bleed red
the deep wounds flow
dressings stain crimson hues
from battlegrounds ubiquitous
suffering erects no bigoted walls
but into each culture’s bed climbs
disturbing the soul’s sleep
all humankind
bleed red


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in poetry & Rictameter Verse. Bookmark the permalink.

A Trashed Haiku

black garbage bag tote ~

carries all life’s possessions ~

piled on refuse child


(Selection taken from A Haiku for Ricky Baker, on sale now. All proceeds go to fund art and writing programs for children in juvenile detention centers.)


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.


plastic feet formed to fit polymer heels
lofty heights
false ideals
dance in girls’ minds
to fairy-tale tunes
flawlessly complected marketing tools
young thoughts make creative formations
of too tiny waists
and bone-thin limbs
manifested years later
in anorexic meals
and bulimic fits
to fit
lovely lies
melted years earlier in colorful molds
hardened in impressionable minds
for uniform standards


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry & free verse. Bookmark the permalink.


The St. Louis

On May 13, 1939, the ocean liner, St. Louis, sailed from Hamburg, Germany, for Havana, Cuba. The Third Reich allowed more than 900 Jews aboard. We are counting now. When souls become quotas, numbers matter. The number was 937, most of them were German Jews. They carried what they thought were valid permits that guaranteed them temporary stay in the United States until proper visas could be granted.

The quotas…
The quotas!
The United States quotas were full.
The souls aboard the St. Louis had no clue.

The German-Austrian immigration quota for the United States allowed only 27,370 souls annually. The wait list for entry stretched for years, pages filled with longing names numbered. When souls become numbers filling quotas, what has humanity left to do but count? So we counted them. Number one got in. Number 27,371 did not. She received a free train ride out of Germany to a place called Auschwitz that reeked of smoke and shit and death, where she was given a new number. She died in a gas chamber and was burned to ash. We are counting now. She took her place among six million dead.

That was Europe, the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The St. Louis safely reached Cuba, where 29 Jews were allowed to disembark. Cuba had immigration quotas too. We are counting now. 29 souls found a refuge. The ship was ordered out of the harbor in Havana. To be sure that number 30 didn’t sneak in, Cuban police boats followed the St. Louis. Several passengers attempted to commit suicide.

For three days, the St. Louis drifted off the coast of Miami, close enough to see that city’s sparkling lights. Pleas went out via cables from the ship. President Franklin D. Roosevelt never responded. The White House never responded. The State Department finally sent a telegram to the ship explaining plainly that the United States had immigration quotas in place and that the souls on board would have to apply for the proper visas and take their turn on the waiting list.

The quotas…
The quotas!
The United States quotas were full.
The souls aboard the St. Louis now understood.

How did we explain to men, women and children that they were nothing more than numbers in a quota-filling game? What words of comfort did we give? Were we present when many of them were torn from their families and piled like cattle into cargo holds after their bitter return to Europe? Did we travel with them sharing their terror as they were sent to concentration camps? Did we hold their trembling hands as their flesh rotted away from starvation? Did we hear their screams? Did we see them die? They each were given a number. We are counting now. They took their place among six million dead.

We laud a statue that reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Were these not tempest-tossed? The lamp went dark, blown out by xenophobic winds.

We have recycled those winds today in the forms of quotas, restrictions, deportations, bans and walls. We fear.

Souls become numbers, leaving humanity with nothing left to do but count.


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories. Bookmark the permalink.

Violating Haiku

an oily gold rush ~

flows out from the frack-raped earth ~

Mother’s black-inked tears


boys rush the Bakken ~

covet all precious treasure ~

shatter the girls’ gems


when Females are raped ~

shouldn’t all be shocked and wonder ~

what through pipeline flows?



(Rape and sexual assault against women and girls have skyrocketed in the communities surrounding the Bakken Oil Fields since fracking began, increasing by some estimates more than 160%. These crimes have disproportionately impacted Indigenous females who live on the area’s reservation.)

