Sunday, December 6, 2015

One Man's Maple Moon: Desert Campfire Tanka by Jari Thymian

English Original

sitting around
the desert campfire
three teary-eyed men sing
The Wreck
of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Jari Thymian

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Jari Thymian volunteers full-time in state and national parks across the United States. She and her husband live and travel in a 20-foot RV trailer with minimal possessions. Her haiku and tanka have appeared in American Tanka, Simply Haiku, Modern Haiku, Matrix Magazine, Prune Juice, and The Christian Science Monitor.


  1. The comparison between the setting of the tanka and that of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" reveals something interesting "three teary-eyed men" and the impact, cultural and emotional, of Gordon Lightfoot's song.

    Note: "Thus began the Newsweek article in the issue of November 24, 1975. That lead and the news magazine's dry story inspired Gordon Lightfoot to write one of the greatest "story songs" ever.

    On November 10, 1975, an ore carrier - the Edmund Fitzgerald - sank in Lake Superior during a November storm, taking the lives of all 29 crew members. Later that month, Gordon Lightfoot, inspired by that article in Newsweek Magazine, wrote what is probably his most famous song: Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.

    Lightfoot wrote the song as a tribute to the ship, the sea, and the men who lost their lives that night. When asked recently what he thought his most significant contribution to music was, he said it was this song, which he often refers to as "The Wreck". In spite of its unlikely subject matter, the song climbed to #2 on the Billboard pop charts and remains one the most stirring topical ballads ever written, and a highlight of every Lightfoot concert...."
    -- excerpted from "Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald," accessed at

  2. "Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald"
    Music and lyrics ©1976 by Gordon Lightfoot

    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
    The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
    when the skies of November turn gloomy.
    With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
    than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
    that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
    when the "Gales of November" came early.

    The ship was the pride of the American side
    coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
    As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
    with a crew and good captain well seasoned,
    concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
    when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.
    And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
    could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

    The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
    and a wave broke over the railing.
    And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
    'twas the witch of November come stealin'.
    The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
    when the Gales of November came slashin'.
    When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
    in the face of a hurricane west wind.

    When suppertime came the old cook came on deck

    Sayin' "Fellas, it's too rough t'feed ya."
    At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said,

    (**2010 lyric change: At 7 p.m., it grew dark, it was then he said,)

    "Fellas, it's bin good t'know ya!"
    The captain wired in he had water comin' in
    and the good ship and crew was in peril.
    And later that night when 'is lights went outta sight
    came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    Does any one know where the love of God goes
    when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
    The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
    if they'd put fifteen more miles behind 'er.
    They might have split up or they might have capsized;
    they may have broke deep and took water.
    And all that remains is the faces and the names
    of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

    Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
    in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
    Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
    the islands and bays are for sportsmen.
    And farther below Lake Ontario
    takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
    And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
    with the Gales of November remembered.

    In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
    in the "Maritime Sailors' Cathedral."
    The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
    for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    of the big lake they call "Gitche Gumee."
    "Superior," they said, "never gives up her dead
    when the gales of November come early!"