Ekphrastic Poems for Tanka Tuesday

Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1865-1932) by John Singer Sargent, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

She Knows

her sash,
like lilac is
an intimation of spring,
just this. . .she’s awakened, see her

I know

my sash
like lilac is
an intimation of spring,
just this . . . I’m awakened, see my

For Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Ekphrastic Prompt. This is sort of a poetic exercise in syllabic verse. I wrote the first cinquain, and then I re-wrote it in first person, which I think empowers her. I love the way Sargent captured the light on her gown. You can almost feel the fabric, but it was that sash that first caught my eye, and then her direct gaze.

A Breath

Winslow Homer, Moonlight, Wood Island

A Breath

the sky balanced between
night-hymn and dawn chorus, a breath

a breath
and then one more
as wine-dark sea froths pale
and gull-laughter sounds from the shore

now watch
and see the world
around you breathe and stop
when baby chick is eagle-plucked
and gone

are made–eagle,
chick, child, a soldier’s gun
loaded, aimed, then stopped with a cry,
a sigh

a breath,
a pause in time,
the world re-balances–
land, sea, sun, moon, stars join in song—

A cinq cinquain–five verses of five for the fifth day of the fifth month-for Laura’s prompt at dVerse. But I’ve also repeated the first line as the last, as in a crown cinquain.

The Dream

Christian Krohg, “Tired”

familiar, this
place, my house, but not—see
the walls dissolve, and I
am someone else

myself, I am
within, without—I am
fixed and infinite, I
am everything
I know.

For Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday challenge. The theme is dreams, which I love, because I often remember my dreams, and I often lucid dream. This is a double Badger’s Hexastitch: a six-line poem 2/4/6/6/4/2 syllables, unrhymed. I think each poem can stand alone. I don’t know if I did these correctly. 😀

Water Spirit

Sun sparkling on the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Water Spirit

In the blue-light sparkle
I watch the spirit shift
as pin-prick glow, adrift
from the water

arising. She surprises
only me—I see. Why
do I hear a soft sigh—
watered-lips sip–

do not naiads thirst too?
And for knowledge, beauty—
do they weep in duty
quenching the earth?

No answers to questions
unasked. Cloud-masked sun, moon
shine a shimmer-light tune–
and dreams stream on.

–Merril D. Smith, Feb. 2021

This is an attempt at an abhanga (or collection of abhang?) for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Challenge. The form originated in India, where it was often written as devotional poetry. “It was popular from the 13th thru 17th centuries Marathi Region of India and is described as complex and classic. (poetrymagnumopus.com)”
It is made up of one or more four-line stanzas with syllables, 6-6-6-4. The second and third lines end in a rhyme: abbc. Sometimes there is also an internal rhyme.

This sparkling light on the river looked to me like a female figure coming out of the water.


Straying, never staying still,
shimmering beacons, they will
sway away eternity,
shine for sailors, as they flee—
steadfast light in vast night sea
streaming from Orion—gone–
seven sisters, sail to dawn.

Pleiades, NASA, via Wikipedia Commons

For dVerse, Open Link Night, where Sanaa is hosting. I’ve missed the live meeting, but I got to talk to my sisters (and brother) via Zoom for Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating! This poem responds to Laura’s dVerse prompt on Tuesday:
“Write a poem using the PLEIADES FORM. . .Pick a ONE-WORD TITLE then write a SEVEN-LINE poem of SEVEN SYLLABLES whereby each line begins with the FIRST LETTER of your title.”


Glow  (July 2020)

A field of grass by an ugly gravel parking lot, transformed by sunlight. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020



comes, goes,

so it flows

to earth and sea,

flaming grassy meadows,

with photons streaming, gilds a tree.

Though shadows loom below, we let them be;

pretend we do not see the coming of the night,

but live, walk, talk—and love, the apogee

of our beings—humanity

with stardust traces glows

but faintly—see?

The flickers

dim. . .grow



This is a diatelle for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. This week she wrote:

“Let’s make this challenge truly a poet’s choice! Use any syllabic poetry form that you’d like. As long as there are syllables to count, you’re good to go! Be creative. If your form is something new, teach us how to write it. Have fun!”

I know she doesn’t normally do rhyming forms, but this is definitely syllabic, and I know Colleen likes shapes, so I hope this is OK. 😀 Mine can probably use some more work, but I’m posting it anyway.

I found the form, created by Bradley Vrooman, on Shadow Poetry.  

“The Diatelle is a fun, syllable counting form like the etheree with a twist. The syllable structure of the diatelle is as follows: 1/2/3/4/6/8/10/12/10/8/6/4/3/2/1, but unlike an ethere, has a set rhyme pattern of abbcbccaccbcbba. This poetry form may be written on any subject matter and looks best center aligned in a diamond shape.”

Maybe everyone does this, but if not, maybe it’s helpful to see. I made myself a template to keep track of syllable/lines and rhymes. I do this for many forms.

a1 Light

b2 comes, goes

b3 so it flows

c4 to earth and sea

b6 flaming grassy meadows–

c8 with photons streaming, gild a tree

c10 though shadows loom below, we let them be,

a12 pretend we do not see the coming of the night

c10 but live, walk, talk–and love, the apogee

c8 of our beings–humanity

b6 with stardust traces glows

c4 but faintly—see?

b3 The flickers

b2 dim, grow

a1 bright.

Moon Rising





the essence

of life, tumbling

down, cascading to

stillness, a pellucid

pool mirrors the sky above.

Clouds ripple in the lake and sky,

and bird shadows soar, black against white–

their calls echo, echo, echo, echo

until the sound fades into the gloaming

and fireflies dance about the shore.

Then come the night sounds and creatures

that fly, swim, flitter, twitter

with anticipation.

She is here, rising

from the water,





A double etheree for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday challenge.



But, Still




and we dream

again. Circles

and cycles spinning

a planet round a star,

our bodies full of stardust,

so, we reach up bravely, and search

for answers, the hard problem of who,

why, and what we are–but still, flowers bloom


rise with cues of light and hope, a promise

of what was still is, even if we

are not. They will vanish also,

like dinosaurs and dodos,


romps through the ages,

blinks and heartaches–

but still, there’s

you, me,



Yesterday, I saw this crocus and some green shoots rising from the ground. It made me happy, even though we’re supposed to get snow today. I’ve noticed how the angle of the sun is different now, and how it lingers longer in the day.

This is a double etheree for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompt, using synonyms for game and trouble.