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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 1: January 2020
Tanka Prose: 254 words
By Charles D. Tarlton

Second Cousin Nikki

CARMODY: We must recognize our place upon the earth.
BLIGHT: Sink or swim?

Did you ever look deeply into the eyes of a pet (a dog, a cat, a horse, or a hamster) and see the fellow being residing there? The eyes, looking back, reveal something that has been called self, person, consciousness, psyche, or soul.

Nikki the poodle
absolutely loves my wife
without condition
she smiles and her heart races
when Ann comes into the room

Kierkegaard, I think it was, wrote something about how all animals (or was it just dogs?) shared a common, collective soul, as contrasted with humans who each had their own worried, suffering personal spirit. Still, the clearest sign, I believe, remains in the eyes. Any animal that can look back at you has a soul (try to catch the eye of a salmon, a toad, or a cobra).

Nikki’s eyes are black
soft, deep, and so expressive
she looks right through you
past all your indirection
she stakes out the common ground

Your contemplative, grazing cow, the monkey at the zoo, the lion, the deer, and the gorilla, all look back at us; they all make eye contact. So, here’s my take on all this—all warm-blooded animals (not reptiles, amphibians, or fish) participate in a common soul or spirit, and that includes us. We all flourish together, or we disappear.

Nikki’s deep black eyes
communicate affection
she can smile or plead
flash longing to be let out
when she’s spied the gray squirrel

Charles D. Tarlton
Issue 1, January 2020

is a retired university professor of political theory who lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife, Ann Knickerbocker, an abstract painter. He is the author of three books of prosimetra published by KYSO Flash Press: Touching Fire: New and Selected Ekphrastic Prosimetra (2018), Get Up and Dance (2019), and Carmody & Blight: The Dialogues (2019).

Tarlton has been writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006, and his work is published in: Abramelin, Atlas Poetica, Barnwood, Blackbox Manifold, Blue and Yellow Dog, Cricket Online Review, Fiction International, Haibun Today, Inner Art Journal, Jack Magazine, KYSO Flash, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Prune Juice, Rattle, Red Booth Review, Review Americana, Shampoo, Shot Glass, Simply Haiku, Six Minute Magazine, Sketchbook, Skylark, Tipton, and Ink, Sweat, and Tears.

He also has a poetry e-chapbook published in the 2River series, La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra: Improvisations on Pablo Neruda’s Macchu Picchu; a poem sequence in Lacuna entitled Five Episodes in the Navajo Degradation; and “The Turn of Art,” a short poetical drama pitting Picasso against Matisse, composed in verse and prose, which appeared in Fiction International.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Miletus Torso, ekphrastic tanka prose in KYSO Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018), which includes an author’s note re Michelangelo’s Atlas Slave

Featured Author Charles D. Tarlton, with six of his ekphrastic tanka prose and an interview with Jack Cooper, in KYSO Flash (Issue 6, Fall 2016)

Notes for a Theory of Tanka Prose: Ekphrasis and Abstract Art, a scholarly paper by Tarlton residing in PDF at Ray’s Web; originally published in Atlas Poetica (Number 23, pages 87-95)

Three American Civil War Photographs: Ekphrasis by Tarlton in Review Americana (Spring 2016)

Simple Tanka Prose for the Seasons, a quartet by Tarlton in Rattle (Issue 47: Tribute to Japanese Forms, Spring 2015)

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