One Thousand Black Feathers (a somonka)

blackfeather2 (3)

Today my heart storms,
my life bound and counter-bound.
One black feather, a gift
in the wind, peace — but I know
I’ve no haven; I made my chains.

I wish I could be
your shelter of wings, freedom.
Today my heart pounds
against the chains you have made.
I am black feathers, falling.




The somonka is a Japanese form. In fact, it’s basically two tankas written as two love letters to each other (one tanka per love letter). This form usually demands two authors, but it is possible to have a poet take on two personas. A refresher on the tanka: If a haiku is usually (mistakenly) thought of as a 3-line, 5-7-5 syllable poem, then the tanka would be a 5-line, 5-7-5-7-7 syllable poem. However, as with haiku, it’s better to think of a tanka as a 5-line poem with 3 short lines (lines 2, 4, 5) and 2 very short lines (lines 1 and 3). While imagery is still important in tanka, the form is a little more conversational than haiku at times. It also allows for the use of poetic devices such as metaphor and personification (2 big haiku no-no’s). Like haiku, tanka is a Japanese poetic form. (for more on the tanka, see: for more on the somonka:



Photo illustration by Mindy Ricketts

I told you, this door’s always open,
though today, you and I know it’s true,
you can neither walk through or away.
Still it will not be closed while we wait.
My heart just won’t work that way.

I see lingering taxes your spirit.
This work takes a toll on your strength.
I watch all the shadows that come.
I measure your voice as it’s breaking.
Your tattered heart’s coming undone.

I ask you, my love, please don’t linger,
Are you frightened the space will close in?
You hover, hurt steals your peace, too.
I wish you would rest, heal your heart.
I’ll prop this door open, hold it for you.