Haiku Poets of Northern California 2021 San Francisco International Competition 3rd Place Tanka

your fingertips

caressed my skin as if

reading by braille

on this dark winter’s night

how felt the written word




Perhaps a memoir poem, this sensuous tanka explores love, lovemaking, longing, and loneliness. The poet has chosen to write in the past tense, suggesting this particular event happened some time ago, perhaps when the poet was very young. Set in a “dark winter’s night”, the poet-lover reflects on a partner’s caresses. Sibilants in the first two lines emphasise the softness of that caress. The poet has used an even syllable count (4-6-4-6-6) which supports the flow of the lover’s movements. By line two we learn that the poet and lover may be naked. On reaching line three, the poet expands on the experience. The image is unusual: “(as if) reading by braille.” Sensitive fingers are needed to trace the words of love. Questions come to mind. Is the lover still living? Or lost forever? Is the lover sightless? The answer is never quite resolved, adding to the lingering beauty of the poem. In the final lines, an unexpected shift in tense reminds us that the poet is now alone in the pervading darkness remembering the experience. Written as sensitively as the lover’s fingertips, this poem is perfect in every way. It is never too late to remember the thrill of lovemaking.-Hazel Hall, Judge