THE GREEN DOOR -Issue 5
Kari Bert; Flavia Cosma; Roxana Ghita; Robert Gibbons; Robert Hamberger; Julian Hoffman; Jacky Tange; T.I.; Michael Tweed
Submission Guidelines THE GREEN DOOR is frequently, though irregularly produced from its base in Flanders and as such is open to written contributions in English, Dutch, and French. Other languages are also welcome but must be accompanied by an English translation (not necessarily for publication.) The editors prefer to see a substantial body of work from each contributor that two or three pieces (as is the norm for most magazines). Up to ten pages of work should be sent. In the case of essays etc. which overrun this length the editors are willing to make exceptions if the quality of the work so requires. As such there is no style or form that the editors are not willing to look at. Nor are the editors reluctant to consider devoting an issue solely to the work of one artist. Contributions of visual work, painting or photographs or photo-essays, are also welcomed. All material should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org in word.doc, contained in the body of your covering letter and as an attachment. All visuals should be in jpg format. Because of the volume of submissions only material accepted for publication can be responded to. If you do not hear from us within one month of your submission then we have been unable to use your work. If your work requires special formatting etc. then contact the editors before you submit it
ROXANA GHITA & MICHAEL TWEED the beautiful foolishness of things. (http://thebeautifulfoolishnessofthings.blogspot.com/) This collaboration of visual and verbal work by Roxana Ghita and Michael Tweed, is by far one of the most interesting sites to have appeared on the internet, and is presented here, not merely as an â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;accompanimentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; to the individual contributors, but is presented as a work fully deserving consideration in its own right. The combination of visual and verbal is one that various artists have and are pursuing but few have achieved the interlocking harmony which these two artists have
the beautiful foolishness of things / 1.
unassuming all flowed into her.
ROBERT HAMBERGER English poet whose use of the spiritually charged erotic experience has been rightly noted and warmly received. At least in certain quarters. His introduction, printed below, requires no further comment nor addition. We look forward to publishing more of his work in future issues
Apart from trying to seduce us with its language, a poem can’t have designs on a reader. It can only start from private sources inside the poet; sources and voices the poet needs to explore, examine, question, simply by placing one word next to another and discovering where their music might lead. These poems are from Bible Studies, a longer sequence that appeared in my collection Torso. I wrote Bible Studies partly to make sense of a mix of emotion I felt about fundamentalist religious diatribes against homosexuality, and partly to face myself again as a gay man. As a gay poet, I was aware that homophobia does not sit comfortably with some of the passionate same-sex relationships and encounters depicted in the Bible. I thought I would return to the sources, to explore how the Bible appears to argue with itself sometimes, not speak with one tongue (hardly surprising, perhaps, with its multiple authors.) It seemed to me that, if I could speak with the voices and rhythms used in the King James’ version of the Bible, I might find a way of stepping inside same-sex passion through stories or quotations from sacred texts. This was partly to subvert and question those texts; but also to discover whether I could give voice to what seemed to me the eroticism in the margins of the Bible, which is given its fullest expression in the Song of Solomon. The erotic and the sacred have often seemed to be an uneasy coupling; yet we’re a mixture of physical and spiritual, and sensuousness is woven into Biblical texts by their very words and rhythms. Using Biblical texts and rhythms helped to free up my language; it also deepened my appreciation of the complex ways poetry reveals the self. I’ve previously written dramatic monologues to help me feel my way into another’s situation, as well as using that voice to reflect, from a sideways angle, on whatever’s crucial in my life at the time of writing. When I chose to speak in voices from the Bible, I spoke from and about previously secret aspects of myself. I was ‘speaking in tongues’, whilst acknowledging (sometimes painfully, sometimes triumphantly) that my tongue is gay. I side with those in the Bible who love their own gender: I speak as ‘one of them’. Even now, within fundamentalist approaches to world religions, this is still the love that dare not speak its name. Desire is written on the body, but often unnamed. Finding words and images for it, building poems line by line, stanza by stanza, was another way of naming my desire, even to myself.
WRESTLING THE ANGEL And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. Genesis Chapter 32 Verse 24
Open your eyes – I’ll drown you dive from a dizzying height every feather a gust from heaven God’s heron to pierce your dream.
