Vaccination Day Tanka

Vaccination Day Tanka

perched on mother’s lap
two children unsuspecting
needle pricks to scar
tiny tabletop, wire-back chairs
root beer floats a mother’s love

♦       ♦       ♦

This tanka is another first, of sorts, because I let the form of the poem dictate the content. The impetus for writing about this experience was the day my brother and I were vaccinated for smallpox. Afterwards, our mother took us to an ice cream parlor (the only time I remember her taking us as children). She bought me a root beer float because I didn’t cry when I received my vaccination. She bought my brother a root beer float because he did.

I could not get this to work in the 5/7/5/7/7 tanka form. Nor could I get the other memorable part of the experience into the poem. The doctor did the vaccine on my brother’s upper arm in the customary place, but he did mine under my arm. The reason? So that the scar wouldn’t show when I grew up to be a woman and wore sleeveless blouses and dresses.

After driving myself crazy counting syllables on my fingers, I finally decided that the tanka did its job without the additional details of the experience that inspired it. I’ll be interested to hear what you think!

128 thoughts on “Vaccination Day Tanka

  1. Hi Liz, I left a comment on Sally’s site. I will add it here, too, since I realize the post was published over one week ago.

    Liz, I was intrigued by the title of this post when I first read it in my inbox.

    I searched for the post, today, and I am glad I did. Your gift with words encapsulate an experience that especially resonates with me. My scar is also under my arm.

    Also, I have goosebumps. Synchronicity? Coincidence? My husband and I have been discussing Smallpox and vaccinations the last few nights. We have been watching the series, “Outlander.” The last few nights, many scenes are about the scare and challenges of Smallpox before the vaccination. Coincidence? Thank you for sharing a thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave your thoughtful comment., Erica! The other smallpox-related memory I can share is of a painting titled “The Smallpox Goddess Rides Again.” The central image was of an Indian goddess (I don’t remember which one) atop a horse set against an orange backdrop filled with smallpox pustules. It had been painted by a retired public health doctor who had worked in India in the 1950s. He told me how difficult it had been to witness the devastation of an outbreak and fight to contain it.

      Liked by 1 person

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