KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Ekphrastic Tanka Tale: 333 words [R]

But to Each Other Dream

by Claire Everett

Painting by William Holman Hunt: Isabella and the Pot of Basil
Isabella and the Pot of Basil, 1858
By William Holman Hunt

This is the blue hour, when the blackbird drinks its fill of fading stars. I can no longer recall when I first sensed her gentle hand was at the latch. Perhaps, even before I learned the words by which she makes herself known I could hear her morning-step upon the stair?

A breeze parts the curtains, lets slip a chink of light; I must taste the blossoms that unfold. Or else, I wake to the music of her laughter, lift my eyes from a dream to catch a glimpse of her smile through an indoor lattice, all delight. Soft, her tread, closer, until I feel the circle of her arm, the warmth of her cheek, her fingers, still stained with the dawn. She lifts her knee, rests her foot upon the prie-dieu and gathers me into her swoon. Of all her gowns, this is my favourite, with mackerel skies in the hang of the folds and a train that carries the scent of pines. We share the inward fragrance of each other’s heart.

where have you been?
not far, not far...
I have come, swift
as a hen-bird on the wing
to breast her eggs again

She says she forgot the stars, the moon and sun...the blue above the trees. Did I forget them too? They were not the same without her near.... If I should die...if she.... Let us speak, then, only of now. The cool cascades of her ink-dark hair, the sweetness of her tears. One hundred, one thousand years from now, it will not matter what became of one without the other.

what is my mind
in this pot-of-basil day?
my dark-eyed muse


Author’s Note: The title and all text in italics are excerpted from “Isabella, or The Pot of Basil” by John Keats (1795-1821).


Publisher’s Notes:

1. This tanka tale was first published in Notes from the Gean (4:1, 2012), and is republished here by author’s permission from Haibun Today (Volume 8, Number 4, December 2014).

2. While the original oil on canvas by William Holman Hunt resides at the Laing Art Gallery in the United Kingdom, the painting in the public domain. The reproduction above was downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

3. The artist created a smaller version of this painting as well, which includes small differences, most notably in the model’s expression and the pattern of the inlay on the prie-dieu. In June 2014, Christie’s sold that version at auction for USD 4.9 million.

Claire Everett
Issue 6, Fall 2016

is the founding editor of the Skylark tanka journal and tanka-prose editor for Haibun Today. She is the author of two tanka collections: twelve moons and The Small, Wild Places [reviewed in KF-5]. She is co-author of Hagstones: A Tanka Journey with Joy McCall, and Talking in Tandem with her husband Tony Everett. Claire served on the editorial team for Take Five Best Contemporary Tanka (Volume 4, 2011), and in 2015 she edited the Tanka Society of America’s Members’ Anthology, Spent Blossoms.

She is mum to five children and step-mum to two and likes nothing better than to be cycling through the Dales with Tony on their trusty tandem Tallulah, or walking on the North Yorkshire Moors.

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