Our tussle wakes my softest hailstones I might be rain
pepper your skin
daring to lick your brow.
Dread prickles your beard in our ballet of parry and shove. I could snap you like a rib.
What measure of warrior are you roping my stallion shoulders, will against muscle
bites against wings?
A fire line slinks the mountain. My errand to bend your spine trash your plea
My fingernails strum the clustering hairs on your thigh. Eat this ghosted blessing: ache for paradise I would be cloud
MEN OF SODOM
In the Old Vicarage hotel bedroom, while women and men mix their voices and laugh in reception, our secret vices rampage on the sheet, ten feet from their hearty conversation. By a dim light weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re conspirators whose hushed faces watch that panther, passion, lick the traces of sweat on our skin and let us roam. Next morning we down a respectable breakfast, play the More tea vicar routine. On the lawn outside thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a babble. Five mallard drakes, their glossed green balaclavas, their ridiculous waddle, rendezvous behind the rhododendron.
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. Romans Chapter 1 Verse 27
My lust burns one to another (count them) receiving in myself meat (taste salt, its sting) to recompense my error.
Likewise also the men, his throat (mine) engorged again toward that which is seamy, steamy, heavy in the hand on the chest up the arse.
Men with men working the natural use; one touch that burns such who wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t repent, who glory their error with men: that recompense themselves, themselves redeem.
AFTER SOLOMON My beloved is mine and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. The Song of Solomon Chapter 2 Verse 16
My love walks between hyacinths and rain and is summer to my eyes. He hesitates before waterfalls, but knows which train to catch. Arise my love and go: the sun sits by your left shoulder and dew is a wet puppy at your heel. My loveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s voice carries jasmine through the garden. It knocks at my heart. His hair weaves black and quicksilver flurries. My love waltzed with death and I was fearful. When he crossed the ward in his dressing-gown, unleashed from the drip that would trundle slowly beside him like a pole-thin partner, he was honey and wine for my mouth and the dance was mine.
COVENANT Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword and to his bow… Samuel 1 Chapter 18 Verses 3-4
After a pebble skimmed from your sling pocked the giant’s forehead – his hair taut as strings under your fist, his head revolving slowly: a sack of skin, the burgundy drips – you felled me.
Our gaze, this steady silence, hails a peaceful victory. Vows sing in its shadow, where my soul sets the starlings circling their thousand tiny crosses above our words.
I watch your eyes, to trust defenceless courage. My peacock cloak unwraps grass-blue folds around my shins.
I step free, draping you in my colours. As a valley of sunflowers bows to us, my robe scents your shoulders with heat from these hands.
My sword points towards my breast, the hilt proffered for your grip, blade flat as a line of moonlight on a lake.
Take my bow to fire your fleetest arrow at a pomegranateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heart, its armour pierced for me to cup the juice, slaking your thirst at last from my linked fingers.
DRY TREE …neither let the eunuch say, Behold I am a dry tree. For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me...Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Isaiah Chapter 56 Verses 3-5
If you dare to stroke a hand’s shadow like a lizard over this skin my bark splinters your fingerprints No rain sways your clusters scrawler of scripture No fruit shrunk as a walnut crumbles ash on your tongue
When you lick a subtle moustache of sweat above your lip my root-knuckles tighten your throat Count scorpions among my branches my leaves scuttle inside your ear
I’m neither man nor woman nor tree I renounce any name you knot to my finger I spit on sabbaths
and the dust dries their tiny puddles
If your Lord bends his face towards me he must honour the scent of every bud circling my hair like midsummerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s crown every owl squirrel and raven balancing wherever I shelter them claws in my arms
Will he love or fear this pit between my legs - its opened fig, lost date-stones calling me miracle, Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eunuch flinging wide the gates to his kingdom?
Straight as cedar
bent as willow
I burn outside his walls
the beautiful foolishness of things / 2
some sought within. others sought without. neither, however, seemed to notice that limits themselves could be luminous.
