The Anti-Somonka

A somonka is a Japanese poetic form that consists of two tankas, ostensibly by two separate authors, written as love letters. Given that my romantic life has been somewhat tumultuous, and  that none of the guys (or girls) I have dated had an appreciation for poetry, I decided that I would take this form and give it a kick in the cunt.

The anti-somonka is an American poetic form that I invented about ten minutes ago. It consists of two tankas, written from the perspective of different speakers. The first tanka is an expression of agonized, embittered, perhaps delusional, but undeniably unrequited love. The second tanka is a callous rejection of the initial speaker by his or her beloved. Here is my attempt:



This November son
Smiles coldly down upon me,
Nigh unreachable –
A flame-bright Beatrice
To my poet in extremis.

Your gilt-lettered words
Anoint my head, drowning me
In symbolism
Rife with complexity dense
Enough to smother the heart.


Note that I used the Italian pronunciation of “Beatrice” in order to make the syllable count. I am a filthy cheater.

This innovative new form could be employed as a creative, albeit profoundly dickish, sort of “Dear John”. Lull your significant other into a false sense of security by playfully suggesting you write a somonka together. Allow them to write the first tanka, and then use your response to dash all of their hopes and dreams – and, please, put the resulting masterpiece in the comments. 


Father’s Day Was Founded in Spokane. What Cruel Irony.

As I write this, I’m staring at Dad’s jacket. Crafted from heavy, black-and-white flannel, its tartan pattern braided through with tawny stripes, it seems to burst from the stark, white plaster of its backdrop, taking on a larger-than-life quality characteristic of the man who once wore it. Below, a box of possessions Dad once owned rests, coffin-closed, upon a bier of packing crates. Binoculars, a cribbage board, sweat pants, t-shirts, photographs. The false teeth he never deigned to wear. Reading glasses. His retirement plaque.

The coat still smells like him. Senescence and motor oil. Eau de Dad.

The first few weeks after he died, I couldn’t sleep without that jacket. I sprawled upstairs on the old, threadbare couch – a chocolate-clad, secondhand disaster – that rested perpendicular to the chair in which my dad spent the last year of his life. It was oversized, and olive-green, its arms stained russet with dried blood, though it was dangerously close to the newest and most luxurious item that we owned. That chair was his throne and, in many ways, his deathbed. I couldn’t bear to sit upon it.

I dozed beside it, however, with his coat wrapped around me like an embrace. I never fully slept. Every night, for weeks, my mind wandered uneasily through the alleyways of a peculiar municipality that was halfway between Earth and Nod. That limbo of consciousness was the only place I could feel him watching me. It was the only place I could hear his voice. I was convinced that if I truly slept, I would never hear him again. 

When the start of winter quarter rolled around, I had only been back at home for four days. From the day of my dad’s death (Christmas; his timing was always impeccable) to the day before New Year’s Eve, I had lolled on my mother’s sofa and proceeded to drink myself into oblivion. I have always been more of a binge-drinker; I have never been a dawn-to-darkness alcoholic. The week after Dad died nearly changed that. Drinking stopped the crying. My eyes hurt so terribly from crying! Captain Morgan, Gentleman Jack, and Jim Beam dried my tears, while my more corporeal friends offered condolences that were tersely rebuffed with the suggestion that they go and spend their holidays with their own families. Dismal as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to ruin Christmas for their womb parasites. “Children,” I told them – my voice slurred, my tone mordant – “should be with their parents today.”

The morning of January the second, 2013, marked a week since my dad’s death. It was also the first day in seven where I had not started the morning with a Bloody Mary. Whether it was the fact that being back home had effectively ended my ready access to liquor, or the fact that some deeply-buried part of me actually gave a damn about making a good impression on the first day of class, I don’t know. I do know that I have never felt as alone as I did upon dismissing my alarm. 

Mornings had always been my time with Dad. My routine consisted of taking a shower, making myself a cup of coffee, and conversing with him, all to the soundtrack of the morning news. We would discuss oddball headlines, or politics, or my plans for the day. Sometimes, he would press money on me to ensure I could catch the bus home, or to have something to eat for lunch. That was one thing about Dad. He never let his kids go wanting.

These were the happiest moments of my day – the happiest moments of my life, in many respects, if only because the twelve years since his first diagnosis held little other happiness for comparison. Our mornings began too early for either of us to be encumbered by the stress of our respective circumstances. He was not yet in pain, most of the time, nor was he bleeding buckets from some minor cut that, in a healthy man, would have clotted in seconds. I had not yet been forced to converse with a surly medical receptionist, or to shoulder the disdain of an instructor whose well-earned tenure led him to dismiss my plight as dutiful daughter and caregiver as yet another stream of bullshit contrived by an unscrupulous student in order to earn an extension. Daybreak was soothing and uncomplicated – much like my dad himself, before illness and apathy overwhelmed him. Those sunrise vignettes were my adult equivalent to piggyback rides and pecks on the cheek.

