Thursday, March 13, 2014

One Man's Maple Moon: Bone-Thin Hands Tanka by Susan Constable

English Original

as a child
she found it difficult
to say goodbye
now bone-thin hands
clutch the blanket's edge

Honorable Mention, TSA Contest, 2013

Susan Constable

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Susan Constable’s tanka appear in numerous journals and anthologies, including Take Five. She placed third in the 2010 Tanka Society of America Contest and her tanka collection, The Eternity of Waves, is one of the winning entries in the eChapbook Awards for 2012. She is currently the tanka editor for the international on-line journal, A Hundred Gourds. Susan lives with her husband on Canada’s beautiful west coast.


  1. Below is the judge's comment, which can be accessed at

    Hardwired as we are to innate passions and fears, this tanka captures the universal sense of loss that comes with separation from those we love. Throughout life these feelings can teach us to face such fears—even overcome them—if we can or will. In this case, however, the old woman on the edge of the final precipice of her own death exhibits an even deeper fear of letting go, terrified of what lies beyond. With clear and accessible phrasing, the speaker shows us the old woman’s terror without one word of telling. The impact lies in the poet’s sensitive and expert use of language.

  2. The thematic motif is enhanced by Susan's psychologically effective use of synecdoche in L4. The closing image adds emotional weight and symbolic depth to the poem.

  3. It's not the fear of death that characterizes this tanka, but the pain of loss. Death is a natural process that we learn to accept . But, the feeling that those who love us will suffer makes letting go very difficult. Juxtaposing the past thoughts with the present thoughts and feelings creates a poignant contrast and forms the spark of this tanka.
    Susan, I enjoyed reading your skillfully crafted poem. A poem which shows without telling. Thus, I consider it a first prize winner.

    1. Hi! Rita:

      Based on the opening statement, "difficult/to say goodbye" and the closing image of bone-thin hands clutching the blanket, this tanka seems to be focused on a more general theme about "letting go" of something/someone. Both the fear of death and the pain of loss could be possible thematic concerns explored in the poem.

      I enjoyed your reading. Thanks for sharing.