A few new: Tanka 265; This Is a True Story

Here are a couple of recent poems. One is short and one is long. I’m going to give you some background on each one. For the first one, Tanka 265, I was prompted by something a friend told me about a bottle of perfume she has had for some time, and why. The story touched me and I wanted to write something about it.

Tanka 265

Bottle of perfume
A long-ago gift from you
I use sparingly.
As long as it is with me
then so are you. I love you.


I’ve been revisiting the past quite a bit in recent weeks and this time of year always reminds me of my years as a lifeguard – summers during college. I have good memories of that time. But there is no denying it, sometimes the job could be boring or tedious. You had to make your own fun. This Is a True Story is pretty much…true… of one or another of those long-ago summer days.

This Is a True Story

Above it all
the lifeguard
survey the pool
six lanes twenty-five meters
plus a diving well twelve feet deep
A cool aqua water serenity marred by
any number of kids plus a few strays like
these two women in the lap lane
swimming tentative and annoyed
like cats would if they came to the pool
These ladies will never drown because
they don’t put their heads in the water

Nothing much there to grab on to so
you single out two girls about eight years old
hanging on the ropes
not a big infraction but it is a slow morning.
You employ your whistle
you give it no mere timid tweet
but a whole lung-full of air expulsion that
the entire crowd
every last person in water and on land
even those in line at the concession stand
they all stop in mid-motion and shoot you a furtive look
Everybody has a guilty conscience. It’s funny.

You point at the girls and they scramble off the rope
you watch it rebound. All the blue buoys bob up
to the surface. You count them for no reason.
None of them are missing. You set up
to begin twirling your whistle lifeguard-style
but things are cut short by the whompsplatter
of a teenager doing a cannonball
with the idea of splashing you
which he did all right
well fine it’s a hot day

So what you do is
you adjust your sunglasses
hold on to your blank expression
start up the slow swing of your whistle on its lanyard
you have a way where you wrap it around your hand
it goes around three times then you reverse the motion and
unwrap it. It’s the flick of the wrist. Around and around
it goes while the sun puts another layer of burn on your
peeling nose.The beer truck pulls up to the clubhouse
The guy hops out and starts to unload it.
Weekend’s coming.
You scan the pool. What’s out there for me?


5 thoughts on “A few new: Tanka 265; This Is a True Story

  1. The pool story sounds like sensory deprivation that you tried to equalize with your whistle. Bored is good for a lifeguard, right?

    • You said it perfectly, lifeguarding is a job where it can be very hard to stay focused so you have to make your own stimulus. Until, as you say, the stimulus is provided…because being bored is really what you want the lifeguard to be, so true!

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