ROBERT GIBBIONS Is widely and rightly regarded as the most versatile and accomplished practitioner of the prose-poem –a form which shows once again the debt English language poetry of the twentieth century owes to nineteen century French literature –a fact which has led several critics to proclaim that the form is un-wieldable in English. Fortunately Robert Gibbons has paid no heed to such rant and gone his way shaping a body of work in the form that may be without equal in present day poetics. The reader is particularly directed towards http://www.cordite.org.au/poetry/white-homes/robert-gibbons-woman-married-to-thesun-wind and http://www.thedrunkenboat.com/rgfp.html . An excellent overview of his work is collected in Beyond Time (new and selected work) published by Trivium Publications, available through Amazon.
Today I Want to Shape it a Bit Differently I love the new reconstruction of the seawall. Two cranes at it all summer. Shoring up the wall with huge glacial erratics, a few indigenous to the area, but you can tell most have been trucked in from points North & West. I love the niche I’ve discovered, where I can disappear to an entire continent, & stare out worshiping, studying the sea. My first thought when I saw it was, “It’s a mihrab,” the single alcove built into the walls of churches in Byzantium. That would be a cool thing to do, wouldn’t it? To write down everything that goes on all the time, it’s so filled with life. The tanker balancing on the horizon line, the two diving cormorants in the foreground, the spider underneath me mapping the labyrinth. Motors & wind & waves. I suppose it would end up the New York Times. I equate myself with the brick maker. The prose poem of mud & straw & blood. Quite simple. Reliable. Useful in numbers, & formidable when thrown through a plate-glass window. But today I want to shape it just a bit differently. Still humble, but elevated. Knowing full-well this medium was not held in high esteem, & that Origen, or Apollonius, put down the chosen material as crass in comparison to gold & ivory, today I want to leave the equivalent of a terracotta figure here in the stone niche. I’m gathering clay with a spade & hod from one of the numerous beds around Crete. I know that during the Mycenaean Period the industry was so vast that each statue sold cheap. That suits the prose poem, the brick, for that matter, just fine. After molding it in my margins, & adding some tempera colors: black red yellow blue green, all I have to do is fire it to between 750 & 950 degrees. Have you felt a poet’s desire? Cool down, my little Sapphic Aphrodite, cool down in this contemporary wind. Humble image of Love, rise out of rhythm in these waves, stand straight, & tall, try not to crack a smile in clay at the recollection here,
of Sappho in the ecstatic verbal ejaculation of her ardor, promising to sacrifice a white goat at your altar!
Baghdad as the Origin of Writing When I walk the seawall it’s not like walking at all, it’s flying, or total free fall. No physical energy expended. It’s pure imagination. Hands & arms are wings. Head = engine. Legs treading geographical maps of D. H. Lawrence in Sardinia, Rimbaud in Africa, Walter Benjamin’s Marseille. Today, I hit tide at dead low. Stones rose up near shore, & in the distance, some never seen before. Over my shoulder I looked for the full moon causing these new revelations, reminded that its light is part of the reason for the country’s rush toward war. Thought of Baghdad as the origin of writing. Little cuneiform tablet, beautiful wedge, a work of art in its own right: 5,000 years old, mere grocery list, a receipt. But writing, nonetheless. I looked off in the distance to a walkway, a stone bridge, Charles Olson would have recognized, a phenomenon he’d phrase, how, properly, to heap up, allowing Algonquins (the word means “at the place of spearing fish & eels”), access by foot to shellfish beds without the need of dugouts. Women & children gathering food themselves.
Grotesque: Half Bird Half Man with an Infant’s Foot & Elephant’s Hoof I stepped out the door a dove. Totally totemistic. The other birds greeted me, but let me be, half man half dove. The starlings all stayed together. The day, which looked overcast from indoors, had great open spaces where the sun overwhelmed roads, trees, ocean. I walked on the seawall with a feeling of utter exhilaration, you might say, flight. Stone outcroppings reminded me of the dream the night before when I was afraid to dive into the water, afraid one of the seals might bite me. Nevertheless I risked diving in in the dream, & now all fear vanished. At some point along the seawall a young girl walked through a fissure with the gait of an angel. When she turned round to see the half bird half man one of my feet turned into an elephant’s hoof, the other into an infant’s foot. Oh, did I hobble on that wall, but my totemistic bird wings propped me up. I was as normal as the eventuality of death.
