Liberty, a bilingual tanka

Peter Max, Liberty Head, 1986 (Wikiart, Fair Use)
By Gabriel Rosenstock
“Liberty” is a bilingual ekphrastic tanka, written in Irish and English by Gabriel Rosenstock, as America decides on the shape of the next four years. Tanka is the oldest form of poetry still being written today, stretching back 1,300 years to its origins in Japan. Classically, it is written in a configuration of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, a pattern followed here. Ekphrastic tanka is, simply, tanka which responds to works of art.
Liberty, what’s this
it looks like a crown of thorns
do you bleed inside
       something’s doing your head in
        you look like you’re about to die
(Irish version)
A Shaoirse, cad seo
an choróin spíne, ab ea
‘bhfuil fuil leat istigh
          tá rud éigin do do chrá
          ‘sé an bás é, ní foláir
Gabriel Rosenstock is a bilingual poet, haikuist, tankaist, playwright, essayist, blogger, short story writer, novelist and translator. His latest books are Walk with Gandhi, illustrated by Masood Hussain (Gandhi 150 Ireland) and Glengower: Poems for No One in Irish and English (The Onslaught Press). Website:


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