Tell it, Tampa!

Tell it, Tampa!
Tell it, Tampa!

Haiku's from Home

National Poetry Month Poems

For National Poetry Month, we made a call to the city—send us your Tampa poems!  And did we get some great submissions!  Whether you call it the Big Guava, T-Town or Champa, you showed some love for this place we call home.  Your poems celebrated pirates, Bucs and Rays.  The Riverwalk and downtown.  Old brick streets, the longest sidewalk and the bay. Poems arrived as love letters and keen observations, as history lessons and architectural celebrations.  Some of you paid homage to our past.  Some of you praised our city’s natural beauty. With over 60 submissions of poems and songs from adults and school children, we decided we couldn’t declare just one winner. After a lot of deliberation, we have selected our top poems.   

Selected Winners

The air was soft that moved so slightly palms.
The thought was light that spurred a song of psalms.
The sun was bright that warmed so soon the sands.
The muse that sang then drew to mind the bands
That seemed to play as softly as the breeze
And made us start to shift as by degrees.

Our minds were gifted there to some degrees,
So under shady leaves of dulcet palms
Whose branches played and splayed beneath the breeze,
We heard the muses singing such sweet psalms
That we became in swift, concerted bands
The dancers gliding over warming sands.

And on those hot and deep and shifting sands
The temperature of which soon climbed degrees
As if to claim the heights of heated bands,
We danced beneath the canopy of palms
And sang the songs to us that were like psalms
Inside the sweet and cloying summer breeze.

It rose, it did, that ever-blowing breeze;
It picked the grains, it kicked the heated sands
And seemed to grab from breath our breathless psalms
That moaned from lips quite parched, and by degrees
That shadow strutted, under fronded palms
In febrile quiver, dancing with the bands

And then it was that we became the bands
And held our sway under the ample breeze
Beneath the ever-swaying, scented palms
Over the burning grains of all those sands;
And so by effort we sure claimed degrees
That gifted minds like ours with Beauty’s psalms

Thus Beauty gave us all her gifted psalms
As if the chosen muse had called our bands.
And we became angelic, bound degrees
Of bronzed young gods in thrall to summer breeze
That tossed and drove the blistering golden sands
Beside the waters near the arching palms.

We sang the psalms and so we blessed the palms
Whose fronds from bands of heat so saved the sands,
And we, by mused degrees, became the lofting breeze.

 

I've watched this town throughout the years
Grow by leaps and bounds
From a sleepy little port city
To a magical mystical town
I've lived all over the country
Seen many great places and things
From points all over our nation
Wherever our freedom still rings

I left it behind many a time
Only to find my way back
To my friends and family remaining
When I left they all gave me flack
Here I am where I grew up so proud
Around people of each ethnic race
I learned early on not to judge
Value a person's word by their grace

Tampa is a town I am proud of
From the bodies of water around
To the wildlife we all get to live with
The beauty many places is found
The sports teams are solid and plenty
From the Superbowl Bucs to the Rays
The Lightning, and Rowdies are champs too
That's why we're now called Champa Bay!

We bent over the drinking fountain marked Coloreds Only.
       We, who had a choice.

only to find the handle was loose, water was hot,
       and it came in the trickle of a leaky tap.

We marched, blocking traffic in front
       of our courthouse steps attempting to impress

that the war was not the only atrocity that must
       end now. A Black Youth for Peace and Power

activist was behind bars yet again on trumped up
       charges. But it was summer in Tampa and sweat

made our t-shirts cling to backs, breasts, armpits
        The nearby A.M.E. church offered fans from a previous

funeral, and as we waved the wooden sticks, an image
        of the deceased cooled our faces. But still--

we all needed relief, and some of us had a choice.
         So a human barrier formed, a shield between

the police perimeter and anyone who dared
         drink from the Whites Only fountain,

where cool water flowed as if from an artesian well.

Ever booming, never sleeping,
lightning strikes even if the skies not weeping.
With the biggest port and vessels coming and going,
it's no wonder the pirate boats keep showing.
It's no surprise to this City of Cigars
that the times have changed: Buccaneers are now the stars.
The casino name boasts of music with hard rock,
and there are quite a few beaches--it can get hot.
There is a sidewalk you go down that seems never ending,
and the culture of this place is like a blender that keeps on blending.
What else can be said of the nature, or the parks,
or wild animals and night sparks.
It's not just a city or a town,
it's a life place where the pace of life is found.
Where is it? How can I find it? Can you show me the way?
Just ask anyone you know, and they'll tell you of Tampa Bay

Spectacular palm trees line this roadway
A body of water with million dollar homes
This is Tampa’s Bayshore Blvd
Where joggers, bicyclists, and skaters do roam!

