My grandmother, Maria Kovacs – Photo by Ilona Martonfi

 

Seven Mountains
For my maternal grandmother

 

That moment when you see spring on your windowsill
you have lost your sister,

ceramic pot yellow daffodils, nodding buds. Wilted petals.
Ruffled trumpet. Shriveled and fading

that moment when news comes from your village Kisjenö
about the death of Katarina,

red clay of the Fehér-Körös River, Kingdom of Hungary
the land beyond the forest. Slate roof

timber hut. Omens of sickness
and misfortune. Evil spirits on full moon nights

that moment you remember the year great-grandfather,
Kovács György, abandoned his family. 1897. The year
you were born, a girl named Mária,

great-grandmother Viktória farmed out

never to live again with her brothers and sister

never to sew an embroidered silk
wedding dress. Never to bless the bread
at your nuptials. Carry a painted chest
with tulips and roses to your home.

That moment you remember the crowing of a black hen,
in the kitchen a pine wood coffin,
keening women singing songs of lament

your sister Katarina who dies in childbirth.
White shroud and veil fastened with silver pins.

 

La Folle

Here it is then, found in the teeth of a chisel
clutter, dried-out clay,

sepia-hued loops
barricaded shut.
Nowhere familiar. “La folle!”

Clutching monochrome negatives.
4e arrondissement of Paris
ma soeur Camille

destroying much of her oeuvre
silence back to silence

tearing all sketches.

In 1892, after an abortion

drawing us into a plum moon
half-remembered fables
set amid a wild overgrown garden

and we become spectral:

“Crasseuse!”

“Filthy!”

wrapped in a long maroon coat
recluse in her studio
at 19 Quai Bourbon
l’île Saint-Louis

committed at Montdevergues Asylum
never touched clay, ever again.

 

Bleaching

You’ve come to the island north on the reef

waking up with the half moon
the air tasting of salt
knotted grass fishing nets

name it wind, or cloud
the sixth extinction

splashed pink by a mad painter

zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae
leaving a bare skeleton

overheated seawater placed
in clam shells you’ve offered

umbilical cord to the ocean.

Take a word such as children
or hunger, take a word such as stars.
Tell a story

some story.

Mud huts painted yellow or blue
created in the Dreamtime

eucalyptus and acacia and mangroves

rephotographing through long exposure,
geckos, skinks, snake.

Factories and cars and deforestation.

 

Terezin

Unstretched cloth canvas. The many weeks I lived in here, in Terezin Ghetto.

A family group here, and another there. Memories trapped in erasure. Scraping through oils and ink. We are not safe, says one character. Scratching, sculpting away with palette knife. Grey ink running with the black ink. The painted people call to us. Shadow us. Possess us. I put down abstract marks. Look at my ancestors. Concerts in cellars and attics. Percussion, a cello, double bass. Lilac hills of Prague.

Sibilant hissing sounds. Windowless cattle wagons. Czech Nazi camp filled with bumblebees.

Such, such yellow sun. When I stood at the gate. Vanished house left unlatched. Not rifles. Not screams. Land of bluebells. Swamp milkweed. Tracing in figures. Until the lost lovers, parents, brother, and sisters, stand upon this wood easel. Children’s fairy tale opera called Brundibár. Kocour, the Cat. A dog and a sparrow.

“Bialystok children” by Otto Ungar

 

 

 

© Deanna Smith

 

I never rejected the languages of my ancestors

in favour of English

I never had any choice

 

sometimes my own voice

sounds like clanging cymbals in my ears

and after years

of these foreign tongues being jammed down my throat

it would take a geo-political

ethno-cultural Heimlich manoeuvre

to get them out

 

I have no doubt

that this is the source of deeply rooted conflict

this “first” language I’m stuck with

the language of Shakespeare and Chaucer

and “yessir Mr. Boss’sir”

the language of slave ships

and cracked whips

and horror

 

I could use another language

at my disposal

mais ça serait pareil

à la fois Voltaire et des ongles sur un tableau dans mes oreilles

u otro

sería lo mismo

cómo hablar de dolor en el idioma que lo causa

 

sometimes I dream that speaking Hausa would make me feel better

maybe Wolof, or Igbo, or Twi

anything to let me tell my story more honestly

because honestly

what kind of artist paints in their own blood

who dances in shackles

who photographs in X-rays

we do

Black writers who use languages like English, French, Spanish

and others

never the languages of our foremothers

we do

 

the grandchildren of griots

write stories meant to be spoken

our pens choking on every word

so it is not absurd

to question the languages in which we ask questions

 

they say it is impossible to tear down massa’s house with massa’s tools

that this is a quest for fools

we know

those who have mastered the tongues of masters know

it costs

but what is lost between

the soul and the page

the mind and the stage

is what I seek.

 

I seek

what was meant to be mine always

and in all ways

I will speak it into existence

call forth the stories of the ancestors

sing of the ones who were silenced

draw breath for the ones

whose throats were crushed

or swung or slit

 

I am sick of it

but it is all I have

yet, even with this forked tongue

I remain the answer to their prayers

supplications made in languages I have yet to learn

but know

like I know my bones

like I know my skin

and in the depth of this double mindedness

in the bleakest hour of this dissonance

I will speak

 

because I never rejected the languages of my ancestors

in favour of English

I never had any choice

so, with this voice

with this breath

with my life

I will honour them.

 

 

 

 

(c) Chantal Khoury (chantalkhoury.com)

 

The unacknowledged belief

is that fear holds you together

not back,

that it keeps you going

even if you’re dreaming on your toes, straining destiny

See, fear is what you’re made of, where you come from,

As you clench without release

and hold your breath to speak

It’s all that’s keeping me grounded

In the rich dread of my predecessors.

All that stands between me

and dissipation

unto the great beyond.

 

But what of the will to rise up new

from nothing

to write home about

at all?

What of the roaring, elegant stillness behind our rushing minds?

 

 

 

 

They don’t like us much

 

They don’t like us much. No, really, they don’t.

They don’t like our long hair tied back. They really don’t like

our hair short. ‘Excuse me, sir. Oh, sorry.’

They don’t like our eyes looking at them

unless obscured by shadows, false lashes.

Then, when so decorated, they want them turned only at them.

And they don’t like our clothes.

Tight ones mean we’re asking for it.

Baggy ones mean we don’t have self-respect.

They don’t like our occupations. No, I’m wrong.

They don’t see our occupations.

They don’t like us much

and I don’t like many of them.

 

 

Bad Alice

 

Don’t change, Alice.

Alice when she grows or shrinks.

Or turns a great eye out the attic window.

Don’t look at us, Alice.

 

Alice asks questions, tries to show her brain.

God, Alice,

show us anything else you like but that.

Bad. Bad poem. Bad, bad Alice.

 

 

Trinity College Dublin Library: The Long Room

 

The smell of old books.

White marble busts of dead white males.

No women here. No women at all.

But ladders … and girls …

 

Oh, yes, girls now.

