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!

116 thoughts on “Vaccination Day Tanka

  1. You have inspired me to look closer into Tanka!!! My scar is on my back and am grateful for the care taken in giving me a life-saving vaccine. I remember my grandmother’s vaccination mark on her arm – she wore it as a mark of progress. I loved how she embraced joy and looked forward to what came next…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad you’re inspired to look closer into Tanka, Rebecca. I’ve only recently discovered it, and I’m very taken with the form. It’s allowing me to express experiences that don’t align well with fiction. The medium is the message, right?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Marvelous job at writing a tanka. Love the photo and all the details. I hadn’t realized doctors cared about scarring a girl where it would show. Mine is in the standard place. I’m proud of all my scars, actually.😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a great admirer of short form poetry. The challenge of choosing the best words to convey thoughts and feelings is well met with your tanka. I especially love: perched, unsuspecting, and floats. These words evoke the temporary nature of the event but also the permanent nature of the mother-child relationship. You’ve captured the environment with its tiny tabletop and wire-back so well. That cold sterile room vs. the warmth of mother’s care is excellent. The photo is precious as well!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think the tanka is perfect! Your poem captured it all. I have never heard of getting the vaccine under the arm. I wasn’t given that option. 🙂 I vividly remember the long line of parents and their children waiting to get the shot. My sister bent the needle. That is a big memory for me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. She jerked. Hard. I vividly remember the line and waiting room to get the shot. I went first (the weenie who hated shots). Sarah went next. She was always the strong and quiet one. Why did she jerk? I don’t know.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s perfect Liz. You must have a dozen other things to say from your memories of that day. But the ones you chose were just right. My mother took me to Balfan’s 😊 for a chocolate malt made with vanilla ice cream. Beautifully written. 🌷

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a lovely recollection…I never get the syllables right anywhere but I still enjoy poetry. But I loved all the details you added…Your mom got you the ice cream because you didn’t cry and your brother because he did! Moms can be so creative, in whichever way!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed how the last line sort of floats together two ideas from the tangible root beer floats to the intangible floats a mother’s love. Makes the sweetness of the love expressed really come to life in several layers.

    I am not a tanka person, although it seems so popular here in WP land. I have messed around with haiku, for some reason finding them more interesting… which all seems bizarre given that they are similar frameworks, you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments about the last line of the tanka! That’s exactly how it came to me.

      I think that each of us has our own natural mode of expression that some forms of writing align with better than others.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. If you hadn’t told us you were trying to write a tanka, we never would have known! It’s a delightful poem even if it doesn’t quite fit the syllable count for each line. We can call this form the Gauffreau!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You did an amazing job, (and so did your doctor). I’ve never met anyone whose doctor was so conscientious about hiding those dreadful scars. And I knew exactly what experience you were talking about from the tanka alone, long before you gave the explanation. Beautiful! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear you. I’ve had the same question in regards to my fine art in the past: to include the context or not? Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes pieces need a context explained in order for the viewer to fully appreciate. Sort of like how saying a dish of food was made from grandma’s recipe book – gives more appreciation. And then sometimes the artist (me) is simply so excited that they want to tell all ! Lol!!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I enjoyed reading this post Liz! It’s especially relevant today. The story reminds me of when I was too nervous to perform at the Christmas concert and my mother took me to see Toy Story in the theater. I was shocked that she would let me skip something so important. Coincidence, I think… the main character in the movie is named Andy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Beautiful tanka, Liz! And what a timely piece too, now that we’re all waiting for a successful vaccine to be found and tested… And how very considerate of that doctor to hide your scar under your arm, my mum has hers on the usual spot, but I think she was never very bothered about it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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