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Hello, dear readers, and apologies for the radio silence. Today a friend introduced me to the work of Lilah Hegnauer, and I wanted to share this particularly gorgeous poem that captivated me from the title onwards.

“I am the city and you are my work of great mischief.”

The way the summer lasted, the way we flung our bodies on the bed,
the way you said in the morning, I couldn’t sleep because my neck

was touching my neck, the way our grief flooded under the doors,
the way we whispered through the fans’ motors. Such mangoes

en flambé we’d meant to mark this summer, too, excruciating.
And then, tonight, so tipping in our chairs, at last, so chilled,

so shutting windows in a flurry, the way you heaved your
weight against the sills. I was alone. I did it myself. I called

you to say finally and you said yes and I grew sturdy in my chest.
We aren’t in our bodies these days. All those babies in your

womb were never real. I was there. Their tiny bodies dropped.
The way, even in summer, chill pooled in the iron tub & spouts.

Dear readers,

Thank you for following me on this month’s journey in verse. It’s always a pleasure to share the words that have woven themselves into my past year and to seek out new poets to introduce to you all. I hope you’ve encountered at least a few pieces along the way that have moved or confounded, delighted or enlivened you.

April’s final poem comes from the great Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Esber, who began writing under the name Adonis (1930-) in his late teenage years. As I mentioned in this month’s introductory post, the current state of the world has increasingly inspired me to turn to poetry for solace and sense. This song from Adonis is one I hold close to me as I try to comprehend the enormous weight of it all while still remembering those birds at the edges of our shared sky.

cm03_adonis_poet.JPG

“Song”

from “Elegy for the First Century”

Bells on our eyelashes
and the death throes of words,
and I among fields of speech,
a knight on a horse made of dirt.
My lungs are my poetry, my eyes a book,
and I, under the skin of words,
on the beaming banks of foam,
a poet who sang and died
leaving this singed elegy
before the faces of poets,
for birds at the edge of sky.
__
translated by Khaled Mattawa

Let’s begin to wind down National Poetry Month with the beloved Mary Oliver (1935-) and her lyrical wisdom.

 

 

“A Pretty Song”

From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.

Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?
This isn’t a playground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.

Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods
that hold you in the center of my world.

And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song,
And I say to my heart: rave on.

I always get goosebumps when I read this poem from the one of my favorites, the preeminent Iraqi writer and activist Saadi Youssef (1934-), who has spent much of his life in exile.

saadi

“Undead Nature”

Abu al-Khaseeb passes
blue
like morning fog,
a wooden bridge dripping dampness,
there are palm trees
and hyacinths.
The tenderness of happiness
is in the sky.
I will ask about you, son,
when things are cloudy;
I ask about you.
I ask about you.
But I already see you now:
day after day,
night after night.
So wait for me, O son,
we will meet
where the fog is blue
in the morning.

___

Translated by Sinan Antoon and Peter Money in Nostalgia my Enemy 

There is no poet who brings me to all of my senses in this physical world quite like the magnificent Adrienne Rich (1929-2012).

 
adrienne-rich-sized

“Itinerary”

i.

Burnt by lightning      nevertheless
she’ll walk this terra infinita

lashes singed on her third eye
searching definite shadows      for an indefinite future

Old shed-boards beaten silvery hang
askew as sheltering
some delicate indefensible existence

Long grasses shiver in a vanished doorway’s draft
a place of origins      as yet unclosured and unclaimed

Writing cursive instructions on abounding air

If you arrive with ripe pears, bring a sharpened knife
Bring cyanide with the honeycomb

              call before you come

ii.

Let the face of the bay be violet black the tumbled torn
kelp necklaces strewn alongshore

Stealthily over time arrives the chokehold
stifling ocean’s guttural chorales
                                        a tangle
of tattered plastic rags

iii.

In a physical world the great poverty would be
to live insensate      shuttered against the fresh

slash of urine on a wall
low-tidal rumor of a river’s yellowed mouth
a tumor-ridden face asleep on a subway train

What would it mean to not possess
a permeable skin
explicit veil to wander in

iv.

A cracked shell crumbles.
Sun moon and salt dissect the faint
last grains

An electrical impulse zings
out      ricochets
in meta-galactic orbits

a streak of nervous energy rejoins the crucible
where origins and endings meld

There was this honey-laden question mark
this thread extracted from the open
throat of existence—Lick it clean!
—let it evaporate—

This poem by the wonderful Yusef Komunyakaa (1947-) has been ringing in my head all month, so today I share it with you.

komunyakaa_web

“Rock Me, Mercy”

The river stones are listening
because we have something to say.
The trees lean closer today.
The singing in the electrical woods
has gone dumb. It looks like rain
because it is too warm to snow.
Guardian angels, wherever you’re hiding,
we know you can’t be everywhere at once.
Have you corralled all the pretty wild
horses? The memory of ants asleep
in daylilies, roses, holly, & larkspur.
The magpies gaze at us, still
waiting. River stones are listening.
But all we can say now is,
Mercy, please, rock me.

After a litany of heavier poems, here’s a joyful, color-full Marge Piercy piece I actually posted six years ago and still love.

margepiercy_newbioimage2015-irawood

“Colors Passing Through Us”

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.

Yellow as a goat’s wise and wicked eyes,
yellow as a hill of daffodils,
yellow as dandelions by the highway,
yellow as butter and egg yolks,
yellow as a school bus stopping you,
yellow as a slicker in a downpour.

Here is my bouquet, here is a sing
song of all the things you make
me think of, here is oblique
praise for the height and depth
of you and the width too.
Here is my box of new crayons at your feet.

Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles.

Blue as cornflowers, delphiniums,
bachelors’ buttons. Blue as Roquefort,
blue as Saga. Blue as still water.
Blue as the eyes of a Siamese cat.
Blue as shadows on new snow, as a spring
azure sipping from a puddle on the blacktop.

Cobalt as the midnight sky
when day has gone without a trace
and we lie in each other’s arms
eyes shut and fingers open
and all the colors of the world
pass through our bodies like strings of fire.

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