Glimpsed, working upstairs.

They murmur,

out of sight.

 

 

Ordinary killer                

 

Dedicated to the memory of Jessica Lloyd, Corporal Marie-France Comeau

and who knows how many other women in how many other countries

 

He kills me

He kills me not

He kills me

He kills me not

He –

 

Daisy, daisy, tell me true,

Does my lover love me? A little? Or no?

 

He kills me

He kills me not

He kills me

He kills me not

He kills –

 

Strangers in their far-off lands

Demonstrators, if they get out of hand

The girls who try to join his band

 

He kills me

He kills me not

He kills me

He kills me not

 

Oh misery

He killed me

 

 

 

Recipe photo (c) Greg Santos

 

I.

I have yet to dust off my Tata’s recipe for croquettas de atún.

I still have not gotten the hang of béchamel, the mother of all sauces.

My daughter does not eat fish, also a factor.

 

Learning to cook tuna fritters just how my grandmother used to.

It is on my perpetual to-do list, like getting my driver’s license.

It has been one year today since she died.

 

II.
My Mother once told me she couldn’t stand how people say

passed away, such a feeble euphemism.

The words numbing in their uncertainty.

 

Her side of the family in Spain lived through La Guerra, its aftermath.

With both my maternal grandparents now dead,

I have no access to their memories but from remembered stories.

 

III.

Throughout my childhood, in works of literature, art, Picasso’s Guernica,

Pan’s Labyrinth, my love of Lorca, a perpetual feeling of duende.

I’ve come to glean fragments, which I’m only now piecing together.

 

My Spanish grandmother and Italian grandfather’s  revulsion

upon naming any of  Los Tres Dictatores:

Franco, Mussolini, Castro.

 

Showing off a photo of my newborn daughter raising one tiny fist up in the air

someone remarked we have a communista in the making,

the joke was met with a frown and a prayer. We do not joke about such things.

 

IV.

I learned that my Mother and Tia were sent off

to live with relatives when they were children during the Franco years.

The story was always just in the fog of the past.

 

Tata worked as a waitress at her family’s restaurant by the beach.

Nano, my grandfather, stationed nearby as a soldier. Noticing my grandmother,

he asked her out on a date for ice cream. A sweet story amidst much darkness.

 

V.

Once when I told her of my calling to be a writer, she didn’t flinch.

She always in awe of the magic of Hollywood stars like Doris Day, Clark Gable.

She told me of her enduring dream to write stories and movie scripts.

But she was told that it would never happen to her.

Writing stories for movies was unladylike, she would wistfully say.

It was a different world, a different time. Que sera, sera

 

VI.

I will one day learn to cook her croquettas de atún.

Until then, I write this for her,

my recipe keeping Tata’s story alive. Whatever will be, will be…

 

My grandparents, Ece Cervi and Luciano Cervi (c) Greg Santos

 

 

 

 

EVENING

The hectic day slows
to a stop.

Neighbours retreat
into their lairs.

The street breathes
a sigh of relief.

The burned out sky
closes its eye.

Darkness arrives
upon thousands

of shady steps.

 

CLOUDBURST ABOVE THE LAKE

I
Drops of water are returning to the lake in large numbers.
Armies of them on invisible parachutes.

Success for each drop means
falling back to the lake with a decent splash

creating enlarging circles of impact before dissolving.
And each drop has only one chance to do this well.

 

II
The complacent kayakers are caught surprised
by the thirty-per-cent-chance rain becoming real. They mutter
under their soured breaths, “Who voted for this?!”

And the ducks give up their dabbling at the lily patch
to shelter under a birch tree. “What?! What?! What?!”
—What’s good about this hard-hitting rain?!

The birch bends down as if to answer. But “What? What? What?”
—The ducks can’t make out the answer
under the heavy downpour.

 

 

 

 

Borderlands

Under a cobalt blue sky

a field of stones unstitched
it is an old, old sound
trekking north
scavenger vultures. Grey coyote.
Cholla cactus, saguaro
standing high behind the stage
illegal migrants

houses built of adobe
corrugated tin roofs
made a note

ochre hills and arroyos
four unrhymed quatrains

oracle for our times

eighteen-foot rusty steel fences
trekking north
a new poetic photo book
are edges lost?
Crossing the Sonoran Desert
one unbroken waste, mesquite
ironwood trees,
rattlesnakes, tarantula, scorpions

a page or half a page.

White wooden crosses.

 

 

Wretched Strangers

Paperless migrants
class of non-citizens
trying to cross into UK
stowaways on Chunnel trains

seeking asylum rights

at Nord-Pas-de-Calais
scabrous echo chambers
peel back into wars
dangerous sea crossings
loops of razor wire fences

minors, families
squatters at a landfill site
forest shanty town.
Serving one hot meal
formless queues
bordering a motorway
cafés, small grocery stores
wooden huts, tarp tents
makeshift mosques

cold water taps, cell phones.
Do you spend the days with them?

Autumn rains
barren scrublands
shapes of home

stuck into pages.

 

 

Dog Roses

Found portraits, maimed and rebuilt. Cyanotypes. Plum black shadows. Toned with oolong tea. Dot and circle. Gravel cul-de-sac.

Dailiness of the 1950s, filled with scrapbooks, birthday cakes and the etiquette of hats and gloves. Posting collage poetry, saddle shoes, crinolines. Rock’n’roll hits on the radio. “Blueberry Hill” belongs to which room of the repossessed house. A single, unknowable thing. A mother and a father, five children. Father’s whisky. War paranoia. Grandmother Mariska’s töltött káposzta, cabbage rolls. Poppy seed beigli. Reach towards longing. Other times, it is a process of looking: milkweed, ladybug, scent of blue pine. Out of focus. Sainte-Thérèse-De Blainville. Laurentides foothills. Sound at this hour. Wait for dawn. Turquoise. Shapeless taupe. Mille Îles River marshes. Mudflats.

where the dog rose blooms
dance of long-legged grey cranes
muttering, whuffling

 

 

Man on a Rocking Chair in San Juan

 

In San Juan I found a man

rocking on his balcony,

the floors creaking,

the glaze in the gaze,

a daffodil stem

hanging from his lips.

I asked him

was he truly

an Indépendantiste?

He shot me a glance,

red in the eyes,

stopped his rocking,

spat in a can,

just to say

that for now,

all he wanted

was his libertad,

a free man, with free choice,

that’s it, that’s all!

¿Entendí algo?

 

In an ice-bound heaven,

the dream had been

suspended,

hung from a hook

some years ago,

adjourned, deferred,

a concerto in repose.

An orchestra,

with bows frozen,

icicles hanging.

An epic,

with faces caught,

mouths open

in a moment of despair.

À la prochaine,

with a tilt of the head.

As tears flowed,

it became a still shot,

an interim movement,

an opus for all.

 

But, here, in the Alps,

in a village called D,

where the snow drifts,

where pin-striped bellies

shake, vibrate,

sniggers abound,

decisions count.

