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Tea Bowl Tanka               Island

         The Wall of a Derelict Pub is Now a Shrine           Dry


Tea Bowl Tanka


Over the mountains

from Kyoto, the potter

gathers pine to feed

the flames that raise the heat in

the kilns of Shigaraki.


Inside the furnace

hot ash swirls around me and

clings to my body.

At night village lights are dark

but the moon and fire still glow.


I am rust-coloured,

there is iron in my clay.

Ash, quartz and feldspar

make a landscape on my skin

recalling the granite hills.


Moss-covered lanterns

light the path of stepping stones:

a bridge from city

to the world of the tea-room,

its single flower and scroll.


Bending low, the guests

enter through a small square door.

The tea-master pours.

Now they cup me in their hands, 

lift me to their lips and drink.



Valerie Josephs

Highly commended, Yorkshire Poetry Competition, 2005;

published in Blithe Spirit, 2007 (Journal of the British Haiku Society)






Itís true you also see lights shimmering when you come by plane but it all happens too quickly; when you arrive by sea the land comes out to meet you, you wait behind a rope until itís safe to get off, in a space between being and not being somewhere. Someone will be there to greet you, theyíll have a sign so you know who it is before they know you.  Others will be arriving too and on the boat youíll have tried to guess who they are but not really wanting to talk to them, not yet, and then you see whoís waiting for you and when you hear his voice you recognise the accent and youíre lost because it takes you back years - heís tall with that slight stoop but itís the voice that does it.


This will be the first of many times you come to the island, you begin to think of buying a house here and almost at the point of agreeing a price you start to wonder what it would be like in winter and who your friends would be and could you live in such a small place, even though youíve begun to speak the language, when people donít feel the same way.  It might be better to leave by plane - if you leave by boat the people on the quay shrink until they disappear.



Valerie Josephs

published in Brand, 02, 2008





The Wall of a Derelict Pub is Now a Shrine


He gave the wrong kind of look one newspaper said.

Like his father, a builder, he used to make things.

Perhaps he might have been a carpenter

loving the smell of sawdust

and the keen precision of mitred joints.

He could have taken pleasure in dovetail nailing

or how to make a rebate for a pane of glass.

The lexicon of mortise and tenon

and sizing up the direction of the grain

would have become second nature in time

like Lu Ban the Chinese master

who made the kite, a cloud ladder and a bird.



Valerie Josephs

published in Magma, 40, Spring 2008






 for Mourid Barghouti



The poet came from a dry place.

He drank glass after glass of water

when he read in his native tongue,

knowing he must return

to where flesh dries out like fruit.


I thought of the way water splashes,

the trill it makes in a metal cup,

or how it ploughs a path in dust

when it spurts from a broken pipe.


I will remember that when I am thirsty.



Valerie Josephs

published in I am twenty people!  Poetry School Anthology 2007,

Enitharmon, ISBN 978-1-904634-36-2;

in Solitaire anthology, Templar Press 2007,

ISBN 978-1-906285-04-3


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