A milkshake is plopped down in front of me just as I decide to skedaddle. How can I possibly enjoy this guilty pleasure when my boss, the head of the English Department, the man I’ve crushed on for ten years, is sitting at the diner counter like a solitary cowboy with his gun (well in this case his silver pen) cocked and ready for battle? (click here to see Part I, Diner Dilemma)
Perhaps cocked is not the correct term. But Frank Jensen, Dr. Jensen if you please, writes poetry that zings like a bullet to your gut. He puts words together like a magician on LSD. He hits his target with such precision that long-time tenured professors have quit or retired early if Jensen sets his sights on their profession.
“Any chance this can be poured into a ‘to go’ cup?” I ask the waitress. However, I reach for the goblet of delight and place my lips on the straw, sucking in the sweet nectar of calorie guilt.
“Too late,” she smirks. But I’m not paying attention to her. Frank, Dr. Jensen, is scribbling on his newspaper.
He’s known for his tankas, is Dr. Frigging Brilliant and Handsome Jenson. Yup, tankas, the deceptively simple 5/7/5/7/7, 31-syllable, five-line poem. His famous one set the Theology Department on fire.
Stars are heaven sent
Escaped light from the Bright One
Who leads us to war
To fight for the powerful
Presence of sheer nothingness.
After that poem was short listed for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, our Theology Department at the University disappeared.
But I digress, and I also finish off more than half my milkshake before I realize that my literary heartthrob, the man I dream about when dreams turn hot and sexy, the man who scares the you-know-what out of me, approaches my corner table, newspaper in hand.
His face is as pink as a blush, and his words stumble underneath his brown face mask. “I . . . well. Surprising to see you here, Dr. Limone.”
“Pauline,” I stutter.
“Yes, well.” Frank Jensen turns to go, but then he slowly, softly places the newspaper on my table. His blue ink is clear on the weather page, a five-line Tanka written on the map.
My hands reach for the newspaper, but then I glance up to peer into Jensen’s eyes. Do I dare?
Dear Reader: If you answer YES to Pauline’s question, read Frank Jensen’s Tanka, below.