I remember the first time I returned to the house after it was put up for sale. I lived there for two months after he died, skittish, like a rat in a tomb, as I packed up our things and ferreted away those possessions of his with which I couldn’t bear to part. When the truck was finally loaded, late in the month of February, I didn’t look back. I couldn’t. Not right away. Not if I wanted to survive the night.

The melancholy of homesickness engulfed me a few months later, and after a few beers at a bar in the old neighborhood, I had a friend drive down my old street. Though I knew it would be the death of me, I had to take one last look at the place. I had never imagined that there would be a day where I wouldn’t be at liberty to return – that such a sanctuary was now lost to me and my siblings seemed like the greatest crime in the world . If I had my way – if I had been a rich woman – I would have kept it forever, if only to stand as a shrine to the greatest man I ever knew. I cursed my poverty, and the callous medical racket, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that we had accrued. It seemed like such a vast amount to save a human life, and yet, it was so much less than I felt his life was worth. I let the tears fall unfettered as I stepped out of the car, but I swallowed back the bile that had flooded my throat as I glimpsed the “For Sale” sign, ghostly in the moonlight where it had been driven into the grass.

The realtor had taken liberties with the renovations. A serge-and-snow paint job replaced the familiar, sable-trimmed grey, and the aubergine door, crowned with a cheerful, rounded window, could not have been more different than the weathered door, all storm and cinders, that had served as our portal to the world.

As I sat on the sidewalk across the street, chain-smoking beneath the stars, I mused bitterly about the incongruity of dressing up a crypt – because that is what it truly was, now; the whole of our lives were laid to rest inside. My childhood died there when I lost my grandmother and realized, for the first time, that my parents had made a habit of dishonesty. For two weeks, they told me Grandma was fine. For two weeks, they lied through their teeth. My family died there when my mother, unable to bear the burden of three pubescent children and a moribund husband, walked out the door and left all of her things behind, shedding her skin like a serpent and leaving me to clean up the mess. My dad died there, in spirit, if not in person, the day his doctor delivered the first of many grim diagnoses, and every day thereafter, when he woke up without our mother by his side. My confidence died there when I received the phone call at 1:30 in the morning on Christmas Eve: minor strokes. Neurology ward. Everything’s fine. Go to sleep.

The world ended there, when the phone rang a second time: 7:30 AM. Heart attack. Intensive care. Life support. Come now.

As we pulled away from the curb, we left the house behind in the sepulchral silence of twilight.

The Marble Man

A poem wrote over the summer of 2008, about the same gentleman who inspired “Kalopsia”. Note the difference in tone:

One algid day embraced within the arms of purification,
Held tight against incessant blows of winter’s flagellations,
I roused myself from uneased dreams and found myself imprisoned,
But the crowning of the nascent dawn brought with its light a vision.

A man sat there before me, his visage hewn of stone,
And beckoned me to sit before his gem-encrusted throne.
His marmoreal face ingrained– ’twas beautiful in spite
Of the sightless eyes and turgid form that would strike most with fright.

He took me in his frigid arms and in my ear he whispered
Words no mouth of stone could form; they’d lain so long sequestered
And now like water did they flow from in his marble maw,
Their tenderness of such surprise to leave me still in awe.

Once the flow of poetry had staunched from ‘twixt his lips,
And the hope inspired by his words had all my fear eclipsed,
Tears stung my eyes, and from my cheeks I let the crystals fall
In unison with laboured words; he would have me tell all.

When my pained soliloquy drew to a morbid close,
I waited for his anodyne response to bring repose.
But silent did the man remain, his face ever so still.
The panacea ne’er came forth to cure me of my ills.


This is the first poem I wrote for a certain gentleman in the early winter of 2008.

Diamonds on the ground
Swirling at their leisure
In the ice-encrusted wasteland
Marking winter’s latest mournings
Each glisten like a tear
From the eyes of daylight dying
Down the pallid, frozen cheeks
Of a moribund remembrance.

The airy, lucid facets
Of these algid shards of Heaven
Reflect our moments spent
In escape from life’s pretenses;
Where in your arms,
The fecund piles of wasted time birth flowers
In this hothouse of embraces
Where the wind and cold abate.

And every passing second
Where the world races by us,
Spawning ants to march in silence
From the prisons of their nests,
Glimmers there untainted
‘Mongst the gossamer mosaic
Of the fantasies you placed within my head.