GDP per capita goes Y-ways,

fixed.

Growth and debt goes X-ways,

fixed.

Numbered accounts

and interest rates,

Z-ways, fixed.

No balconies,

no rocking chairs

in this castle regal.

No one chews tabac.

Limos drive in and out,

tinted windows and

shadows inside.

Independence, my friend,

is like Capital sans Labour –

a flippant issue, perhaps,

but worth a note –

that sovereignty today,

ça n’existe pas.

The polished floors don’t creak.

The daffodils don’t weep.

“And the wind whispers Mary…

After all jacks are in their boxes

And the clowns have all gone to bed,”

Jimi says, so softly.

There is nothing to sweep away,

as everything is already swept.

 

The man from San Juan,

with the daffodil stem

hanging from his lips…

The balcony creaks.

The chair rocks.

No man can be seen.

 

(May 2018)

 

 

 

I Shot a .38

(or Skylight Phobia Version 2)

 

I shot a .38 through the skylight,

a neat hole, no cobweb

left behind.

Just an accident! I said,

No tension, no threat!

 

The cartouche

rose steep, parabolic!

y=x2

Reached its pungent peak

1500 yards up,

climbed down, slowly

passed a cackle

of geese

headed south,

erroneously.

Look, I said,

confused,

taking the cue

from VP Gore,

who I’d just seen,

the day before,

on a group discount

at the Paramount.

 

It hit a neighbour’s clothesline,

flipped clumsily,

resting gently

in the pocket of a kitchen bib

used deftly

by Ms. Turcotte,

who worked in forensics

for a company

she thought

could be basis

for a series, dark,

on BBC,

called CSI Parc!

Yes, Parc!

That rue they called Bourassa

for a week only.

 

She spied the hole in the skylight

with a telescopic sight

made in Italy,

calculated the impact and velocity,

and determined me to be guilty.

She invited me for dinner.

Gracious! I said,

but dubious, mos def’ly.

 

She made carbonara, horribly,

and pastry that was pasty,

crusty and oily.

I shuddered mildly

at her hospi-tality.

The blue neon lights,

the quivering maroon lips,

were brand CSI.

Incredible! I said to her,

feigning total intrigue.

 

I found the errant cartouche

sitting delinquent

in an Akhavan sack.

And when she turned her back,

I lifted it promptly,

holding the .38 to her head.

I’m taking my cartridge back, immediately! I said.

No trace!

 

She agreed politely

and I left quietly,

knowing she would

study my saliva on a plate,

for DNA left behind.

 

Traces of skylight phobia

in the ancestral blood

of my émigré utopia…

My parents arrived

in the dead of night,

in a boat from Sri Lanka.

 

(November 2006/January 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

You will be the midwife

To whatever little I have,

You will be the midwife

To what little miseries I cherish

You will be the mast

To my lost catamaran

You will be the frozen froth of my tiny sea,

To my cries over dumb questions.

You will be the midwife

To my defeats, my flights, my residue of avarice,

For the moments that shall compound my calendar

My plotless existence.

You will be the midwife

To teach me how to love you,

To hate myself

To pull a pure blanket of cheap flowers over my conceited body

To stop the brown rigor of earths consume me,

And my hubris!

To protect the licking violent golden flames from devouring me,

To stop the wind flying me over the moon,

To woo the water desist from floating me away,

Yet you will midwife,

My end

My middle

My beginning:

You will be the midwife to my destruction,

You will eat me like a demon

You will preach me like a gospel

You will worship me as an angel

You will destroy me to

Create,

To shudder at the discovery

There has never been any Me,

There was only You

That you mistook for Me!

 

 

 


Chitragrib the Pigeon & an Exhaust Fan

She was no Eleanor Marx
Nor was I a Him; yet
I hid behind a lonely tree
At Rabindra Sarobar, she searched me with a
Rheumatic heart, unsteady on her tiny feet.

A pigeon meanwhile cooed nesting in an old building’s cranny
And boomed
Interminably.

Her little broken, discolored toys, recyclable
Littered on a pock-marked, red cement floor
You put them away as
‘matter out of place’
She cried: where are my things?

Elders said: Ask the pigeons!

She prayed: Payla , payla, de, de!

Oh, pigeon, return my things…
The pigeon never knew; the pigeon never flew…

Four scorching summers later, the pigeon morphed;
Chitragrib was the name: yet to learn
How to fly.

A martinet with an uterine pride ruled and
Rued: she didn’t learn her school homework right;
And an accomplice for the mischief:
Well, who else? You guessed it,

The pigeon never flew.

One score and seven years later
Early winter chill coveralled the Indira Gandhi airport
In the wee hours; a bunch of lanky, unkempt, frail bipeds
Waved at me
H1-B executed!
Did the pigeon fly?

I wondered.

Crimson granite, bathtub cream-of-yellow, ornate toilet and an
Exhaust duct wrapped in plasticity of humanness
To be fitted; the shopper sang, spreading all
On a lazy-Susan: ‘this doubles up both as a fan & an exhaust, Sir’
‘it sucks in and it sucks out?’ My frowns did a Jacques Derrida,
‘Ye’ was the answer.

Time passed with the only two hands
aeons sank in the cipher like flakes of mica in the sands.
A boom, boom, boom…
And a flutter of feathers…
Lo, it’s a pigeon… it,
Nay, a she, brought in waste
strands of straw and wood and what-have-you.
A nest grew; battling the rotors fiercely like
A Seattle one-room pad
braving a snowstorm, diffident;
The duct closed;
time and again, time and again

Time and again.

The pigeon never flew…
“‘Tirra lira,’ on the toilet seat
‘Sang Sir Lancelot.’”

A housemaid took charge for that was the wish
Of the lady with the Uterus; shoved and poked
Pushed and poked…
The fan worked
Peacefully.

Settled I to this New nothingness
To hear suddenly the
Booms:
Bakam, bakam, bakam… again again
Onomatopoeia ornithological of
Pigeons’ Bengalispeak
Of revolt
Oh! Oh! The pigeon never flew.

The great Virgin took form in the
Greater-Half…
Commanded it be done again, and by the
Man selling indulgences; a holy redemption!
Peeped I and peered, priggish as a primate:

there’s an egg tiny as a blue-white marble pellet
breathlessly, namelessly, defenselessly before
the ‘doctrine of eminent domain’
pushed I this all into the abyss below like a
Nero tutored by Seneca; must I well play the fiddle
Of Eminent Domain;

The pigeon never flew…

I switched off the exhaust! turned on the
Fan;
To suck in, to suck in only in… in… in… in
Penance;
So, the pigeon never knew
And the pigeon never flew.