The angel smiled. The sea smiled, in fact it laughed, at having now seen everything. Back when I was just a man, when reality was my only concern, I worked as a research librarian. I spent three long months going through archival boxes of Hemingway material at the JFK Library in Boston. I never found anything anyone else hadn’t seen hundreds of times before, until one day in a letter to his publisher commenting on the celebration of his 50th birthday, a label from a wine bottle was glued to the third & last page of the handwritten letter. Against all laws I peeled back the 1937 Gevrey-Chambertin, & there it was in his hand, barley legible, scratched in pencil, “It’s harder to live than die.” I don’t know why, after all these years have passed since finding the fragment, at this moment, half bird half man with an infant’s foot & elephant’s hoof, I realized the enormity of it. At the time I simply returned it to the page with a little saliva on my finger, determined to let him keep his secret.
Serving the Sentence What happens to the world in four days & three nights without her is a transformation I’m forced into from the sultriness of her sprawled out naked on the bed napping with a linen sheet thrown partially over to keep the heat off in the afternoon readying for her trip to Salt Lake City with snow barely melting on its Icarean mountaintops. I stay quiet trying not to disturb her though my heart reaches out my hands don’t & suddenly she’s gone up & out West & the weather in the East changes radically with a rough fog riding in like a dusty cowboy. Damned Sun gets stubborn & halting political Refusnik in rumpled clothes of clouds forcing me into exile in-house staying up late confused dreaming awake under blankets we put away months ago so the wine disappears & the food gets scarce & mud starts oozing over the grass & roses threatening to cross the threshold over which I once carried her into Paradise where big catalpa & fig leaves burgeoned. Now recede into cactus thorns stuck in the back of my hand like fish hook barbs or the desolation of carpets like filthy streets I know in Veracruz, Belgrade, Venice, Chelsea, Memphis, Boston, but not Salt Lake City. The great teacher necessity turns me round & the aging process reverses stomach flattens teeth drop coffee stains into the imagined mud while I’m on all fours bellowing at the moon hidden in eclipse in touch with instinctual animal nature where solitude is more than an outward shadow but an internal reckoning without words.
Writing & Reading Even immediacy of interruption, incorporating that into the present? Constant distractions at work away from the real work, reminding me that at this time last year I stood in front of the machine at 6:15 already sewing another bookbag for the backs of youngsters dreading the return to school. There, on the hot factory floor in front of the despotic machine preventing me from reading or writing, I’d sail to Venice where the vaporetto dropped me off with my stack of books & sense of absolute freedom on the little island completely covered in the mosaic of stone tiles surrounding a lone building, which I never entered, preferring to stretch out on the marble tiled piazza reading under the Adriatic sun in order to find my Soul in words. Distress at lack of freedom to read, that bondage, always led me to the margins. Look at me in Belgrade, content as hell even on the dollar-twenty-five a night barracks bed with a book, or roaming the streets in anxious freedom to stop & gaze in wonder. Coffee & walnuts this morning drove me to Mexico City, where we’d read in the forty-dollar a month boarding house living on pecans & red wine in luxurious joy. In Nice, my knapsack of clothes became veritably useless, showering only on the beach, sleeping out of doors for weeks. Freedom on the stones of the Mediterranean, reading. Fifty-two jobs: delivering brochures the entire length of Lynnfield Street at eight-years-old; teaching in fractured classrooms; factory worker in leather, fish, meat, & canvas; or underling in libraries, where they forbade my writing & reading. The margins I’ve carved out today. What will Lorca say? What pleasures, secrets, & insights could Duras, Cixous, Montale, Olson, & Dorn, offer my own Soul today? Blood shed on the page is there to be read.
Tear the Flesh of Language Open During the last week of March the end of High Street perpendicular to Atlantic Avenue, & ultimately the harbor itself, turns umbrella bone yard. One broker a wilderness lean-to in his London Fog. A female executive, wash wavering on a clothesline. One thing not under wind's control: the stone at my feet directly below the winged lion on the corner of Chadwick Lead Works. Meteorite-heavy, one side jagged granite, the other, polished diorite exhumed out of Big-Dig tunnel work. All I can associate it with is Yeatsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s phrase, "Love is like a Lion's tooth." Love loosed upon a street in Boston. I'm going to pick it up. Tear the flesh of language open. Man straight out of the Magdalenian, using the tool, learning to talk.