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

A Wall Built High

how can we build a wall high enough to keep “evil” out?

with children’s buckets of sand
stolen by the kindergarten bully,
a molded garrison
wet with their tears –
youth’s hording


with sticks and stones
and mountains of bones
of broken bodies
decayed on the ground –
states’ colonizing

with bricks and mortar
mixed with the ashes
of cremated remains
from gas-filled

it sounds simple
like child’s play –
steal from one
allow another to



a wall built high

I think when he says, “keep ‘evil’ out”,
he really means,


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me.

Posted in poetry & free verse. Bookmark the permalink.

On Sale Now

roots of child neglect ~

contort Ricky Baker’s feet ~

strong hands cut safe paths.

(selection from A Haiku for Ricky Baker)


A Haiku for Ricky Baker, a book of poetry inspired by the 2016 Taika Waititi film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and my experience of the positive influence of selections of my work on the life of one girl transitioning out of detention and into foster care is now available in eBook. ALL PROCEEDS, including 70% of each eBook sale, go to fund art projects for children in juvenile detention centers. Please consider purchasing the book and reviewing it on Amazon. Every sale of A Haiku for Ricky Baker helps to put paintbrushes and pens into the hands of at-risk youth in the hope that they will find creative paths for healing and growth. For more information or to sign up for newsletter updates, visit my page at Haiku for Ricky.

Words and photography©2017 Tanya Cliff

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

Too Pretty Haiku

our photoshopped rights ~

“all men created equal” ~

frames pretty picture


the past unfiltered? ~

ugly view, begs discarding ~

TRUTH: point – click – delete


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

Two Incalculable Haiku

Liberty Bell breaks ~

three million votes not counted ~

popular disgrace


Baron King soon crowned ~

Liberty’s Lady barren ~

a corrodenation


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in haiku & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

The High Tower

“Let’s build the tower high again!” the newly crowned king shouted as he rode his tall steed through the kingdom’s cobblestone roads for his coronation parade.

The subjects cheered, “Rebuild the High Tower! Rebuild the High Tower!”

Stupidity echoes loudly off the walls of stopped ears.

The High Tower, symbol of the kingdom’s former glory, spiraled to a height never before achieved in any other nation. Chiseled stone on chiseled stone, long ago carried on the whipped backs of imported slaves, rose into the clouds. Along the lines of human chains each brick was painstakingly laid. The mortar mixed with blood displayed a uniquely rusty hue. The subjects of the kingdom exported the excess stones at great profit. That was long ago.

The High Tower was built among the Emerald Hills, a verdant, rolling paradise selected after the native population had been culled, its survivors driven off to desolate grounds on the outer edge of the world. Cleared of its original inhabitants, the garden variety slaves were free to dig, plant, weed and harvest an abundant and varied crop of produce, watering the ground with their sweat and tears as they toiled. The subjects of the kingdom grew fat with joy and exported the excess produce at great profit. That was long ago.

“The slaves won their freedom. The native inhabitants won the freedom to live on ‘their own lands’.” That’s what the history books read. (In truth, the slaves won the right to no longer be slaves, and the native inhabitants lost everything important to them; but, if you tell this to the now cheering subjects of the kingdom, it will fall on stopped ears, lost in the continuing reverberations of stupidity. I digress.)

The Emerald Hills rotted, first with overuse, then with neglect. Decaying foliage filled all its stagnant pools. The High Tower cracked and crumbled. The stone steps that spiraled to its peak, providing a view all the world’s kingdoms, was no longer safe to climb. The subjects were embarrassed but not enough to become stone workers or gardeners. They coveted their own sweat and blood, and labor in brick or dirt brings a meager pay. This is now.

“Let’s build the tower high again!” the newly crowned king shouted.

The subjects cheered, “Rebuild the High Tower!”

Stupidity echoes loudly.


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories & satire. Bookmark the permalink.