Six Tankas

By Harryette Mullen

Looking up at the sky to estimate
my mood, as if to calculate the sum
of all clouds subtracted from the total blue.

Squirrel, stretching yourself out flat
to cool your belly on a shaded rock. On hot days
do you wish your fur coat had a zipper?

Bamboo, jointed like my finger, pointed at the sky.
What fine fishing poles you’d make for the girl
who spent hours dreaming at the lake.

Hummingbird alters its course, zooming
closer to check out the giant hibiscus flower—
only me in my red summer dress.

Though they can’t help flaunting their
vulnerability, I imagine that creeping snails
are trusting me to spare their fragile shells.

Contemplate layered petals of a rose
until the rapture begins. Meditate on the lotus
from now until nirvana.

Six Tankas by Harryette Mullen from Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary. Copyright © 2013 by Harryette Mullen. Reprinted by permission of The Permission Company LLC, on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.