Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier

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First Tankas

2016 Feb HB Tanka

With Hiroko Falkenstein (my tanka teacher)


Is it music or

math—I am counting on my

fingers like a child

My thought runs away it runs

free from the too strict counting.


Tanka is tango

lulls me into a rhythm

tap tap side side step

paper and pen sashaying

to the music of my thought.


It’ll be natural

to breathe in 5 7 5

7 7 stop

Morse-like, smoke signals, heart beats

silent then sound then sound then…


It prevents you to

think too rashly, force you to


think! Absorb! Soak in, drink deep!

become a tanka itself.



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Unfinished Poem

All my life I straddle

Between light and shadow

Right and wrong

Vietnamese French

Gujarati English

Yin yang, boy girl

Mom dad

I straddle East-West

Tea coffee

Rice roti

Christianity Buddhism

Teeter tote Catholicism Islam

Saddle love on pointed hatred

Spanning the valley of indifference

Between you me

What could be that were left in the void

Between here and there

tall nose as forbidden as the summit of Himalaya

Skin too white or dark

Food too bland or too spicy

But come to think of it

Your chanting prayers heals deeply

And my singing halleluia gives wings to hope and forever love

You kneel with your forehead on the ground

And I with my upturned grace

That moment we are two spirits united with the Supreme

I am between logic and madness

Formulaic and spontaneously chaotic

I calculate my number of words

Aiming for the cold effectiveness of sentences

to the point

I die every day as I’m living

As I breathe air steadily polluted

My lungs declining with age

I kill in cold blood as I dismiss the Other

Unaware of their need for space, food, love, human connection

I lie as I’m telling the truth

So dark it’s unbelievable

As when I told her

Mom, let go, and die in peace.

I do not know how to draw

But with the alphabets I sketch

I release my balloons of thoughts in clusters

And hope that they carry a message to the wilderness above

I guide them, my children, like kites

sometimes they float so high and travel places

And dance and dip and flutter in the wind above people watching

But sometimes they got caught in tree branches

 dive straight down like a bird shot dead


State of Suspension

Letter D


Know that I’m supposed to be cleaning

There are ants in the kitchen

Lines of tiny, moving black dots

Moving around my counter top

Under the baseboard

Inside the sink

But I’d rather write

And feel my fingers moving across the keyboard

let lines of black words forming

Across the white screen

Know that I’m supposed to continue that chapter eight of my novel

And move the plot along

Build some tension and climb toward a climax

But I’m stuck in the act

And want to escape into poetry

Know that I want to achieve so many things

That my little business of maintaining life is an impediment

I’d rather muse on what to do

To control—or permit my protagonist to go where she’s heading

What she wants out of life

how she can move from here to there

Without leaping off the pages

and leave the readers aghast and confounding

At her disappearing act.

Is it a plot twist?

A gaff?

The author’s craft not fully developed?

Or is it simply the process of life?

As disorganized and compulsive as the heart and mind a living person allows

Free to wipe her sweaty brow

And execute a closing bow

The curtain falls

The end.

Time to clean up!


Growing Apart

Because we crossed each other’s path,

We find ourselves in the tight knot

Of the marriage institution.

Have we ever been in fusion?

We share our meals, our car and home,

Memories of children now grown,

And go about our daily tasks,

Keeping grudges behind our masks.

Under the guise of love and care

Our true feelings we do not share,

And what is worse, oh! What a hoax!

We carry on our civil talks,

Sealing the night off with a kiss,

Playing at a semblance of bliss.

We live like a towering lie.

Who can tell, except you and I?

Published in September 2007 on my blog at


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Political Poem

2014 feb 012To have a clear idea of who I am
And not be beaten into submission
Different, multidimensional, fluid and firm at the same time
to stand tall
to look squarely into the face of so-called authority
of whatever…
Religion, institution, clan, group, organization
And beg your pardon, but I’m not quite part of the agreement,
Despite what I’ll get as offer
The inclusion, approval, amicability, even love.

I’ll come and eat your body and drink your blood
If you will embrace me as I am
Belligerent, strong willed, proud, combative
It is my life you are talking about
the only time I get to experience
to touch the untouchable and taste the unholy
And if it is sinful to love too many and too much
To accept love as is
Nonconvertible, unacceptable
I sin. And not be sorry for being human
for letting my heart of flesh beat,
A second lost each beat
an eternity forsaken
for this, only this moment.

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It draws my eyes
A banner of haze
Drifting across the bright morning sky still dew damp
warming up to the touch of day

It hangs across the valley sleeping below emptied of cows
Small strip of asphalt threads through a hollowed land still wild dotted
where old rigs still pump
like giant storks dipping their long beaks and lifting,
a laconic figure sipping diffused earth
Minding no time

My car tires grind a graveled bend and there, my drape of smoky sky again
fluffed off, hung to dry like a piece of bed sheet mid-air
Who has slept in it last night and was there love?
Was there passion?

