A Floating World…poetic history of tanka

genie Nakano

Photo by Genie Nakano, Kyoto Japan, 2018

Before Japan

could read or write,

 tanka was called waka

performed as short songs in five lines

short  long  short   long   long

Heian imperial court

was well versed in  waka

after a love affair

erotic exchanges of waka

was expected proper etiquette


photo: Genie, Kyoto, 2018

were the best of tanka’s golden era

yearning, soaring

tales of love, nature, war

passion prevailed

750 AD the emperor decreed

waka to be recorded for history

4,000 love poems

brushed into exquisite scrolls

Manyoshu completed in 900

five lines, waka

burning, tales of love

nature, war, erotica

themes of long ago Japan

treasured in Manyoshu

waka flourished

for hundred of years

then suddenly jaded

grew out of touch

unconnected to society

pre-world war 1

the poetry bureau censored

and controlled tanka

Asaka-Sha, brotherhood

led by Tekkan Yosan, renamed it tanka


into a powerful form

tanka became

a relevant force

themes encompassing life

a shining star

Tekkan’s student and to be wife

Akiko Yosano, 1878-1942

sensuous, bold, controversial

her tanka rocked

softly I push open

that door

we call a mystery

these full breasts

held both in my hands  (Akiko Yosano)

twists and turns

and through the labyrinth

radical tanka was born

freeverse, avant garde, modern

published in journals, books, newspapers

Meiji Emperor

the saint of tanka poet

wrote, collected 10,00 tanka

promoted and celebrated

tanka with the world

coming to America

tanka was written and published

In Japanese American

journals and newspapers

currently, I write tanka for Rafu Shimpo

tanka flourished

in WW2 American concentration camps

Isseis and Niseis

wrote tanka to record and heal

their anguish love and despair

in 1957, Lucille Nixon

introduced tanka to white America

honored in Japan

at the Palace Poetry Party

for her tanka poem


tanka is international

from Japan

to the USA, Australia Bhutan India

tanka flourishes around the world

Genie nakano,

Performed at Torrance Library, 2020

Meditation#7 Humbling Down

Photo: Genie Nakano, 5/6/20
I watched an ant
the mountains bottom
it started to run
half its legs on the ground
in an alternating tripod gait
with quantum steps
my eyes followed
mind took me to the summit
there I wanted to be
but wind
blew me away
down the other side

breathing in      breathing out
I follow my breath
on a lavender path
where I can see
below above and around

breathing in     breathing out
ants are tickling my feet
carrying morsels
flowers and thyme
I can hear their feet
as I hear them say
"we bring food to the colony
an afterthought party will follow"
am I invited
"yes, if you help out"
so, I follow them
back to the bottom
the sugar is in my pocket

I've humbled down
knowing the other side
breathing in     breathing out
breathing in     breathing out
Genie Nakano

Ride (Revised)

This is a one act scene written for a Zoom acting class I am taking on line. This is new for me. However, since I'm at home quarantined -- why not try something different. 
The characters are an elderly couple quarantined during the pandemic. I am revising as I go along and this is my 1st revision. I added more dialog. If anyone read the first attempt, please tell me what you think. Please feel free to give suggestions.

 Revised—Ride. May 4th, 2020)
Ride---by: Genie Nakano, (520 words, April 29, 2020) 

