Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Striking Bone" Illustrates an American Renga

A renga is a five-line poem--haiku of 3 lines + 2 line couplet. Japanese has a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count for the five lines. American English varies this with some liberties, as shown below. The poem then is passed to the next person (sake is included in the traditional Japanese setting but not here), who composes a poem that responds to previous verse (word, sound, image, or idea). And then the poem is passed to the next writer, to build a  conversation. In this renga, seven poets participate: Denise Low, Ken Eberhart, Barbara Montes, GeneAnn Newcomer, Diane Willie, Erika Zeitz, and Alan Proctor. Feel free to send me more verses and join in:

Lost? Yes, again the stars fall
on 13th Street where a house, now demolished,
was my home. I was young.

Funeral dirges sound from the new building
and hearses ferry the dead to and from. I was young

and swung on the backyard tire swing
one late October afternoon under red leaves
drifting like red stars to my feet.
I was young and then I was gone like the house.
An old woman remains in my place.
     Denise Low
When I remember you,
my thoughts do not bring
you back from the dead; no
amount of nostalgia could
reanimate your body.

You were a just a thought
once: mother’s eyelashes,
father’s cigarette smoke.
Memory cannot make you
again, like their lust once did.
     Ken Eberhart
But 89 years
should have been enough
to leave a trail, an imprint
stronger than birds' feet on sand,
or mice darting from baseboards.

     Barbara Montes
Still this does not mean
I will stop looking for you,
You are in my sheets
I pull back at night,

my dreams, even before I fall asleep.
At my breakfast table you are
the drink that touches my lips.
As I leave home each day,
the breath I can't quite catch.
     GeneAnn Newcomer
Yet, only the aura of its frame
Pulses and gives life with a heartbeat
Breathe, Breathe, Breathe, I say.
Don’t live among the memories
Death is no place to be, I say.
     Diane Willie
As old as the stars,
My eyes wash the empty space,
Tears for memory.
What was lost, I fight to find again,
Slow, slow my breath and sight.
Wherever I sit, back and forth,
I swing.
     Erika Zeitz
You are there in the heart's
echo, the blood's ping striking bone,
memory's temple where the magpie
settles on my shoulder
after a long flight from home.
     Alan Proctor

© 2013 Denise Low. Reprint permission may be granted for non-commercial uses. Please contact Mammoth Publications for further information--mammothpubs [at]