Thousands cram along these sidewalks
To watch our incredible boat parades
The Gasparilla Pirate Invasion
Nothing compares to this fleet on the water waves!

Take a ride on the trolley
Along the cobblestone streets of Ybor City
Where nightlife, dining and dancing await you
7th Avenue, with ambience and décor, oh so pretty!

A sweet and robust aroma circles the air
Cigar City-- One of Tampa’s many nicknames
Here you will find many of the world’s greatest cigars
We put other cities to shame!

Authentic Cuban sandwiches
Black beans and yellow rice
Home of Columbia Restaurant’s famous 1905 salad
Our dining is sure to entice!

From Broadway theater to major sports teams
We’re proud, we have it all!
City of Champions, multiple times over
Even Tom Brady couldn’t resist our call!

Proudly supporting our service men and women
We are home to MacDill Air Force Base
With annual air fests to delight the crowds
A special time with our troops, face to face!

Royal blue waters, white sandy beaches
Jet skiing under the sun
This is our slice of paradise—Tampa,
Home of everything fun!

Frangipani, balustrade
Pink April moon.
Bougainvillea, pediment.
Storm coming soon.

Tuscarora, Muscogee
Crape myrtle dawn
Natchez and Infinity
Velvet carpet lawn

Hyacinth and peony
Wrought iron gates.
Spring has come to Florida
Whose name it illustrates.

Lights bright as graffiti flash broad smiles
While the city lifts its face to the night.

Rivered lights loosen and spread like rumors
Shift multi-colored narratives over

Woven Waves and a repetition of bridges
On Brorein, Laurel, Kennedy and Cass.

Lights pulse, stitch seams of mint, blue and pink
Tether the Hillsborough with rainbows,

They hold the city open like the mouth of the river
Or the mouth of the mural, those wall poems

In rooster-red and orange blossom
In hello yellow and electric blue

Made for the love of the city, its people
Agua Luces, lights that Link sides

separated by the river, lights that say
Hey! See how Tampa welcomes you.

“I remember
when this was all fruit trees
there was no city walk
no rolling drive along a bay.
It was swamp land and
orange groves,
dunes of teenagers
drinking beer on Saturday night”.
He tells me these things
because I will never know
                             old Florida.
Old New York wasn’t
                             the same flavor.
No one I knew
spent the morning fishing
                             before school or

had a shotgun slung on the back
                             of a pickup.

We took the city bus,
rode horses in Central Park,
                            trees in concrete.

It feels so cliché
the concrete jungle but for
all its shine there was a wildness
unlike the wilderness of Tampa Bay.
I walk the streets and imagine
                              tobacco and woodsmoke,
men at card tables playing dominos,
women rolling cigars on
                               street corners,

wish I were an old Floridian
wish I had memories of citrus sunrise
after a night of sideways rain.
Fifteen years I’ve been here,
my old New Yorkers don’t understand,
ask what’s so special about Flarida,
I say you’d need a Big Sombrero and blue crab
                                   to understand.

La vida with everyone in it, someone’s ninth town,
A thousandth home to luxuriant unpossession.

Of August noon casting down its powdery halo,
December light the thinnest pane of raw potato.

Week 35, Week 17, at the vanished timeshares,
stadium-roars in a plastic cup, tingling the fingers.

Now Mandarin faces in bedded pansies,
night gods twisting in the frangipani.

Traffic still knotting hours after
good news suddenly slows one driver.

A sparking rabbit rounds the dog track,
past the propeller works and yachts on blocks.

Waters so soft you can’t shave close! Pink lightning!
In Council Chambers the motion still carrying.

Tampa of clacking pennants and spouses twined like driftwood.
Tampa the vast gut touched like a faraway wound.

Of graffiti scored on sea grape leaves,
divining lap dancers silvered with fatigue.

Future Nails All Day Nails Eternal Nails,
searing beach sand squeaking beneath the heels.

Tampa so alive no one can serve it truth,
shade offering itself like contraband fruit.

Those first books buried in the wilderness,
stilled bombers at the base, quartered Percocets.

Back and forth beneath table-top glass,
a tabby passes its paw, peering through, entranced.

