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.
This poem is dedicated to my dear sister-in-law, Paulett Brylinski, who lost her beloved husband, Jimmy, in December 2017. Watching her learn to cope and live with grief has taught me so much about courage and love.
I don’t enter many poetry contests, but I do love to see what entries win or place in contests/competitions I enjoy and admire. There is always so much to learn from other writers, of course, and it is always an inspiration to see what others produce.
One competition I really wanted to enter was the Fourth Annual Jane Reichhold Memorial HaigaCompetition, which is co-hosted by Failed Haiku and Prune Juice, two of the very finest Senryu journals around. It is divided into two groups: the Traditional (i.e., with original drawn art) Category (judged by Ron C. Moss) and the Photographic/Mixed Media Category (judged by Steve Hodge). My two entries were in the second category using photographs I had taken. One was left untouched and the other was embellished by some art programs I enjoy using on my iPad.
Imagine my surprise when I found out one of my entries won First Place in the Photographic/Mixed Media Category and the other one got an Honorable Mention! Yes, I was over the moon. It’s a double honor indeed. All the other entries selected in both categories were wonderful. I really can’t imagine how an editor selects one over another, but they do. My thanks to editor, Steve Hodge for selecting both of my haiga in this competition. I am deeply honored. Thanks also to Mike Rehling and Brent Goodman who edit Failed Haiku and Prune Juice.
I’ve included the comments of the editor because it’s always great to hear someone else’s interpretation and response to a poem.