Urban Tumbleweed: From a Tanka Diary

Along the roadside, someone has spilled
pink Styrofoam peanuts. They add color
to the grassy green, but I still prefer flowers.

Ninety-nine dashing dots crisscross
the walk, red ants converging on a spot where
someone’s dropped a greasy bite of pepperoni.

Intrepid, worldly, and sophisticated food critic
laments she’s found no wine pairs well
with scorpions or tarantulas.

Airline passenger detained was no
fanatic hiding explosives, but a smuggler
with expensive lizards in his pants.

Though they can’t help flaunting their
vulnerability, I imagine that creeping snails
are trusting me to spare their fragile shells.

Yesterday we talked about your favorite
poem. Today you brought a gift
of fully ripe persimmons in a paper bag.

Harryette Mullen was born in Florence, Alabama, and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. She has earned a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Early in her career as a poet, she worked in the Artists in Schools program sponsored by the Texas Commission on the Arts, and for six years she taught literature at Cornell University.

Mullen’s most recent books include Urban Tumbleweed (Graywolf Press, 2013); Blues Baby: Early Poems (Bucknell University Press, 2002); and Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California Press, 2002), a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award in poetry. Three of her earliest collections—all published in the 1990s—were collected into Recyclopedia (Graywolf Press, 2006), which received a PEN Beyond Margins Award. In 2013, Mullen published the chapbook Broken Glish: Five Prose Poems by Harryette Mullen with The Center For Book Arts.