Once my stardust leaves my solid, find my light in the house on Lucerne. The one I wanted as my childhood home, around the corner from our house on Ladrone. Our house, where I’d eat hibiscus petals, warily waiting for the next sinkhole to emerge. Find me on Danube, in the mirror of Mrs. Cook’s vanity, where we’d watch her ready her face

to meet the day with elegance. Down the street, I’m in the air where The Coliseum stood high. Feel me in the Seaborn Day School boat, watching the children play, or over the shoulder of the waitress serving their parents coffee and toast at Grecian Island. I’m in every game of foursquare, or taking notes in the yards of spooky houses for Harriett the Spy. I’m the butterflies in your stomach, speeding over Thrill Hill, or the throbbing in your first kiss lips on Beer Can Beach. I’m in the mainsail of every boat racing from the Davis Island Yacht Club on Thursday night. Smell me, like incense, from The Mod Shop, long ago turned into a law office, or the scent of night blooming jasmine on Columbia Drive. I’m the whistling across the channel, in the deserted trestle from the port. In the penthouse of The Mirasol is where I’ll be, or at Merrymakers, spying on men watching dirty movies. I’m the sentinel in the cupola of the plane crash house on Geneva Place. If a Hudson Manor resident sees a ghost with underage blue eyeshadow in the room where Island’s Club was previously, that, too, would be me. So, if on a humid August night there’s a phosphorescent glow in the canal behind your home, call my name. That buzzing in your ear is me, singing an island song that sounds like a summer breeze.

Gasparilla, pirates, cigars, craft beer,
Who wouldn’t want to live here?
Riverwalk, Ybor, Bayshore Boulevard,
Life in the Big Guava is a picture postcard.
 

Sunshine, water, just look around,
Mother Nature is so profound.
Pirate Water Taxis floating in the Bay,
Hop on board, anchors away.
 

Flamenco dancing, Sangria wine,
1905 Salad, it’s Columbia Restaurant time!
The best Cuban sandwich is a hot debate,
But Tampa’s the champ in the State.
 

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup,
Victory champagne from it they supped.
Buccaneers players sport Super Bowl rings,
The Vince Lombardi trophy their victory brings.
 

The Military is stationed at MacDill Air Force Base,
Soldiers and families the community embrace.
What’s not to love about Big Guava Town,
The shining jewel in Florida’s crown.

Dear Tampa,

I choose you over other cities
because your dance card is
full; like a ballroom dancer,
you have all the moves —
obvious beauty of hibiscus and
palms, Beethoven in Spring,
waterfronts of gold, Gasparilla beads,
YBOR CITY (Tampa’s French Quarter),
Café con Leche, black beans and yellow
rice, canoes on the Hillsborough, Bayshore’s
southern charm, arias at the Arts Center,
summer classics at Tampa Theater,
“Baked Alaska” at Berns
                    and
runners from Kenya crowning the roads,
Lightning strikes at Amalie Arena,
Buccaneer cannons blast pride, Rays
span sunshine across the Bay,
                   and
in backyard ponds alligators split
the waters like an ancient miracle.

in the dark vault of evening's sky/ star-steps in the street
Enheduanna,

When moon-crowned minarets
dangle like charms from our sunset,
Tampa’s azure ziggurat begins
humming a hidden song.
It’s a middling blue song,
a gift that spills down Franklin Street
and out to all her familiars.
She sings to the 11 silver crescents.
She sings to the phoenix of Tampa Theatre,
the organ, and the marquee bright as a meteor.
To almost-lost Jackson House where Ella slept.
To the forgotten corner where Billy Graham preached.

 

She harmonizes with the neon bridges
that glow like bangles up the arm of the river.
and with the Jose Gaspar,
rocking in his manatee-d cradle.
She purrs to steel horses bedded down on Bayshore,
to the longest sidewalk sailing on like a kite,
and the mullet flashing under Ballast Point pier.

 

She sings to Ybor’s dry, haunted speakeasies
and West Tampa’s quiet clock towers.
She hums a lullaby to Oaklawn Cemetery,
humming most to Nancy and William Ashley,
their black and white graves.
She croons to the avenue where John Kennedy waved.
From the ice where Bolts trace their figure eights
to the concrete sombrero where Buccaneers reign.

 

And as day checks its watch, readying for dawn,
she serenades her remembrance
to the very oldest house,
the house where my grandfather,
a young man, stepped off into WWI,
then decades later posed on the porch again
with his returned-from-the-Second-War sons.
That house sits empty now,
bereft of family, blue tarp for its roof.
But its secrets, like all the secrets in this place,
stir to the light-queen of Tampa, heavenly ziggurat,
casting her mystic blue song over us all.

King Corona is close enough to Havana,
the wine just as heatstroked, tangy.
In their humid memories, every woman
was as fine as the one on the sangria pitcher
drawing the hem of her skirt toward her face
as if it were a fussing child. Women like this
loved into them lessons on how much
handsomer a man becomes with a Montecristo No. 4
and some practice. They recount these slender shavings
of past lives to the tempo of the cigar cutter’s snips.
They are the kind of men comfortable in white linen,
historians of the names of all the ships
that ever left port—Untethered, Endless Horizons
and of the way the drums outside the cabana could swell
the night so full you forgot they were hollow.

