Word Poetry




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Sample Poems by David Galef


? Teki suitable. teki (suru) fit, agree with, be adapted to, be qualified for. kana(u) be capable of; measure up to expectations; match, rival, stand (the work); bear (the heat). kana(eru) grant, hear, answer. tama no occasional, rare. tamatama casually, unexpectedly; few.

-from kanji entry 4738

They called me a suitable girl,
qualified for the exam
of Slender Graces.

Everyone-my aunt-agreed
I was capable of much more
than my matched cousins from Mito.

At thirteen, I could stand the work
of three-day sessions in the Entertainment Room,
bearing the heat of three men.

At sixteen, I heard the rubbing
of the crickets' legs outside my chamber
and answered in kind,

But I hadn't counted on rivals,
who casually destroyed me
while I was looking the other way.

My visitors these days are rare:
an occasional businessman from Hakone
who finds himself unexpectedly alone.


? Setsu. Sai. ki(ru) cut, chop, hash; saw; cut down; punch; sever (connections); pause, break off; hang up; cross (a street); sell below cost; shake (water) off; ki(reru) snap; wear out; be injured; collapse; be out of; expire; shrewd; less than. ki(rasu) vt be out of. ki(re) cloth; scrap. ki(ri) limits, place to leave off, closing sentence. setsu na earnest, eager; acute. setsu(nai) oppressive, suffocating. - kitte no the most. . .of all. -ki(ru) finish, ki(ri) all there is; only; since.

-from kanji entry 667

Now that I have cut away
all the clinging crap in my life,
stripped so I can see the sky,

I feel suddenly disconnected,
turned off like a switch,
cut down from the scaffold.

Simple as crossing the street
or a dog shaking water off its coat,
yet I'm about to collapse.

Without my daily limits,
I have no piece to leave off,
not even a scrap of cloth.

My existence has been discounted.
I bear no closing sentence.
Since. All there is. Only.


? Sui. ta(rasu) suspend, hang down; slouch. ta(reru), shida(reru) vt and vi hang, droop, drop, lower, pull down; dangle; sag; drip, ooze, trickle; leave behind (at death); give, confer. tare hanging; straw curtain; lapel; pocket flap; skirts of a coat; gravy; soy sauce. nannan to suru be in the verge of (doing), be close to.

- kanji entry 211

I have a tendency to slouch,
not dangling from this rampart,
but suspended in another era.

Yet time drips along, and soon
I may start to sag, pulled down
by the trickle of another day.

From this hanging, what
will I leave behind? Soy sauce
stains on the skirts of my coat.

I am on the verge of becoming
something else: a pocket flap,
a straw curtain in the wind.


? Ji ear. mimi ear; edge, border; loop; selvage; bread crusts.
-kanji entry 3697

Lend me your ear, he says,
and the assemblage donates
the far edge of a coastline,
its sand shifting in the tides.

Lend me your ear, he repeats,
and the crowd steps back
from the border of its town,
leaving the main gate open.

No, give me your ears, he insists,
so that the whole group
widens to form a giant
loop about the speaker.

I want only your ears, he maintains,
but the populace will not hear.
They toss him the selvage from a rug
and ten-day-old bread crusts.