Keeping the First Heat of Summer Cool At some invisible juncture, I’m not sure of the name of the square, High St. changes into Summer. I know Lincoln St. shunts off to the left. Then past the pedestrian walkway of Washington St., up little Winter with all its record & shoe stores, which they often block off for Hip Hop, crossing Tremont to the Common, where Tony is banging out his “Junk Jam” on refrigerator vegetable & fruit bin drawers, stove grates, the usual plastic buckets, a lone bent-to-hell cymbal, a couple of sticks of wood, certainly no drumsticks, & two or three hubcaps for that high-pitched Caribbean steel-drum effect he likes to include every so often in the more than triple-beat African percussion he’s got going, what with his ability to strike the bottom & the top of the rectangular refrigerator drawers almost simultaneously elevating it past the primitive toward a level of true American jazz, to the extent that a tall, obviously African young man comes over & stands close behind him, in awe really under his black umbrella keeping the first heat of summer off, trying to figure out just how Tony’s “Junk Jam” operates. A big crowd of kids jumpin’ & plunkin’ down dollars their parents let them contribute, adults bopping, I’m smiling trying to keep from moving my white pugilistic moves, when a woman strikes up a conversation attesting to Tony’s brilliance, even coughing up a sawbuck for his coverless CD, she’s a writer who’s written a book on forgiveness called “The Mystery of Forgiveness.” Still really a doctoral dissertation, but I can tell Ruth Henderson is someone who knows all about forgiveness as it emanates & spreads, radiates really contagious like the jazz. Keep an eye out for her, the little blonde with the baseball cap, enormous presence. The last time I saw her she was talking to a young magician standing behind an infallible House of Cards, which might have been glued together. The last time I saw Tony he was counting out more money that I ever made from writing.
Exchanges in Languages, Glances, Mask, & Doll for Self Revelation I had a big smile going on, which brought out a certain amount of consternation from folks in the middle rows of the bus, while those in back were too far away to get distracted over that. Two African women in their hospital blues & name tags were riding the crest of happiness gratitude for both the end of a seven to three shift & a chance to riff in their native language offered. The avian reaches of some of those high-pitched lilts, along with deep valleys of barely audible breath bore a meaning only music can carry, & of course, once they knew the smile was in response to this foreign tintinnabulation the solos extended, & even a bit of body language thrust out of exhausted bodies. When one got off I asked the one left alone where she was from, where her friend was from, & what language they were speaking: Congo, Rwanda, French & Swahili. After telling her how much I enjoyed eavesdropping on their conversation I mentioned the mask from Congo we got in Paris. Just then the young girl who’d moved her bag to make room for me said to be careful of the mask it might crack. Funny, she should say that, I told her, because that’s just what happened on the plane trip home. She laughed her exaggerated laugh saying she never lets anyone touch her porcelain doll so it won’t break, commenting on its beauty, her cheeks beaming ecstatically heavenward even more than the way her doll does, I’m sure. Asked how old the doll is, when it was made, she rolled her eyes, again, & came back down with 1998. By about that time my stop was coming up quick, & I recommended some music back across the way to the African citing Tinariwen as a group from Mali, you know, where the Dogon come from, but she didn’t. Well, it’s a big country I must have said, when she uttered, the lone word, “Continent,” correcting my dumb intellectual slip, but forgiven by the others much faster than I forgave myself.
Five Easy Pieces I. Faint Memory Sunlight covers/divides three pears on the table, despite closed shutters folded against kitchen bay window. Summer, after all. Morning, after all. Read for hours already. Lifting last five pieces of herring out of jar, wouldn’t add up to one fish, goes with black coffee. Rare, languorous shadows. Car horn across the way, an idiot yelp. Call up dark, cobbled street in Paris, driving words down hard to get inside. That’s how I defined the Soul to her before she took off for Oslo: The One that gathers up all the Awe of the Organs of Our Beings. Into silence, language, or music.
