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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 9: August 2021
Tanka Prose: 211 words
By Charles D. Tarlton

[Ask the Wind]

For, when we define, we seem in danger of circumscribing nature within the bounds of our own notions, which we often take up by hazard or embrace on trust, or form out of a limited and partial consideration of the object before us; instead of extending our ideas to take in all that nature comprehends, according to her manner of combining.

—Edmund Burke*

The cast and fastened line set the circumference of the ship’s travel as it pulled against its anchor on the wind and the tide. I was watching a blue and white sloop in the yacht harbor turn fore and aft as the river ran to the cove and from the cove to the sea. The wind was shifting, sending little waves against first the south and then the north shores in its ebb and flow. The sloop probed the ends of its lines silently, like an animal.

go ahead and ask
the wind what the wind means
stealing shore kisses
then interrogate in turn
the seismal pushing

of the whole ocean
coming up in this little
cove, mastering
the rocks and lumber
jettisoned, how flotsam

in the tiny push and shove
at my feet, asks
the largest questions now
the only ones that matter



*Publisher’s Notes:

1. Epigraph is from “Introduction: On Taste” in A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, With an Introductory Discourse Concerning Taste (1757, second edition with additions) by Edmund Burke (1729–1797). Complete text may be found within the Project Gutenberg Ebook: The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. I. (of 12).

2. Tarlton’s poem is from his series of tanka-prose reflections, The Sublime and the Beautiful, on selected passages (such as the one in the epigraph above) from Burke’s Inquiry. To read two others that appear here in MacQ-9, click “Next Page” button below.

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