Elliot Nicely’s Sunset

the way
she says goodbye
this time
the sunset refills
her wine glass

Eucalypt #20, 2016

© Elliot Nicely (USA)

The two things I enjoyed the most about this tanka was the pivot from line 3 to line 4, and the ending image.

“this time” can be seen as part of lines 1-2 and part of lines 4-5. This is one of the great tools of tanka that can make reading them diverse and intriguing within only 5 lines. The pivot makes us read a bit slower and to consider what reading we should take.

The ending image is not only startling, but also brings up several references. Firstly, I see it referencing an overall solemn mood and the finality of the relationship. It is also interesting in its aesthetic in that the sunset, which marks the end of something, fills something up. In addition to these observations, I see a more mystical interpretation: wine in many poetic traditions is a reference for spiritual intoxication. In this way, the author could be telling us that his beloved has now left this earthly world, and has once again been reunited with the divine. Another way to look at it is that the poet’s beloved is still alive but has ended her spiritual seeking, and she has now found the truth, her self-realization.

The image of the sunset in the wine glass also has a grounding, earthly tone. It’s as if things have gone back to their original, non-abased self, and marks a return (or refill, if you will) to the naturalness of life.

And overall, as I mentioned before, there is a strong tone of finality to the tanka that lends to sadness, but also to acceptance.

If we look at the sound of the tanka, in the first two lines, most prominent is the “-ay” sound with “way,” “say,” and “goodbye.” Not only does it make it more musical, but it gives a stress to the moment at hand. In the second half of the tanka, the letter “i” features most, which to me as a reader gives a sense of awe.

A tanka with a range of possible interpretations and an engaging tone, all with simple language and no more than three words per line.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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