 

“March – a self portrait” (CC BY-SA 2.0) ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser

Quartet

I shot myself

But I can’t seem to recall how it felt

I memorized a bullet while I held the feather-light handgun

Through my pallet as a knife through my throat

 

I gazed at the sky-rises

Long and gray blocks which nurtured or propagated

in front of my eyes

They seemed to believe they were steps on a slow tedious ascent

Later they all crashed, one after the former,

into a whirlwind of ashes

 

I felt myself on a trip

My breath was small, my nerves jittery as if I’d run away

The last wagon on a chain, hissing through peaks, parishes and hail

I felt the drops of sea as I sat on the windowsill of my dray,

a rectangle with a single wooden frame.

 

It was a ballroom dance

Beside a man I cannot see

Who dragged me to a bathroom stall and took me

in a never-ending way

Again, and again, and again, you would say.

 

Blood

Nothing matters more than blood; they say

Colour pink, red in a purple haze

Treacherous, lying, thieving

But nothing matters more than blood; they say

Colour of love, doom and despair

Rhythmic beating, streaming free and cheating

Cries and misunderstandings

In a world of differences

Nothing to say, no way to care

But blood.

Nothing matters more than blood; they say

 

Give me something more; I say

 

Dead Woman’s Daughter

I sit on my silky smooth silver-laced chair.

And they come and go,

Scents of cheap perfume in clouds of smoke

I wait.

 

I sense the first approach

Pouty red acrylic lips escorted by a cacophony of gold

You have her smile she whispers.

And so I beam.

 

I feel the second one behind my ear

Breath of expensive Single Malt and morsels of the Bread of Life

You have her hair he whispers

And so I put my fleece down.

 

The third glowers from afar

Ginger shaved arms coloured with pearls and a shinny gown

You have her figure she smirks

And so I sit up square.

 

The fourth taps my shoulder crudely

Coat as grey as smog, Cuban cigar and pointy fangs

You have her legs he whispers

And so I open them wide.

 

 

[These poems were first published on the author’s blog.]

 

American Honey

He calls to me, this memory thief,
as the reality of eating alone unfolds
like a lost history, a diseased blanket,
dirty money, a lease that never ends.

“At least you eat—
so what if alone?” he says.

“Cold comfort,” I say.

“Here,” he says, “let me
present American Honey,
Southern Comfort, if you like.”

“We’ve met,” I say,
“no, thank you”
remembering the worst.


Prayer Warrior

You often end your notes and letters adding I remain in your prayers
daily. Please, I do not want your prayers…even if you think I need them.
Remember, we who believe Buddha’s non-sectarian words are God-free.
Gotama taught meditation, learning by experience, left prayers to prayers.
If funerals are for the living rather than dead, perhaps, prayers are dying
sentences. Harsh, but stay with me. I need something more tangible, since
living; you can have your way with me when I am dead; how could I resist
you then? If you really wish me well, when we eat at your choice T Bone
Diner, after respectfully watching you pray, remember me; forget the bacon.

 

What Third Eye?

Approaching a horse
on the side of the road,
crows on its back,
tearing its flesh out,
pecking its eye out,
I turned my head
to the airport—gray runway
a finger pointing
home
to my apartment,
my bed.
No horses, no crows.

I can’t lie: it’s good
to be home;
yet, not good enough
to hear
The Law of Attraction,
how to
create my own reality
in the blink of an eye,
how the universe is mine
once I learn
the magic formula
from you, Guru.
No horses, no crows.

 

Watching Their Building Burn to the Ground

A.
Did you expect it
to cave in
like that?
B.
Our world was meant
to shrink
in this universe.

 

A.
What makes you
say that?
B.
You know the assassins
plan and get away.

 

A.
This flaming ruin
has to scare you.
B.
I’ve broken in
my bequeathed paranoia.

 

The landlord’s
smirking adolescent boy
with calculated short hair
& a gallon tin of gasoline
walks by & winks.

 

A.
I want to scream,
but who
will hear us?
Who at all
would want to hear us?
B.
You were never ready
for this, were you?
Not even a change
of underwear.

 

A.
I learned too late.
B.
Why don’t you
put that on your headstone?

 

 

 

 

This issue is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Abby Lippman (1939-2017).

As we were preparing to go on-line with this issue, we were hit with an emotional sledgehammer.  Abby Lippman – a frequent contributor to Serai, a dear friend, comrade and longstanding Montréal scientist, a bio-ethicist, feminist, human rights activist and a constant presence in all weather on the streets of Montréal in protests against racism and discrimination – passed away suddenly on December 26. Our issue of Montréal Serai on Spirit is dedicated to this champion. The last two poems she submitted to us are featured here. She will rest in power, we are sure about that.” (Editorial, Montréal Serai, Volume 30, Issue 4)

This is how Abby introduced her poems in her submission:

Working on writing on other things for other media, but if you want either/both of these poems, my first attempts at this genre, here you go.  Otherwise, am perhaps developing them as the basis for bioethical discussion “cases” as a friend suggested I might do for my UdM bioethics site…

These are my first drafts but no time to refine them as real/only poems.

abby

 

 

A puzzlement,
or is it a conundrum?

When it’s NOT OK to be OK
and also
when it’s OK NOT to be OK.

Not a play on words, tho if so,
it’s the only playfulness the two letters
surrounded here with negative charges allow.

Otherwise, it’s more than their reversal,
the KO felt\when hitting the floor yet again,
and those in your corner know it’s OK not to be OK and
it’s, well, OK that they know.

 

 

LOST

Where are we when LOST in thoughts?
Where are the minds that a person loses:
the lost words and faces not recalled.

Where is our temper when we lose it?

What is lost in translation?

Where do these lost thoughts, feelings; these lost words, go?
Do they live? Do they die?
Surely they are not like the socks and gloves gone missing in a clothes dryer.

And what about the person for whom all this is lost?
What remains of her? And where is she to be found?

 


Editor’s note March 2018 – please find information about a memorial below:

Celebration of the life of Abby Lippman

L’Institut Simone-De Beauvoir de l’Université Concordia a le plaisir de vous confirmer que la célébration commémorative de la vie d’Abby Lippman aura lieu

le 27 avril 2018
de 17h à 19h

au Centre de conférence (pièce MB-9CD)
9ième étage de l’édifice John-Molson de l’Université Concordia
1450, rue Guy (en face de la station de métro Guy-Concordia)

Une description plus détaillée de l’évènement suivra, mais veuillez réserver la date maintenant.

The Simone de Beauvoir Institute of Concordia University is delighted to confirm that the celebration of the life of Abby Lippman will take place

April 27, 2018
from 5pm to 7pm

at the Concordia University Conference Centre (Room MB-9CD)
9th floor of the John Molson Building
1450 Guy street (in front of the Guy/Concordia metro station)

A more detailed description of the event will follow, but we want to let you know the date now so you can reserve it.

 

After Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Red on Red), 1969
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Peace Pavilion

 

 

Musée Rodin, 1972

I saw this body
I am sure of it.
Flesh and bronze.
In one long stare,
In fixated, circular study,
In love with this thoracic cage,
Vertical breakline, rack
Of ribs, sinews strong,
Tying life and love together.
I learned that I am beautiful.