Someone in the crook of someone’s arm, nestled in downy warmth
Brown body shone against pearly white
sheet wrinkled atop a groaning bed of pleasure
a splash of milk billowy white

The road turns and magically leaves
all the noise and traffic
The trail of smoke was like a reminder hanging
above a big rig truck with white cab and no driver inside
back a few hundred years when galloping Indians
sped free
down to this sleepy hollow flooded in grassy waves and sages
without me

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Now is that time when your eyes droop
and a nap is the sweetest thing in the world
soft like a down blanket
dim, the dimness of twilight heavy with rains
pittily pat, pittily pat
voluptuous as a woman heavy with child
breasts engorged
blue veins zigzagged
nipples as large as two plump grapes
as black, as ripe
ready to be picked and pressed
juice and skin blending
til the heat rises
the heat rises and bubbles

Image (4)

Now is that time your stomach churns and gurgles
your newspapers pile high
Eating, you scan through them
browse the pages
until, like fish, your eyes caught interesting lines
swim closer, circling, your mind slows
digging in
the story
of someone’s life.

You look up
Breakfast is lunch
the pile of papers
still high.

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Facing the Page

Image (2)

You can never tell what may spill out

on a page

Sometimes it’s your guts

your heart

Anger, longing, wish, hidden desires

bits of memory

an image

a smell

a bad smell.

Descriptions of a place

your workplace of all places

your ex of all people

You want to tell him,

keying, ginger fingers flying

I hate you,

as it was just yesterday

the pain spills out screaming

searing like hot lava.



You Will Know Me

You will know me by my victory
By my pages written and poetry read
By each word, precise like a knife, each incision made closer to the pain oozing pus of illness

You will know me by my laughter
Bursting out, an escape of happiness
Like a balloon filled with healthy breath of life
By my devotion and aspiration for the positiveness
The beautiful, soulful, light and airy as puffs of spring clouds

You will only know me by my best foot forward
My painted face for the stage, my line well rehearsed
The story belongs to somebody else, a protagonist
Her dramas, frictions, her mountains and valleys of inspirations gone wrong and love that was supposed to triumph but perish.

You will not know me by the ordinaries of everyday’s life
of rice cooked too wet or food spoiled uneaten
Sorrows seep out from my vein like water from a pinhole leak
Undetected under my foundation until the slab gives out or the telltale pooled visibly
My failed hope and abandoned efforts, multiple rejections, some told straight to my face, other by vague dismissals, and still others with vehement rebukes
Until I see no more hope, no more sun, no more dreams alive and no faith left in me.

You will not know me even then
Because like a ragged weed I cling on tediously on the side of a cracked sidewalk
Like a mole I dig deeper and tunnel my way upward and out
In maddened little hills that sadden a well-manicured yard, a sorry sight to the eyes of the untrained but what a survival,
What a resistance to the artist’ eyes who has learned to see the manifestations of love, of life
Like a worm, my hacked segments multiply and filled again with new blood and new determinations to fertilize
this earth
With each ingestion of rotten discards of decay of dead lives
I infuse
I refuse to depart unnoticed
to be denied of my right to be and blossom
of muted voice and ridiculed personality
I will not be fictitious, a character given a role to play
to build up someone else’s fiction
I am real
And you will know me
Even when it will be too late
for me
for you
It won’t be too late for the world to come
And you will know me
With my strength cut short and my pain alive
As much as when I am at my best
My achievements glorified and my lips full, well drawn, stretched into queenly smiles and my neck high.

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Connection Chart

circleofrelationshipMake a chart about you
and your relationship
put yourself
in the middle
by your inner circle

list names dear to you
names you call
for a kiss
a tea, in a shouting match
names you wake
names you feed
names of whose birth dates
you celebrate
Names of those
you depend on
to love you.


Draw an outer circle
List friends, people you meet
daily, monthly
people you know
who know you.


Then in the last circle
maybe your co-workers,
your team players,
church members,
You know,
people who drop in
and out of your life.


and at the fours corners
drop in random people
the mailman, your dog groomer
“enlighten witness, yes?”
Mary asks,
“people you meet briefly
but impact your life.”


“Yes,” our workshop leader
seizes the thought


Once, as I was about
to cross the street
I did look left, right, then left,
and the street was empty, safe.


as I put my foot out
a voice shouted, “Stop”
just as a car zoomed by.


I looked up, just long enough
to meet a man’s face
from far away.
just long enough to wave, yell, “Thank you,”
to the receding back of
my life saver


We never
cross path again.
You’ re right. He should be there
on my chart
perhaps on
a different layer,
from atop.


“Maybe we need
the Galactic Quadrant,”
someone blurts
as I draw a heart
and within it write


My pen hovers.
Of course,
the first names
should be
my husband’s
and children’s


I love them.
But do they
Do they love me?
My pen


Do I depend on them
to the point I’ d die
for them
and they for me.


It’s ambiguous. It’s a hard question.
It’s a hard question
anyone has to answer
with words.


I came to this life
the dark length
of my mother’s cave


She helped
but all depended
on my strength,
will, instinct,
my fate.


and when I pass,
I’ll sure fumble along
in the darkness
of death
not knowing
where I’m going
knowing only
I’ m flickering,
by myself
no longer being.


But the workshop gets
even harder when
I have to write
about myself
from the perspective
of another.


It never dawns
on me
I should know
what others think
of me.


It never once
crosses my mind
that I should care.


They might get me right.
They mostly size me wrong.
they mostly box me in
and simplify.


A woman. An Asian.
A mother. A writer.
too categorical, too well- defined.
Why bother?


Why can’t I be
a star
in a million galaxies
a billion light-year
from the next star
inscrutable, immeasurable,
full of possibilities
even deadly.