being here
feels like being home

I look at you
take a deep breath
and realize
I want to say what
you want to hear

pretending to yawn
I raise my eyes from
this book
to look at your profile
reflected in the window

it doesn't even
hurt as much as clipping
a hangnail
finally erasing your name
from my organizer

we sit here
watching the ships
come and go
stubbornly believing that
this is the only place to be

you believe in fate
and I believe in chance
but sometimes
I find myself whispering
a word of thanks to your god

Kevin Stein lives in Japan where he teaches English at an elementary school. He started writing tanka as a way to improve his study of new Japanese vocabulary words and to practice their correct use. He and his tanka were featured in November 2004, on NHK (Japanese National Television). His tanka have also been selected for inclusion on a national radio tanka show aired in Japan. We are especially pleased to present the above expanded selection of his work, as these are his first published tanka and his first published poems.

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