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!