Slice of Life: Two Tanka

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hEarlier this month, Michelle Barnes, of Today’s Little Ditty, interviewed poet Margarita Engle about her new book Orangutanka (Henry Holt, 2015). Margarita challenged Michelle’s readers to write a tanka, a traditional Japanese form with five lines and a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count.

As I was driving to work yesterday, I noticed a red-tailed hawk perched in a tree near the edge of a field. That sighting inspired this tanka:

Still as a statue,
keen eyes scan the field below,
spot a flash of gray.
Swooping down on silent wings,
red-tailed hawk scoops up breakfast.

By Dori (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 us (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Dori (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 us (, via Wikimedia Commons
Thinking about tanka brought Tonka trucks to mind:

By the Christmas tree
a shiny yellow dump truck
with wheels the size of
saucers, wrapped in a huge red bow,
waits for the boy’s shouts of joy.

© Catherine Flynn, 2015

Thank you, Michelle and Margarita, for inspiring me to write these tanka. And thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.


7 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Two Tanka

  1. Love your two tanka. I often see hawks hovering and waiting for their breakfast. Tonka trucks and tanka, fun word association there.


  2. Very nice, Catherine! I always feel humbled somehow when I am lucky enough to catch a hawk in action. Your truck tanka reminds me of when my own son was young. To this day, he’ll tell you that “Wheeler” was his favorite childhood toy.


  3. Ah, Tonka trucks and tankas. Perfect. Love both poems, but I’m partial to the second. I have such memories of Tonka trucks. Both from my brother and my sons.


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