Haiku and tankas

An Croí Ró-Naofa san India

A bilingual tanka (5-7-5-7-7 syllables), in response to a mural in Chennai. The tanka is the oldest form of verse still being cultivated today, stretching back 1,300 years to its beginnings in Japan.

an Croí Ró-Naofa
ar lasadh i ngach cistin
fadó in Éirinn
ar bhallaí san India
is cosc ar mhún poiblí é
look, the Sacred Heart
that shone in Irish kitchens
now no longer glows
it found its way to India
protecting walls from urine

Saving the World

Gabriel presents a bilingual haiku in response to the work of the internationally acclaimed Belgian photographer Alain Schroeder (b. 1955).

save this
save that
yes, yes . . . and the orangutan too
sábháil seo
sábháil siúd
sea, sea . . . is an t-órang útan leis

The Reader of Bourgeois Newspapers

This a a tanka in Irish and English in 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. The inspiration for Gabriel’s tanka comes from the Dada artist John Heartfield, who created this piece in 1930, declaring, “Whoever reads bourgeois newspapers becomes blind and deaf!” Heartfield was a German artist famous for his photomontages in the communist magazine AIZ.

tá náire orm
ag léamh nuachtán buirgéiseach!
maith dhom é, led’ thoil
ní léifidh mé arís iad
thruaillíos croí is aigne
I am so ashamed
reading bourgeois newspapers!
please, please forgive me
I’ll never read one again
my heart and mind are sullied

■ Gabriel Rosenstock believes that cultural and linguistic diversity should go hand in hand with maintaining biodiversity. His latest book, Mullah Nasrudin Is Alive and Well (New York: Cross-Cultural Communications, 2022), is a collection of satirical tales. His page at Culture Matters: tinyurl.com/2p93253n.