II. Colors of Summer Streaming jazz out of Portland, (Oregon); sipping cheap red; glad it was a bubble near the lip of the glass, rather than fruit fly: grateful for even shallow things in summer. Three pears in nothing but shade & small white bowl. Just heard from someone in Madrid. First it’s piano, then sax, now an unknown bends notes on an eight-string guitar. Turns out it’s Charlie Hunter on Teabaggin’. If it gets any easier here I’ll have to return to morning’s reading of Nietzsche, who wanted everything hard as a hammer blow. I can do without that for an hour or two, can’t I, Zarathustra? Even Nietzsche praised the colors of summer in Sils-Maria. III. Calm & Sunny We strolled a leisurely stroll down the Eastern Trail just after noontime today. She pointed out the array of new vegetation on one side, identifying the tanker across the way as Baltic Faith flying Cypriot flag. I caught the osprey up above. We sidestepped the guy winters in Florida, who added a solid punch under my heart to an apparent friendly greeting last year. He won’t get that chance again. Nietzsche claimed the market women of Turin went out of their way to select their sweetest grapes for him. I also come from the long/jagged line of Dionysos. Bevy of Maenads ready to rend the enemy, even on a calm & sunny summer day.
IV. Doing My Best to Keep Things Light Why Fate crossed Akhmatova with Nietzsche on a calm & balmy summer day, when I’m doing my best to keep things light is simply a matter of movement, of heading from kitchen with its light & shadow to the backroom with writing desk & bookshelves (just wrote bookselves). When Akhmatova alludes to Asia, say, … mists over Asia / & tulips terrifyingly bright, I imagine she means the Gulag. When Nietzsche claims that no one in Germany understands his books, but only a few geniuses in Vienna, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, & New York via delicate fingers & bravest of fists, I imagine they’re all jazz musicians.
V. Five Easy Pieces It’s not that I’m going to do nothing on a summer day, although it crossed my mind a few weeks back there in spring, & what did I want to do other than write it down. Nor sit watching an old movie. No, but somehow that film from over forty years ago now, Five Easy Pieces, lurks in cobwebbed corners of memory. Identified with Nicholson’s character Bobby Eroica Dupea. Loved Karen Black, Sally Struthers, Susan Anspach. Light-hearted humor of diner, Triumph tee-shirt. But it was the underpinning theme of music as Soul of the film that imprinted it. My father wanted me to play, tried hard to train these fingers to do that, not this.
Chagall’s Murals for the Jewish Museum in Moscow: Love on the Stage My first full day in town in thirty-two years, the only passenger on the Mason-Powell line this early in the morning, still essentially dark, the operator & conductor move the car down to the stop cautiously, reluctantly, it’s Saturday, after all. Past the Russian Hill Market, Chinatown Public Health Center, a good view of the western arc of the Golden Gate Bridge, then the car rambling down Washington for another view of one of the bridge stanchions, Transamerica Building decapitated in fog.
What really sticks with me today is the cab ride to the San Francisco MOMA. Bearings still a little askew, & what with the Chagall Show opening today, I figure I better get there as early as possible asking the Whole Foods staff on California to call me a cab. Yellow Cab driver asks if I’m Robert before I get in. When I tell him about my earlier ride he lets me know that trolleys are a way of life where he comes from, Moscow. It’s not long in the conversation, which will be limited by the distance between the grocery store & the museum, that his plaintive accent admits its Armenian. I say something about the constant hole in one’s Soul that must be carried around by the displaced of that history. “Oh, you know?” he queries quietly, then goes on to say his father-in-law was a Jew, which made his wife one as well, though he doesn’t allude to it, the former tortured & killed not by the Turks, but the Communists. He knows he could have made his way in Moscow. Left for San Francisco for his daughter, then three, now fourteen. In front of the museum he spells out the name of the land of his birth on a Yellow Cab Cooperative card, “Azarbaijan,” turning full-face & sticking out his hand as if in some secret pact. The evidence of the hole in his Soul is in a subtle pinch of pain around the eyes, not fully released by his smile. True to his nature, drives off remaining anonymous.
the beautiful foolishness of things / 3
obscure, her crossings. the most sure forever indiscernible.
RODNEY NELSON Rodney Nelson's work began appearing in mainstream American literary journals , e.g., Georgia Review, long ago, and chapbooks ensued; however, he turned to fiction and did not write a poem from 1982 to 2004, when he made a comeback in the ezines. His entry in the Poets & Writers directory contains a partial list of credits. A liking for what some have termed nature poetry drew him to the work of Robinson Jeffers and, on the far other hand, that of the youngish German Ron Winkler. Nelson has worked as book and copy editor and lives in Fargo, North Dakota.