The railroad rested at a luxury hotel and unloaded auburn bricks,
paving a road which is always under construction.

We built a port in a shallow bay for cruises and trade.
Water taxis race the Riverwalk and tourists ride the lonely trolley from Channelside to Ybor.

Fort Brooke defended a fishing village--now gone, cannons thrown into the river.
Bumpy brick roads filled with pirate ships and excessive treasures.

The Village of Tampa with all its history still invented its own pirate to be invaded by.
A parade for an imagined defeat is our celebration.

Roads in Tampa must change their name at least once,
and occasionally be one-way, before merging with another street.

There is a street named Boulevard, in the Big Guava topology,
which is disconnected from itself.

Random sidewalks and forgotten bike lanes come and go
next to the commuters who drive forty-five minutes to be anywhere.

Standing on history, walking within community, hands crafting industry.
Tampa Town is a road where the bricks meet the asphalt.

There are several renditions of this song, written for specific occasions You can hear them on YouTube on the Tampa Songs playlist:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhN5MDQodYuIY3UVYkQZ0CxeABF3vYVsS

I remember Tampa
The way she used to be
The places we would run to
The faces we would see

Yes, I remember Tampa
Those precious memories
A city rising, on the move
A simple, yet, progressive groove
I remember Tampa
And she remembers me

Walkinʼ through MacFarlane Park
Beneath the moss filled trees
Children riding bike ‘til dark
Cuttinʼ through the tropic breeze

I remember Tampa
Those sweet, soft memories
This city that I call my home
The home from which Iʼll never roam
I remember Tampa
And she remembers me

Iʼm a Tampa native
Tampa native, canʼt you see
I will share my story with you
To preserve its history

Iʼm a Tampa native
Tampa native, through and though
Seen a lot of things go down here
Learned some things I never knew…

Back when we were younger
And everything seemed new

We used to have a lot of fun
No matter what weʼd do
Sleepy days, hot summer nights
Goinʼ anywhere we pleased
With love that I could call my own

This city that I call my home
The home from which Iʼll never roam
This love affair was meant to be
I love her and she loves me
Yes, I remember Tampa
And she remembers me.

To Tampa, the Grand City of My Second Homeland

How beautiful to live in my Country, in quiet tranquility and Peace!
With great joy, abundance and enjoyment in full Liberty.
Let no more bloodied hands join and may we make weapons fall silent,
That we may recognize our wrongdoing to our brother before God and the altar.

CHORUS:
If Peace is a right and a responsibility,
That is where I want to belong.
If love is what moves the world,
I will be its support to help change its course.

No more mothers will cry for their children. No more children who do not know what to do.
No more blood shall stain my Country, no more people will die throughout.
We’ve said, “Stop there, oh Death! Your weapon, the Trident, you must store away,
I will not invoke you, nor will I accept you because we are for Peace.

May my people serve as the scene where ideas of Peace can come forth from,
And that we may form a great seedbed that the world will wish to imitate.
May we create work for all and smiles we shall see,
With conviction and great sacrifice, your surroundings will appreciate it.

If there is Progress, there shall be Peace for all, also the opposite can be true.
No hunger, with education and a home; I help, you help and He helps.
Do not stop, we push onwards as great leaders have always said.
We can be prideful and show Peace on our expressions.

May my Country be the altar of Peace, where we can all ask for forgiveness
For what we have done and what we have failed to do, only God can grant us this favor (bis).


Note on the Song from the author: When I first arrived in the City of Tampa looking for political asylum, accompanied by my wife and son, the item of greatest value in my luggage were my ideas of PEACE that had been stripped from my homeland in Columbia.

I wanted to conceptualize a symbol of Peace that would serve a city, state or nation, as well as a hymn that could also be sung with pride for your country, in any language in the world.

Super Bowl Night by Maeva F., 5th grade

‘Twas the Super Bowl eve in Tampa too
I saw the fireworks red and silver and blue.
The sky illuminated with color coming from the ship,
Anyone who visited had such a fortunate trip.
I still think back at what a glorious sight that was,
And the jaw dropping moment of the finale’s rambunctious buzz.
That’s when I realized what my hometown meant to me,
Football and the NFL Experience just filled me with glee.
Super Bowl morning I was wishing for a Buccaneers win,
That night my wish came true as my family watched from our den.
The home team won and we all shouted WOO HOO,
Oh I’m so happy that my wish came true.


