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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MAL Report – Night At The Museum


The other night I had the opportunity to attend a poetry open mic night here in uptown Whittier.

I was excited to attend the gala event as a newly coined member at large (MAL) of the Writer’s Club of Whittier. (Thanks for the acronym, Bill Gray.)

I should preface the following remarks here by stating up front I’m not entirely clear what all this fuss about poetry is about. I suspect that’s to be expected when you send out an unschooled provincial to an upscale cosmopolitan cultural event.

I’ve heard there’s a cosmological theory suggesting alternate universes. I’m not entirely certain however they’re all parallel.

These budding poets looked like and resembled earthlings but I suspect some good number may have been interlopers.

One word best described the experience: painful.

At several points I thought we were being treated to a thesaurus recitation.

That’s not to say there weren’t some bright shining luminaries, however. Our own Bill Gray, for one, reading a poem about his grandfather. Another by a young comedian. And even one brilliant monologue by the night’s featured performance poet entitled, Where Are My Keys?

His Keys monologue was essentially a man bemoaning his fate. The fact his whole life, his very existence, was ready for lift off. Prepared. Primed. Pumped. And polished. He was ready to go.

If only he could find the keys to his car.

I digress here to say I awoke early this morning with his Keys recital playing like a metaphor in my mind. (Or would that be like a simile?)

Why me? And why four a.m.?

Well it is Sunday morning, after all. And many will be tramping off to temples, synagogues, and diverse houses of worship.

Thinking about the Keys monologue, reminded me about the institutional organized Church. An institution I happily parted with about four years ago, after careful introspection and comparing it with the Body of Christ left us by Jesus when he ascended into heaven. A Spirit-filled body of believers that changed the world in one generation.

The institutional church, like the poet’s imaginary vehicle, has been tuning its engine, checking it tires, waxing and polishing its paint, and yes, at times even vacuuming its interior. For 2,000 years. One might expect to see it moving by now.

I suspect it simply cannot find its keys.

It’s the wrong paradigm. It’s not the model the Lord intended. Not the model of the first century church. A church without priests and temples.

So yes, the open mic night at the museum was not a complete bust. It had shining moments. Thanks in large part to Bill and a few others.

And it gave me a new metaphor for what’s wrong with the organized church.

And yes, Bill, to answer your sotto voce question, the performance poet did help me make up my mind. (That’s a private joke. But you can ask Bill if you’re interested.)

My apologies to Claire Koehler and any other poetry aficionados for my unwashed comments. I suspect I’ll not be asked to cover further open mic events.

Sad, that.

I was just beginning to enjoy my MAL moment on the stage.