Horse master I,
Naked gladiator.
Learned that to turn an inch, no, less,
Reveals new chest, broad back,
Inspires new desire,
Insists on being touched,
Calls to place your hand.

Waistline reveals
Torso falling into trunks
Of trees, godless, legless
Hunks of strength
To stroke and be subsumed into,
Sucked up into its bronze.
Man is an animal.

Now I sit and weep at my disaster.
It came to me again last year.
The captured read the history of the captors.
This headless brute.
Its indifference.
I cannot find
My first true love of mine own self
Still to be true.

 

 

 

The Blinds

I see my plants on a windowsill.
The blinds are down, day just rising.
They seek the light that leaks in through
the slats. I feel them seduce it; they
long to luxuriate.

They beseech, implore me,
barely turning toward me,
let in the light of day.
I ponder, as their owner, how
I want them to dance for me first.

They lean forward, seeming to
need the light to dance, when they will,
in their blooming, flower and wave.
No, you are mine, I think,
dance first, then I will give.
They do not dance, they only strain,
a silent moan.
They get no light from me
for their beauty.

Why must they thirst, must they bide,
while we sit like a stone on the heart,
play in the dark with
our discontent,
unaware their gifts
the air we breathe?
Tell me to whom the sun belongs?

 

 

 

Cayo Santa Maria

(Written in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba in February 2017, right after meditation on the beach)

 

Crashing wave

reaching high up

on to the beach,

then disappearing 

like a dream,

like some understanding,

into silent sand

(a galaxy at dawn).

But three pelicans,

bobbing on aquamarine,

breasts bloodstained,

remember.

 

 

Once upon a fast… in the bush
[October 2017]

 

Hungry, I suddenly noticed you’d been observing me,

waiting for me to wake up.

You drew my confused gaze towards you,

as sunbeams caressed tattoos

etched into your silvery bark:

thus an old dancer has her life story revealed,

the skin of youth roughened by resin blisters cracked open

and long recovery from alcohol.

But you wouldn’t leave me there with such beauty.

Your light pulled my eyes to the next balsam fir,

the sister you grew up with.

Remember how you used to laugh together

when the first snows blanketed your feet,

and moose nibbled your toes?

Now at the end of summer,

red squirrels hang upside down from your outstretched arms

to fetch tender cones the whisky jacks overlooked.

But you won’t let me look upwards too long –

that’s not where You reside.

Your light brings me to another sister, a black spruce:

her trunk hidden by tangled twigs catching every ray,

a maze of barren filaments now glowing with your power.

You ask me only to pay attention,

but my fingers fumble, filling the bowl of my pipe.

Tobacco is lit and I blow sacred smoke towards you.

Your light dances, leaping from twig to twig, branch to branch.

You tease my senses, with your hide-go-seek in slow motion.

But then you whisper that you have leaped down from the branches.

I must follow you below,

in the underbrush, in the shadows,

in the damp mud stained by your leafy clothing,

shed every autumn, when the Bear sighs before becoming still.

I don’t want to leave my humble mountaintop.

Your pursed lips and jutting chin

direct me to my shadows, into my darkness,

leading me with a lone beam of afternoon sunlight

to the muddy feet of other sisters,

guarded by crumbling stumps,

who remember past battles to embrace future life.

My footsteps awaken sleeping logs, wearing patchy coats of lichen.

One log used to be a marten, until a spell froze it

and turned its fur into emerald moss.

Its eyes can now recognize Your ineffable presence.

It whispers to me, Be still, Be still.

 

 

 

Chronic Fatigue System

Too tired to exercise (who gets mono in their 50s?),
endorphins droop and symptoms of menopause return,
drench night’s sheets.

And the bones, breaking down, what that other poet said,
‘the leaking’ or ‘letting in of light,’
the bones shift for comfort.

Surprisingly, lying in the darkened room
without tv or book, I’m not depressed,
let hours hang, slip.

Breath wants to go in, wants to come out.
I forgive myself for growing old.

 

Civilization

It ends with a pipe that is not a pipe,
a house that is not a home,
a Christ in ruins.

Between covers of books, sad cut-outs wander.

Keep your brought-to-this-point
harvest moving,
distract with drift
of snow or petal.

Don’t lie about your end.
That would be wrong.

 

Making way for the next

When Mum died writing came.
After Dad – money.
Together they equal good
but unreconciled.

I edge to the window

Crow family, brought down by winter
from five to two, caw, go up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A series of ink on paper drawings, Peuple dilué investigates the psychology of bodies untethered to borders and regions. Originally inspired by the Roma population of Sutka, Macedonia, this on-going series explores the idea of a people versus a nation and transient identities.

Artist’s Statement 

My work is focused on the human form and psyche. By placing the body as a recognizable yet universal form in ambiguous situations, I explore its psychology in relation to itself and to its environment. Through experimentation in disparate mediums, I depict highly imaginary interpretations of the diverse worlds I have inhabited. I invite the viewer into these non-places that I create, which permeate boundaries as much as they help build them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

 

Street art by Omen (Photo – Jody Freeman)

 

Early Work History:

 

Sold sugary fruit-flavored shaved ice piraguas
on busy South Bronx streets for chump change.

Opened laundromat mornings to sweep mop
roll down lock steely cocoon face at night.

Loaded outdoor lumberyard truck with plywood
sheet-rock sandbags cement—Delivered.

Worked unlicensed plumbing in basement
crotch-high stagnant water setting pumps,
breaking walls for sewer lines leading nowhere.

Sat atop towering ladder over dime-store field
of plastic electric terry-cloth trash as security;
in Christmas rush didn’t care who stole what.

Shelved books at green Hudson Valley C.C. library;
set up embalming cadaver film strips for pale Jr. morticians.

Painted plastered removed generations of paint
from Victorian moldings doorways crafted doors.

Cleaned up broken glass salsa & pickles on aisle eight;
stacked Coco Puffs above Raisin Bran above Cheerios.

Cornered soft retired old lady over my quick-dial phone
into buying TV Guide and Time—10% for cop widows!

Lifted back-breaking boxes off rattling conveyer belts
overnight to load UPS trucks for morning deliveries.

Wore shirt and tie and lied about assets and mortgages
to bankers in Bed Stuy Forest Hills on Fifth Avenue;
mystery shopping reminded racism’s still green.

Did Saturday nights in a creaking Jamaica Queens house
to room-check ten teenage lost boys—kept knives
dispensed meds—labeled a counselor but not.

Switched roles to help state-fostered delusionals
leave psych wards for apartments—but stuck
in office writing weekly billable fiction—
counting Prozac, Haldol, Prolixin on home visits.

There’s more but I should get to the point:
the application had three spaces for work history.

The interviewer smirked & told me to sit.
Twenty years is a long time teaching tennis…
ever done anything else?

“A few jobs here and there but look
my tennis resume is solid is pretty solid
& all the references are easy to check.”