Tampa Has My Back by Ianna R., 3rd Grade

Tampa makes me feel welcome here and there.
I feel safe and sound.
Every morning the sun shines in and the sun says good morning Tampa.
Here comes another perfect day in Tampa Bay.
It’s going to be nice and hot.
Every time I hear the word Tampa it puts a smile on my face!
Every day I know that Tampa has my back!
 


Our City, Our Home, Our Haven! by Janaki S., 4th Grade

Where the tie - dye splash of hues- pink, purple, golden, orange, and red across the evening sky -
creates sunsets that are a legend,
Where time stands still when experiencing the wonders of the flora;
Like, the creamy moonflower popping open at sunset- just like that!
Where the rustling of the palm fronds Create balmy evenings The armadillos, egrets, families of cranes, pink spoon -bills, cardinals, osprey, falcons, bald eagles

and the fierce looking alligators are part of the environment....and create hope and beauty
Where art and culture draw people and bring about harmony
Where the glittering waters of the Riverwalk have become a hub

for gatherings and festivals creating togetherness,
Where emerald and beige beaches
soothe away the daily cares,
Soft, powdery, sometimes snow- like sand,
green silk with lace - like frothy waves!
The ocean is a beautifully dressed lady eager for a fun evening!
Or a perfect painting - orange and black at almost night/dusk tranquility
With a boat and some birds black in the distance above as if strategically placed,
The orange orb disappearing into the waters little by little!
Dolphins and fish frolicking in the distance...
This is the place
This is the paradise that is
Tampa!
This is Tampa

Haiku From Home

Click Haiku authors name to reveal poem

Social distancing

I have been inside for weeks

Send margaritas.

Covid killed my job

Now I need a new career

I’m scared but here goes...

Three minutes well spent

My pen was put to paper

Government issued.

The pink orchid points

Like a promise. Sails unfurl

Into the future.

We had to stay home

No more beach or Riverwalk

But we stayed healthy.

Ybor chickens screech

To break the spooky silence

Of a waiting town

No flour. No yeast.

No TP. No Lysol Spray.

Tampa is bereft.

“Supermoon”

Mask white and sterile,

Near and distant gravity,

Your hope fills our bay.

Nightly ritual:

Playing with my best friend's kids

From six feet away

Only breeze runs down the street

I wonder who is whispering

Your heart and my heart.

Wife works in next room

Now our sole provider

My search continues.


I tried to haiku

As something new to do

Streaming words not shows.

“The Corona-cation Chronicles Day Fourteen”

Each day creates its

Own rhythm and melody

While poetry glad

To cede the soulful lyrics

When this is over

My spirit will be sober

A human again.

Sky without contrails

Birdsong flutters on blue breeze

Earth breathes a bright lull.

Cardinals build nests

Blue Jays chase them away

Nature perseveres.

We’ve stayed safe at home

And now have great news to share

A baby next year.

“Loneliness”

The sound of lonely

Though surrounded by people

Sadness has come here.

Alzheimer's felled him.

Coronavirus ensured

Solitary death.

When we touch again,

It will mean something different,

To convey our joy.

Cat in warm sunshine

Knows nothing of the world's grief.

When will I see you?

“Necessary Adaptations”

Mami learns Facetime:

Papi remembers my name.

Hold fast to this day.


“Living Solo Through COVID”

I won’t stay silent.

That sound you hear is life still

Talking to itself.

2021

I no longer want to be

An introvert please.

Work in pandemic:

The air conditioner hums

Louder than before.

Tears over nothing

Mask hides my stress and worry

The virus prevails.


Hugging deficient

The touch of love is missing

Make me whole again.

“Pirates beat scurvy.

They can handle COVID too.”

- J. Gaspar, M.D.

Alone in a loop,

Essential and exhausted

With no end in sight.

“Duty During a Pandemic”

Under the soffit,

A bee swarm lingers for days,

Protecting the queen.

Peach tree decaying

Blossoms pink amidst chaos

I too long to bloom.

“Apocalypse Visions - Haiku #1”

I stumble into

Sunlit patch of forest - breathe,

Chaos at my back.

Together as seven.

Blind darkness still looms outside,

Giggles soak these walls.

The window was closed

I could see you through the glass

Our love seeps through it.

Staring at the world

I leave my breath on windows

So close yet so far.


The sun feels so good

Through the living room window

I should put pants on.

“Tanka”

No one to bug me,

But guilty for sleeping late.

The whole day to do

Nothing! A knock on the door:

Cloud passes without a word.

Sun and salt air may

Help to fight COVID, so come

See us in Tampa.

Pandemic haikus -

Hoping that they will not be

Read posthumously!