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About this Poem 

“The spirit of tanka interests me more than following rigid conventions. As I understand it, the tradition allows a variety of approaches, from simple description and heartfelt expression to classical allusion and evocative wordplay. Succeeding generations rediscover and renew the form so that it retains its vitality.”

—Harryette Mullen

From Tanka Diary

Harryette Mullen, 1953

The botanical garden is just as I remember,
although it is certain that everything
has changed since my last visit.

How many hilarious questions these fuzzy
fiddleheads are inquiring of spring
will be answered as green ferns unfurl?

Walking the path, I stop to pick up
bleached bark from a tree, curled into
a scroll of ancient wisdom I am unable to read.

Even in my dreams I’m hiking
these mountain trails expecting to find a rock
that nature has shaped to remind me of a heart.

Copyright @ 2014 by Harryette Mullen. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2014.

Harryette Mullen

Harryette Mullen

Harryette Mullen's work is driven by wordplay, allusion, and popular cliche, and is centered in a larger tradition of African American writing.

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poem
why these blues come from us
threadbare material soils
the original colored
pregnant with heavenly spirit

stop running from the gift
slow down to catch up with it
knots mend the string quilt
of kente stripped when kin split

white covers of black material
dense fabric that obeys its own logic
shadows pieced
poem
if your complexion is a mess
our elixir spells skin success
you'll have appeal bewitch be adored
hechizando con crema dermoblanqueadora

what we sell is enlightenment
nothing less than beauty itself
since when can be seen in the dark 
what shines hidden in dirt 

double dutch darky 
take kisses back to Africa