I was selling TVs and Camcorders that winter
for base salary & commissions—said
thirty-nine was too old to keep teaching tennis.

What I wanted to do was write poems.

 

(A version of this poem first appeared in Longshot.)

 

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

 

Old School Sweating

 

I was trained to watch the ball—

the (back in the day)
              white tennis ball—
Watch the ball’s spin—
              the ball’s bounce—
Watch the ball leap
              into my gut-strung racquet face.

I was trained to run and watch—
  to sweat and watch—
     the ball’s flight over a torn public-park net—
See a straight line drive—
  See a spinning arcing parabola—
     See a mountainous flight reaching for the clouds—

Follow its descent.

I was trained to keep precisely fixed—no matter what—on
the ball—
    forget the South Bronx burning all around me—

and only love it.

 

Notes for the younger generation: tennis balls were, indeed, once white; racquets were made out of wood and they were strung with “cat gut”—not actually made from cat guts, but from (less disturbing?) cow intestines. Also, back in the day, black and brown people were excluded from tennis clubs and banned from the United States Tennis Association’s local and national tournaments; the racial barrier didn’t start to come down until the 1950s. And still discouraged from playing at white-owned tennis clubs and in USTA-sanctioned events into the 1970s, many black players continued to participate in their own American Tennis Association, which was founded in 1917 and still exists to this day.

(First appeared on the author’s blog)

 

Gatha – The word means a ‘ballad’ or a ‘story-poem’ in Punjabi

 

 

Each time he sights a                        ship
passing into absence
Blood comes out of his nose
and his lips
recite Komagata Maru

 

Each time he assumes                  silence
some crew-like thing keeps
rising from un-italicized
shores. Filling the land with
cast iron taste and smell

 

Small waves, saline fish                 starry
drops of  water acquire
a voice then
Of course unsinkable

 

Each time it is                                       told
It feels like a story
at the right moment

 

In one ironic re-telling
a crisp chorus of                                   376
The vessel superbly navi-
gated by Wade Grant
of the Musqueam                  Indian Band:

 

‘We would have                              embraced
the ship                                         passengers
much as we welcomed                 Europeans
We are impacted by the same             racist
policies                                         and we feel
the same                                                  pain
passed                                    to generations’

 

And you? Tell me your                      story
 

 

 

 

 

 

Take What You Need

 

I remember Abuelo,
sitting on the porch,
his face held by the sun.
I hinted Hershey bar;
as usual, he said,
Coge lo que necesites.
The run up the stairs
never happened as I
looked over my nose
at the top of his dresser.
An old Café Bustelo can
overflowed with pennies,
nickels, dimes, and some
huge shiny quarters.
Beneath his oval mirror
lay an ancient
scorched black bible.
I watched Abuelo
slowly lift
its crumbling cover;
gently turn
one crinkly white membrane,
then another, slow,
like an old Taoist priest
sliding the Chi
down from his wrists,
into the cup of his hand.

* This poem first appeared in the now non-existent The U.S. Latino Review.

 

 

Speaking in Stones

I
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
melted into tears.

II
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
turned to stone.

III
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
panicked and ran to
The Psychoanalyst.

IV
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
secured a new stone—
a silent one.

V
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
said, “Are you kidding?
I’m no Michelangelo!”

VI
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
smashed The Stone
to bits.

VII
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
was deaf. The Stone’s
screams did not help.

VIII
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
confessed he was really
a painter. The Stone
said, “Paint me.”

IX
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
questioned The Stone’s
imagination.

X
The Stone
told The Sculptor
what it wanted
to be. The Sculptor
died trying.

*Posted on the poet’s personal blog

 


Grains of Rice

A tiny bald monk
wrapped in orange robes
walks a slated path

to an old wooden shrine
in the silent green
countryside. Seeing it—

instead of walking
farther
to a sharp right turn,

he cuts across
the Temple’s
rock garden—

his dusty sandals
crunching gravel—
like rice being threshed & sifted.

 

(Kamakura, Japan, 1987)
*Posted on the poet’s personal blog

 

 

Public domain

Quand j’y pense je me nuis

Une idée douce mais incolore

Un éclair de haine et puis d’envie

Tu m’écoeures mais je te suis

 

Tes morsures me rendent saine

L’odeur des nuits grises et sereines

Seule et honteuse dans mon lit

Je te veux mais je te fuis

 

Plus je cours plus je te guette

Lumière d’un phare qui me conduit

Poésie inutile et puis malsaine

Je m’enfonce plus tu me détruis

 

Manuscrit inédit de mots dédaigneux

Je m’accroche et je te glorifie

Un amour décisif qui me ruine

Une tombe creusée tel un abîme

Can I be old and hear the children playing –
a solid block of sound across the concrete yard?
High-pitched voices, ragged voices trailing,
shouts that drift up high above the rest? –
Those are the voices of the leaders, and I know
because I was once was part of it,
a docile follower in a single pack of kids.
Once I took turns, learned rhymes and copied steps,
was sometimes chosen, sometimes pushed aside,
sometimes a worthy player, sometimes last,
so now I stand outside the rusting wire fence;
feel with a child’s heart, see with a child’s eyes,
and remember how things were then,
how some were badly dressed and some were not
some were poorly fed, had colourless, pale skin
that looked as if they never saw the sun,
and beyond that child’s small world
nagging teachers, anxious parents,
unjust justice and the cruelty of place.

Can I be old and walk along the riverbank,
listen to the broken cries of geese,
screeching cries that sear the heavy autumn air,
like human voices? They seem to claim
all mortal suffering – distant killings,
mercenary wars, children dying crossing frontiers,
whole cities emptied so the fighting can go on;
five million fleeing from one country, half a million dead –
and more. By right, this is my pain, not theirs,
but I linger, caught inside the canopy of guilt they build.
They won’t die yet: here they nibble grass and grubs
on muddy ground and block the path of passers-by,
although one morning in the darkening dawn
before I am awake, they’ll arch up, lift their rounded bellies,
take off like clumsy missiles in the sky,
and some will lose their way and some will fall
buffeted by winds, worn down by hunger,
and I’ll be left hearing their incantations,
their noisy echoes of a hurt that never heals.

Can I be old and live among my books and photographs,
with paper, keyboard, radio, tv – all the things
that let me say my say and hear
what others say and do to little purpose?
Can I look down and see my ageing, knuckled hands
that one day won’t be strong enough to hold a pen?
White, bloodless fingers, reddened, blotchy backs –
These leper’s hands. Can I be old?
A useless, pointless question. – I am,
and what I have is what I’ve learned from living:
childhood, memory, connectedness.
Put together, they can make a space
big enough to save me from oblivion,
wide enough to hold me, and to be.

 

After the storm, turned my back on my lover
   till he sighed and left.


All the trees were born again as birches,
   baptized by the snow.


And I still look pretty reflected in water,
   or in a mirror in a darkened room,


As headlights make magic lights
   when you drive with your eyes almost closed.


