January 11, 2008
The snow so rare that people call it “rain,”
wet flakes touch earth and pavement, ruins and wreckage,
the muezzins’ call to prayer, the morning’s music,
calmer, quieter. Five years of war,
and, now, this peace: unasked for, temporary,
Americans in desert camouflage
stationed conspicuously, brushing snow
from shoulders, guns, while snowball fights ensue
among the young: the sound of Arabic,
English in softer tones, spatter of white
on impact, laughter as the traffic slows,
checkpoints and concrete walls disguised, erased,
and one old resident exclaims in wonder,
“In all my life I’ve never seen such rain.”
Mia Barkan Clarke:
These familiar cobblestone
and narrow pathways
echo the songs of yesteryear.
I never needed a map
to know where I was going.
Air filled with espresso, basil, and baking breads
scented my tempted tongue.
These streets where
Michelangelo and Leonardo walked,
I walked and mused about
how life might have been
if I had lived here when they did.
My European pink-clothed body
with legs bronzed an olive brown
and hair golden-rayed and sun-painted,
I felt so good
It was déja vu
the first week I visited you,
a sense of being before,
time and time again,
each for just seconds
but for seven days
over and over,
dizzying my senses.
Some call it La Sindrome di Stendhal.
I say it was a past life,
I, an Italian Jewess
before the Nazis
forced me into the cattle cars,
into the smoke-filled chambers,
into the flames and up the chimneys,
I waiting for the sons of Jabotinsky
to rescue me
to take me back
to my first home.
But not this time,
the odyssey of return,
not this time . . .
You cast a spell,
with your baroque beauty
and the stirrings of memory
and dreams of times and places past.
From Tea with Nana (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009)
You are a roofless house
You are a roofless house
The stars have tumbled into you
Where do they end
And where do you begin ?
Is it you
Or is it stars who sing ?
I heard your song
And asked you if you’d dance
You took me in your arms
And we were dizzy with those stars
that tumbled in
Where do they end
And where do we begin ?
you leant forwards and whispered to me
“ Stars – they never end
You and I
THE LOBSTER'S TESTIMONY
(after Daniel G. Hoffman)
Not even Dr. Blanche could tell
and poor Nerval would not confess:
instead of making bouillabaisse
he tied a ribbon to my shell.
(He did it for the sake of art.)
Alas! How could the bourgeoisie
have understood the sea or me:
they sent him packing to Montmartre!
And I,--the concierge was chosen
to serve me up as lobster stew:
while I turned red, Nerval turned blue.
Dead, dead as a fish and flesh quick-frozen,
they found him hanging presently--
le bon Gérard, unmindful of
the calefaction of my love
among the secrets of the sea.
The Generations of Men
Dropped in a world that others planned,
My fathers’ fathers worked the land.
They drove their plowshares into stones
And learned their lessons with their bones.
They saw that priest and magistrate
Were names for thief and hypocrite.
They saw that when they filled the ground
A hundred others would be found
To fight for scraps from those who ruled.
They lived refusing to be fooled.
And, knowing everything they knew,
They did what they were made to do.
Raised in a land a world apart,
I sat in classrooms of the heart
Where life was sanctified and whole
And weighed the worth of every soul,
Where right will and the righteous arm
Would keep the powerless from harm.
Wrapped in the spirit of the place,
I walked out with an open face,
And saw that priest and magistrate
Were names for thief and hypocrite....
I learn my fathers’ lessons now.
I take my place behind the plow.
Peter Thabit Jones:
LAVACOURT, WINTER, 1881:
A PAINTING BY CLAUDE MONET
Winter, for you is blue;
And the cottages, too, are denim sky.
Why do you bring such cold to our eyes?
Why bring us the purest colour
That’s morning new ?
( ‘The leprosy of nature’ –
According to you),
Is a blemished flooring
Powdered with blue.
All is as stark as graveyard view;
The blue outside a shadow.
It’s ice in our lives, sharp and true;
The splinter of death that grey time knew
This is the other side of A FIELD OF POPPIES;
Your summer scene of a tranquil France,
With its rash of redness daubing the grass
And your strolling family captured lovingly.
This is another season;
The broken mind’s darkness,
The winter settling in the head,
The heart’s bone of blue.
This is when Camille, your wife and model, was dead
And you were bankrupt
(Selling your paintings to pay your dues)
They say you planted your easel
In the frozen river,
To achieve an effect such as this,
A canvas that chills where human grief grew.
Later you talked of painting
That which is ‘impossible to do’;
You who loved colour,
‘My day-long obsessions, joy and torment’.
And your lily ponds of Giverny come to mind;
Those floating flowers of clustered snow,
Those impressive blurs of crusty white,
In the mirroring calm water of your garden;
Those last paintings as cold as this hardened blue.
The maize is shin high
behind the fences
of the village by the lake,
and in the blue haze
above the mouth of the river
seagulls call in the sun,
climb and fall
where waters meet waters
and fish lie over the ledge
La vie passe mais rien ne se tasse
Mon cœur t'a aimé et t'a réclamé
Sa colère a voulu t'achever
Et puis il s'est calmé
Mais il ne t'a pas oublié
Oublier le temps de ce mouvement
Oublier cette peur d'aimer
Pardonner pour oublier
Sans oublier combien j'ai pu t'aimer
Sans raison, sans façon
Tu as fait battre mon cœur
Mais étais ce pour ce battre ?
Un sentiment sans mouvement
Juste un mouvement de sentiments
Le temps passe, on grandit on vieillit
Et j’écris sur ma peau la parole de mon cœur
Tu veux lire ? Apprend l'écriture de mes rides
M’as tu volé des années ?
Non tu ne m'as rien volé du tout
Tu n'as tout simplement pas su me regarder
Mais mon cœur a voulu te garder
Comme dans une prison il s'est enfermé
Mais il est temps de le libérer
Pour qu'il retrouve sa liberté
Pour réapprendre à aimer !
d'une nouvelle philosophie de vie...
le 17 décembre 2010