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TANKA TAKE HOME - 2nd November 2022 | poet of the month - Tish Davis

hosts: Firdaus Parvez, Kala Ramesh, Priti Aisola & Suraja Menon Roychowdhury

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Tish Davis

2nd November

is “Father”

lettered on his stone?

even now

I want to believe

he went hunting

Ribbons, Winter Issue 2022.

Carnival of Animals

on an adobe wall various crosses dimly lit without Christ the color of clay

Candlelight eases the fatigue. For the past week, we’ve been crossing the border daily, leaving for Reynosa early and returning to McAllen before dark. Tonight, the head waiter escorts us. Here, uncluttered white tablecloths briefly clear the mind.

pianoforte— a patron cradling his cabernet, felt-covered hammers striking steel strings

I only notice the music when the pianist switches to movie themes. Suddenly I’m back in the company van, camera panning left, then right as we cross the Pharr Bridge. A row of shanties topples like dominos, cardboard, and wooden slats mixing dilapidated shades of brown. The light changes. The focus is now, “The Columbus Room”—contemporary art, shades of scarlet and gray. When I ask the interviewee how he handles stress, he responds with a soliloquy about fear, describing, in detail, the drug cartels. . . I pour another glass of wine.

four months of drought the white-fenced cemetery dotted with deep red a statue of Jesus arms open

By now, my colleagues are telling jokes. They don’t hear me excuse myself.

“Can you play La Paloma?” I ask the pianist. He’s a small, elderly Mexican sitting on two cushions stacked on a wooden chair.

He complies and I watch his fingers, long and curved, noticing the flourish of his hands, and how he transitions into the glissando.

“Pick another,” he says after finishing and noticing my delight. “You can pick two.”

The Swan,” I reply with enthusiasm. “The Swan, by Camille Saint-Saëns.”

He shakes his head apologetically. He hasn’t studied classical music. Maybe I can sing the tune? I lean over, closer to his ear. As we begin, the black pattern of sharps and flats pulls me back. I am thirteen again and, after studying my mother’s hands for weeks, I learn this song.

beyond short and brittle grasses gray-green foliage— a field of sugar cane rippling in the wind

Title borrowed from “The Carnival of the Animals,” by Camille Saint-Saëns.

First Published in Atlas Poetica 11, Spring 2012.


I wrote Carnival of Animals in one night while staying at a hotel on the American side of the border after my first business trip to my employer's plant in Reynosa, Mexico. This was during a time of heightened drug cartel violence. The trip was postponed once because of shots fired over the Pharr Bridge which one has to cross to reach the destination and management subsequently delayed our travel.

Here I was on high alert the whole time and my mind recorded everything.


Thank you, Tish, for taking time off to answer our questions. _()_

1. TTH: Do you come from a literary background? No, my biological father worked in a factory. On the weekends both he and his siblings helped their widowed mother maintain the family vineyard. (Our grandmother sold her grapes to Welch’s.) What writers did you enjoy reading as a child? I enjoyed the set of “Classics” my father purchased when I was in Grade 1. I remember devouring them one lonely summer before Grade 6. The collection included: Alice in Wonderland, Arabian Nights, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and several others. Did you write as a child? I wrote my first poem when I was 11 because it was assigned as homework. It was about waking up early and doing chores before school. (Our mother remarried after our father passed away. Our first stepfather moved us to a dilapidated farmhouse. I had to milk the cow before school. It was also my job to clean out the barn.)

Bio: Tish Davis lives in Northern Ohio. Her tanka and related forms have appeared in numerous online and print publications. When she isn’t busy with work and grandchildren she enjoys exploring the local parks with her husband and three dogs.

Challenge for this week: The first tanka reminded me of "The Open Window" by Saki. This is a short story that surprises readers with a brilliant twist right at the end. The narrative is set in the Scottish countryside and follows one Framton Nuttel, who has been overworked in the city. He's trying to relax in a rural environment, but he has difficulty doing so.

There are many interesting themes conjured in its three-and-a-half-page length. Among them are death, horror, politeness, and teenage rambunctiousness. The Art of Storytelling. Do you remember your grandmoms and great-aunts telling a story? The way they built their characters who began to live and grow in your mind? Timing is so important!! Give us a nice story, something your readers will remember for days and months! ***

And remember – tanka, because of those two extra lines, lends itself most beautifully when revealing a story. And tanka prose is storytelling.

Give these ideas some thought and share your tanka and tanka-prose with us here. Keep your senses open, observe things that happen around you and write. You can post tanka and tanka-prose outside this theme too.

An essay on how to write tanka: Tanka Flights PLEASE NOTE 1. Post only one poem at a time, only one per day. 2. Only 2 tanka and two tanka-prose per poet per prompt. Tanka art of course if you want to. 3. Share your best-polished pieces. 4. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while. 5. Post your final edited version on top of your original verse. 6. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems. We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished tanka and tanka-prose (within 250 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly magazine.


477 views109 comments


#2 feedback welcome

some notes

the pianist misses

remind me of Father -

in their terrace garden

how they arrange coloured pebbles


lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Nov 09, 2022



too many


never seen father

pointing out the grey sky

in my growing up


Feedback please


Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
Nov 09, 2022

Beautiful tanka and tanka-prose, Tish. I second each one's lovely comments on your work. I will have to come back to the poems several times to fully take in their content, mood and subtle craft. Thank you!

Tish Davis
Tish Davis
Nov 09, 2022
Replying to

Thank you, Priti.


#1 feedback most welcome

Mother and Father

went only for a day...

the fledglings

learn to fly

on their own

Replying to

Thank you!


Unknown member
Nov 08, 2022

Tish, I love the subtleness in the prose and tanka. It took time for me to digest a few things. Beautifully done!

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