Hey! I’m leaving blood tracks in the snow.
Here I am. Get out of my way.
Here I am, burning Buddha’s crown.
Better get out of my way.
Better get out of my way.

 

This poem is based on two stories, one set in Canada, the other in India: Alice Munro’s “The Children Stay” (The Love of a Good Woman, Alfred and Knopf), and Saadat Hassan Manto’s “Black Shalwar” (for synopsis of story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kali_Salwar). Stories of women’s longing. Stories of what is forfeited and wreaks havoc. A once mother, once actor, challenged by her children who think she ran off with Orpheus (Orphée from the play Eurydice). A prostitute with no work, desperately trying to dress for Muharram, a festival of mourning.

 

How now, you ask me why I left your dad,
and you my pretty ones!
That’s right – I was Eurydice,
but it was not because of Orphée.
He was just another actor like myself.

There was another,
and when he touched me,
I came to life like never before.
Or was it death?
I don’t know.
There was something in the way he said things,
or perhaps it was simply because
I was bored dead
and mistook the first signs of life for love!

Once having left, there was no turning back,
for when he did,
yes, Orphée looked back,
and Eurydice turned to stone!

But, of course, I told you, didn’t I? It wasn’t Orphée.
He was just another actor like myself.

Then why did I leave you?
My precious ones!
Did I not love you enough?

I don’t think I understand anymore.
After all, they are all gone:
Orphée, your dad,
And the one who was not Orphée...

The only ones left are you and me,
and these endless
Unanswerable questions!

 

…………………………..

 

I need a black silk shalwar for Muharram
Khuda Baksh!

I already have a white dupatta and kameez,
I can dye them black.
But I need four-and-a-half yards of black silk.
Find it for me, from somewhere, anywhere,
I don’t care! I cannot rest,
until I have my shalwar for Muharram,
Khuda Baksh!

I stand all day, staring down this balcony.
My smiles are dry and thin!
No one comes up, not even when I call,
and beckon him, thus, with my eyes.

This is Delhi!
Men here go home to their wives!
I told you, we should not have left Ambala Cantt.
where all gora sahibs from the officers’ mess
paid thirty rupees for each round.

I could even call them haramzade and ulle ke pathe...
They only laughed an embarrassed laugh
because they did not understand.

We will starve in Delhi!
There are no customers here except Shankar
but he wants everything for nothing,
and I am so tired,
I give it to him.

You have sold the last gold bangle off my wrist.
There is nothing more left for me to give you
Khuda Baksh!

Find me a black shalwar
or four-and-a-half yards of black silk.
I can arrange for a black dupatta and kameez
For Muharram,
Khuda Baksh!

………………………………………

 

Shalwar:          Urdu word for trousers worn under a long shirt (kameez)

Dupatta:          A long scarf worn over the shalwar and kameez

Khuda Baksh: (“Saved by God”): The name of the man in the story

Gora:               Urdu word for “white”

Ambala Cantt:  Ambala is a city near Delhi. Cantt: an abbreviation for a military cantonement.

Haramzade:     Urdu swear word (“bastard”)

Ullu ke pathe:  Urdu swear term (“son of an idiot”)


							

This poem is inspired by the Hindu tradition of worshipping pre-pubescent girls (kanyas) as a manifestation of the purity of the goddess Durga who represents strength, motherhood and the victory of good over evil. Once a year, during the Navratri celebration of the nine forms of Durga, the kanyas are treated as goddesses: delicious food is prepared especially for them, and their feet are washed.  On reaching puberty, however, Durga is said to have vacated their bodies, and they are no longer celebrated as the pure, symbolic form of the goddess.

 

Every year

I waited

For that one day

When Mummy Papa got out of bed

Before I left for school.



That one day

When my feet were the only thing

Their hands touched.



That one day

I was Durga.



Then one year

I lost that day too.



When Mummy called

Swati Aunty's little girl

To be her Durga.

"Mummy

Did I do something wrong?"

"Mummy

I'm sorry."



At some point

That night

It hit me.



"Mummy

Is it the blood?"

"Mummy

I'm sorry."

"I don't know

Why this is happening."



"Make it stop.

Make it stop. I want to be your Durga again."

Photos by: Nazca Luna at Shadow Emporium Shop , Chicago, Il.
Photo by: Nazca Luna at Shadow Emporium Shop, Chicago, Il.
The images of flowers framed in dark secrets
 faces of women looking into forgotten mirrors
 at their souls wondering who they are

shacks big enough for cowboys to dart through
 hollywood enhanced concepts of privacy
 and feminine subtlety of being
 hidden behind closed doors
 in the boudoir

while the handsome cowboy
 lingers,
 a smirk in hand,
 outside.

or at the working studio
 where hues of colour
 splash the eyesight
 before painting
 which colour was talked about first
 historically brought up and mentioned
 before the others
 was red the first
 and blue the last
 in chronology to be mentioned
 by all cultures

and why so, if our sky is blue?

why would it be saved for last mention?

maybe in your home
 an ante room by the bathroom
 a sink washroom with a mirror and a lounging chaise
 a lazy place for thoughts to smoke up
 while preparing for the day or for the night

or perhaps inside the bathtub
 or under the shower, an impromptu boudoir
 of perfect songs
 in perfect pitch
 the voice we dream of having
 in our waking days
 while strolling into conversations
 of wit and love daze

the boudoir of the CEO
 her company and megalomania
 if that is what they’ll call
 her,
 incandescent ideas
 flourishing
 in the boudoir of the silent space in her mind

or so we think
 until we realize the cameras everywhere
 the microphones ubiquitous
 and invisible
 the not so private boudoir
 swimming in the soup of business
 where now business cannot be left out
 an ingredient too tasty to forget

the mystery that hides behind the painting
 that opens the wall
 or the telepathy of the
 seemingless poor person
 reflects the darkest boudoir in us all

a comfort place of flowers drinking water
 a vase and  windows shining sunlight
 to make the moving shadows
 of the objects found as still life
 inmovable
 while people come and go

this is 2016
 now the word sounds so old
 just like the concept of privacy
 before business and private
 became entwined forever more

but who is to say that all these gadgets
 that make the boudoir inaccessible
 to the desire of aloneness
 are not mere extensions
 of the capacity of our senses
 to see and hear with the precise
 acuteness
 the expansive knowledge
 bursting forth
 from the light essence that we are

whether the boudoir and its palette
 of impressive colours
 has shaken the hand of technology
 or not
 our boudoir remains protected
 at hand’s distance
 for us to enjoy the privacy
 of our thoughts
 the longing of our dreams
 the reality of this moment
 the people we love
 for without them
 the boudoir would not need to be.
image-objects-on-table
Photo by: Nazca Luna at Shadow Emporium Shop, Chicago, Il.

 

 

© Dan Delaney is a Montréal painter who will be featured in an upcoming issue of Serai.
© Dan Delaney is a Montréal painter who will be featured in an upcoming issue of Serai.

