Silly String and Two Seasonal Tanka

Image by Doug Jackson
Image by Doug Jackson

By Doug Jackson

“July,” writes John Steinbeck in The Winter of our Discontent, “is brass where June is gold, and lead where June is silver. July leaves are heavy and fat and crowding. Birdsong of July is a flatulent refrain without passion.”  Cheerful stuff, of course, but something to it. So I have written a brace of July tankas (tanki?). One looks back to the Battle of Gettysburg, lost the day before our country’s birthday and the day after my older son’s. The other is one of many poems I have written about the little smudge of city park around the corner from my house in our sketchy neighborhood. The tanka seemed like the right form, because I do not quite understand my feelings about either, and must limn them in spare words because the heavy tread of sonnet or villanelle would crush them. Gulf War veterans tell me they used to spray Silly String into each room when clearing a house because the laughter-light filament would drape delicate tripwires of IED’s that their own weight would detonate. That’s what I’m doing here – spraying a little Silly String in hopes of finding my feelings before I set ’em off.



We lost; should have lost.
The Cause morally leprous.
But brave men fought well.
Hope gone. Food gone. Shoes gone, fought.
Killed, yes, but not defeated.



Green patch of shrunk cloth
Stitches up seams of mean streets
Holds gapped houses tight
Manicured herbage would tear
In pious disgust away.


Doug Jackson is a preacher/professor/poet who after a quarter-century in the pastorate now teaches spiritual formation, pastoral ministry, and Greek for the Logsdon Seminary program at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi. His collection of poetry, Nothing There is Not More, is available from Finishing Line Press.


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