Husband:  I’m going to take Toru for a ride in the “41, Chevy. I’ll be back  in an hour.
Wife: What you’re going to sit in a car with him?
Husband: He likes vintage cars and I wanted to show him the ‘41.
Wife:  But you don’t know him very well.
Husband:  What, he’s a nice guy and he’s married to Mariko the secretary at the temple. He’s neat, tidy and safe.
Wife:  But he’s young. He may be a carrier.
Husband:  He’s 47!!
Wife: That’s young for us--our daughters age. You’re crazy!  Putting yourself at risk. You only have one lung.
Husband: You always exaggerate. I hate that about you. You should have been an actress. I have two lungs and one is compensated by the car accident.  And what about you-- you talk to Rosie every day.
Wife:  Yes, but we’re outside and walking at least 10 feet away from each other. We're not in a fucking car breathing in the same cramped-up air.  Derek, our doctor son, told you if you get on a ventilator you are dead. I’m going to call Derek.
Husband:  No, no you don’t. He’s on the front lines right now, no sleep, exhausted--he doesn’t need any more stress.
Wife: Can’t you just follow the rules for once. Why be so reckless and selfish.
Husband: You’re the one who’s being selfish. Do you have to tell the whole Japanese community our business?
Wife:  Everyone is trying to help you out. My brother is working overtime just to keep us safe. And for what? He doesn’t even get to sleep with his wife because he wants to protect her because HE cares about her.
Husband: Oh no, here we go again. I care about you—I care about you!  Christ what do you think I’m stupid. I always wear a mask, wash my hands and…
Wife: You might as well go back to work!! You just think this is a vacation.  WE ARE QUARANTINED!!
Husband:  I don’t want to hear this! I’m getting out of here.
Wife:  Well, then go, go. I hope you die. And I hope I live. And I hope I find a younger man who doesn’t think cooking and gardening is for sissies, a man who likes to go grocery shopping with his wife and likes to smell roses. A man who can meditate  and stay home for a day or two. What’s the matter are you afraid of yourself?
Husband: I’m leaving.   And I’m not going to die.
(He slams the door. Gets into his vintage car starts it up--it rattles profusely.)
Wife: (talking to herself in the house) I hate you. I hate you and when this pandemic is over, I’m leaving you.
Wife’s emotions range from anger, frustration, fear, sorrow, anger,*!??!!
Silence…10-15 minute passes…then…Husband returns.
Husband:  Come on let’s go for a ride.
Wife:( her back faces husband). No, I’m not going to ride with Toru and you.
Husband: (puts his hands on her shoulders)
No, just you and me.

Black out.



Quarantine Daydreams

Photo: Genie Nakano, Greece 2015

in the afternoon
no cars on the road
the birds are belting out songs
did they always sing so loud?
even New Delhi's skies
have a clear blue look
this is what happens
in quarantine...

an afternoon fantasy
starts to bubble
where we go back in time
five years is enough
then we all know what we should do
prepare the earth, clean it out
vote Bernie and Liz
so, the congress can progress
and banks give out
a thousand dollars a month
to everyone

then people willingly
give up their guns
all cows become sacred
pigs forbidden to eat
everyone grows
a victory garden
styles start to change
to comfortable 
barefoot and natural
colors tie dyed start to pop

from our gardens
we catch the fruit as it falls
sweet and ready to eat
squeeze the juice
plant new seeds
unroll the day
and harvest the sun

genie nakano, 
          April 27, 2020

further farther beyond

Photo of Elizabeth my niece: by Genie Nakano, 1/3/20
Further, Farther and Beyond            

bright eyes
lashes fluttering into mine
time to play
she says-- wake up
no, you cannot sleep
on puffy pillows
 we pretend to eat a feast
savory  and sweet
calorie free for me
eat it all and then
plastic fruit
knives, forks and spoons
dish up
colorful make believes
everything smells tasty
we’re on
and over everything
make it up
as we go along
I’m 72 she’s four
no matter
I can’t climb a tree nor run
together we go
further farther
and beyond
Genie Nakano, January 3, 2019

Soshite (Complete)

I am writing because the blog lost the last five stanzas--sorry...

Cold outside
fingers cramp and freeze
my age
is showing 
like a fallen slip

slap on the blush
gloss the lips
piggy bank more time
I'm not ready for elderhood

my heart 
is still a child
my body
is merely

I will wear a hoodie of youth
red riding hood

keep me young
my mind
is always changing
indecision keeps 
me growing

I like it that way
which way do I turn
I'm not sure

let's keep going 
straight ahead
follow the coyotes walking 
in the middle of our streets

now we've banked time
yellow lights turn to green
uncross your fingers
uncross your legs
the clock is ticking to our pulse

the stale air out
backbend and open your heart

forward bend
go out of your head

on your feet
open the window shades
look   see   listen
next moment
tell me more
Photo: Genie Nakano
a Mural in El Segundo, artist ?
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