 

It was another war, of course,
not this one — or two, or four.

Amid the ruins, flowers began to grow,
grey, on spindly stems,
with pale mauve streaks on their leaves
and the merest hints of green.

In a dense, almost fog-like mist
borne by gentle streams of air,
illusions ran rampant,
imagined music,
optimistic visions that tricked the heart.

Nothing to buy, nothing to sell,
little to eat as yet.
Silence,
save shuffling footsteps.
Hallucinations, hollow pain.

Two people
with the strength to stroll along
walked by, ignoring the weather,
a woman clutching the arm of a cloud,
instead of the arm of a man.

A soldier in tatters guarded a station
where trains no longer stopped.
They will come once more,
he will be there on the job,
but for now, no one acknowledges him.

Another soldier, in khaki, wearing a helmet,
leaned against the remains of a tree.
He held in his hand, as if expecting someone
(mirages abounding)
a bouquet of rain.

 

 

 

Sharon Bourke is a poet, painter and printmaker of African-American heritage. She was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1929, and is still active in all of her artistic pursuits. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry magazine and numerous anthologies including Understanding the New Black Poetry, Celebrations, Children of Promise, Songs of Seasoned Women, Long Island Sounds, Toward Forgiveness, Temba Tupu: Africana Women’s Poetic Self-Portrait, and Whispers and Shouts. She is a member of the East End Arts Council and the Long Island Black Artists Association, and was former president of The Graphic Eye Gallery (Port Washington, NY). http://sharonbgallery.net

 

Cows for Serai 02

 

 

He drove me in a TATA cab
through the streets of Old and New
Delhi. The air un-breathable. I heard
his bone voice

 

breaking down
telling why he didn’t vote
for “the man who wears a 9,000,000 rupee
pinstripe jacket” – why no vote for “the party with saffron testicles.”

 

A week ago they kicked
his young wife
out of the government
hospital, where every micro-

 

peon to head-doctor has a cut
in the business, he said.
Needles programmed to take
600 gram blood

 

but the clerk acknowledges
“only two
hun-dred.”
Not paying

 

19,000 rupees underhand
has consequences
for
a caesarian.

 

“Whole system
bad for nothing.” So perplexed
he was, even the slip
of tongue failed to change mood. And

 

outside on the streets
the Saffron Man in election poster
continued to look
down at dust-bright denizens

 

of the city and said nothing.
Completely silent he was
about vandalized churches, Ghar-wapsi*, and Ram-haram
Death was once again trying to become

 

a Dada in India. It was early February, and
the man in the poster was silent about hate
within his cadres. Silent about expunged
Ramanujans and Ramayanas

 

So silent, he
seemed to have forgotten he was silent
So forgetful,
he had forgotten his own name.

 

The cabbie
applied a sudden brake.
We approached
glaring mirror towers of a 5-star.

 

I ascended into the hotel’s
aromas. My hand made contact with hands
that had written poems and novels,
and my wine glass clinked with lit-fest

 

sponsors and arbiters of artistic taste-
n-talent. As I mutter-paneered and
rogan-joshed with panelists (hush:
debating Charlie Hebdo), I wish I had asked

 

I wish I had asked the one in the TATA cab –
What colour the testicles of mega-merged publishers
who pulp their own author’s
books? (Exhibit number one:  Doniger’s Hinduism)

 

Now several months have passed by, and I am half
a continent away. And as I scribble this so-called poem
almost a shoem, the Saffron Man has gone silent again.
This time – Savage lynching in Dadri.

 

So silent, he
seems to have forgotten he is silent
So forgetful,
he has forgotten his own chest, his own clothes

 

And most eyes
are shut
or find themselves doubting
what they have seen.

 

 

 

* Ghar-wapsi refers to recent attempts made by Hindu nationalist parties in India to forcibly convert Muslims, Christians and other religions to “Hinduism” in a process they call Ghar-wapsi, or homecoming.

 

 

 

© Hélène David
© Hélène David

Ellipse

I am the chaos of my father’s order
I am the conscience of his delight
I am the fantasy of his prison
I am the mirror of my father’s light

I am the axis of his revolution
I am the blood of my father’s heart
I am the darkness of my father’s moon
The imperfect orbit of his sun

I am the usher of my father’s shadow
I am the faultlines of his shield
I am the anguish of his freedom
I am the language of his dreamfield

I am the hallow of my father’s morning
I am the blueness of his night
I am the calm of his darkest passage
I am the mirror of his light

 

Ellipse: [Gr. Elleipsis, a defect, ellipse ‹ elleipein, to fall short; so named from falling short of a perfect circle]

 

 

For daughters I can’t call mine

If only you knew that the dead never die
You’d step off this path

Feel the moss coolly meshing your toes
Let the sharp green needles prick
Sit down and cry ’til the ground is soaked
Remember sky, earth, rot,
Old life, new – seed, egg, zygote –
Let zygotes be zygotes

Lie, ear to the ground, salty, wet
Listen

Wait for the goat god, Pan, to lick you
Ask him: what does he want?
Stop translating what he says
Let it rumble through you –
Pure Pan-ic force from inner earth

Accept his offering
Bow your head
Give thanks

Your earth father claims you

 

 

IMG_1583 easy edges

 

I came looking for you on the streets of Montparnasse
boulevard Arago, rue Saint-Jacques, rue Mouffetard, boulevard Raspail
place de l’Odéon
I came looking for a woman solitary not afraid
living on coffee and fine
on the money men gave though not freely
I came looking for a woman who lived in cheap hotels
fifth floor, dark corridors
a woman who looked down into alleyways
with no chances left
except in one week or two
maybe one last shot at love

your women were almost all the same
names not quite English but not outlandish either –
Marya, Julia, Sasha –
you didn’t want us to know them
not well
what you named were the streets they walked on
so we could be there
rue Saint-Jacques you called
the street of homeless cats

in Paris all the streets and squares and monuments speak of the past –
Austerlitz, Tilsitt, Solférino, Sébastopol, Clémenceau, George-V,
Wilson, Roosevelt, Mittérand, Charles de Gaulle –
quays and metro stops, battles and statesmen, arches and obelisks,
victory and peace
on place Notre-Dame a giant statue of Charlemagne
further from the centre I note the defeats –
place 16 juin 1940, Villejuif, Mémoriale de la Déportation
Jean Biguet, sous-lieutenant, tombé ici pour la liberation de Paris

would you care you’re not remembered with the rest?

you came not for France but because you hated England
and especially the English
you hated the accents, like a uniform, like a weapon
used to beat people down
you hated the savagery of belonging
here you found street life
hurt life
lives lived in the open
pale and pulsing and not afraid
Paris, you said, is life itself
it was your life
you peeled back the skin.

 

jean-rhys-older tilted

Jean Rhys (1890-1979) was born in Dominica and died in Exeter, England. She lived on the Continent of Europe for ten years, beginning in 1919, and in Paris for several years in the 1920s. Three of her five novels are set in Paris.