This tanka was published in Hedgerow, a journal of small poems ~ #130, Winter 2020
we turn away
from all we just can’t face—
the glistening red
of a vulture’s head
emerges from a carcass
Out of decay comes art and beauty. Look what artist Georgia O’Keefe created from a skull found where she lived in New Mexico. All is part of nature and is nature.
Deer’s Skull with Pedernal by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1936
Where I live in central North Carolina, we have plenty of black vultures and turkey vultures. They circle and gather in the sky when there is carrion to be had. I chose this topic for the tanka because it’s a scene I’ve seen more than once. Yes, it’s not a pretty sight. Vultures, especially when eating a dead animal or gathering in a group in a tree or abandoned house do give you shivers. Something in us seems to respond with at least a momentary revulsion. However, I’m a bird lover and I try to see how a specific species fits into the scheme of things. Vultures and crows do eat carrion, the flesh of dead animals, often of roadkill along our roads and streets. They perform a good service by eating their meal and cleaning the mess up. Imagine all those dead animals left to rot. So these birds help us as they go about their business (albeit unpleasant business to us). They are birds we should appreciate for their useful role in nature. They also offer us a wonderful metaphor.
My thanks to editor, Caroline Skanne for being the one editor who chose to publish this poem.
My deepest thanks to Kate MacQueen for writing this rengay with me. It was a wonderful and illuminating experience to write with Kate. Kate’s verses are #2, 4, 6 (italicized) and mine are #1, 3, 5.
This rengay was published in Vines #3, part of the publication hedgerow edited by Caroline Skanne.
Note: for readers not acquainted with rengay, here is a definition from “Graceguts” by Michael Dylan Welch:
“Garry Gay invented a renga alternative in the summer of 1992: the “rengay.”
“The rengay is a collaborative six-verse linked thematic poem written by two or three poets using alternating three-line and two-line haiku or haiku-like stanzas in a regular pattern. The pattern for two people is A-3, B-2, A-3, B-3, A-2, B-3, with the letters representing the poets, and the numbers indicating the number of lines in each given verse.”