RECOGNITION I had been on the road into town at five oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;clock on a December afternoon and was not now but knew its prairie look heading north the dearth and cold and night already in the ditches not enough snow to lighten the gray and none to come and no wind either were the moment to me and might have been to a foreigner making it universal not just North Dakota I had driven there with another next to me neither of us talking too long ago or yesterday and we kept intent on the vacant road at five oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;clock and the quiet had no sadness in it
GET OUT OF FARGO more open winter water now Hudson Bay on up so more to north wind making the prairie both cold and snowy in nighttime of the year big flood every spring
not much warm and dry in the light so I am thinking get out and only an utter psychopants would want to be Carl Sandbag in the muck whatever broadsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; shoulders PASCHAL and holy week another to wait out mud and snow and the going down of floodwater you have ridden through as dim an April in high country but here the river is wrong for a maundy washing of feet too risen and cold so how will you ever go to commemorate the beginning of the wait and millions have been at it for millennia and the watchlights of Yerushalayim and la CittĂ di Vaticano are burning on a holy weekend of mud and snow and flood will have to do even if you are bowlegged and -minded already from the weighting
BELONG when there is nothing home to keep you the road out of prairie to mountain will open take your everyday to the desert canyon of its map and it will not be on the coal train heading east magpie and vulture you have met will meet you again in a
rose-rock country you have wanted but never seen more than a memory of juniper scent will draw you up a trail and make you content to live the morning to think with every dead skunk or woodchuck on the road out of mountain to prairie how much you belong to you can go home again when nothing is in it to keep you
NORTH DAM I had made way through sun and odor of plant rot to where I would have seen the dam had flood gone down more and did not want to get close to its moving point of retreat which would have meant mud on the other bank a muskrat went with deliberation over a dark wet stretch of siltage pausing now to check on else that might be faring which did not include me anymore had what a musquash loved driven it from what it loved and where and was it back trying to find clean up redeem or had the huge quick inundation been only a game to it a side of what it loved I thought but did not whistle a rodent word to anything or wait on an answer and knew me as one of it as another muskrat of lowth and lough-land prairie
with nowhere else to want to go or be in the flood of my sporting time
RED RIVER PRAIRIE the heels of me had mud-caked and tooth and finger were so dry that I wanted to be potato
in gunnysack but not roll out on any of the slime ahead and I did not want my crick of
mind to narrate the flood in a singsong when reemergence had made the country burlap again
AT THE MISSOURI another family trip in childhood might have done but one to the Mo happened to do a look at the twin buttes at dawn and I was not the world anymore men had not yet flooded the cottonwoody bottomland in which the river made me distant it ran in the wild that I made around me another T‘ao Ch‘ien would well have done but Waley’s would happen to do I wanted to be that country T‘ao Ch‘ien
Chinese poet (372–427 C.E.) “A heart that is distant creates a wilderness round it.” Arthur Waley, translator
RAIN BURIAL the tiring light rains in autumn might have come to deterge the air and maintained wind did have a soap odor that blent in with more at the north town dam which finally would have done to cleanse the river too but were they coming as the earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s boon or to darken it was the length of them that wore and you had to keep a mind off autumn and senses on vegetation in park or yard to tell how the rains were quickening brown of dead leaf had depth and the orange of unfallen not much to do with what moribundity had meant the ground smelt new in metal and weed which proclaimed you here and it did have a light of its own you were seeing the rains bury that would stay on for all the winter
MIDWINTERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S DAY the interment party that went away did not leave weeping or resignation behind them only row upon row of quiet to let the winter in but it wanted more snow and melt and refreeze to create a high hard rubbling and one day the sun could go no farther so yard on yard remained paven white cementary to a few and cemetery to the any that happened to look but only another town in the winter to me
INDEPENDENCE DAY parent grackle teaching a young on the marquee roof how to dip a bread ort in the rain puddle and the young one making for it wanting any way
too midget a cricket on the gravel path to jump that high and too big in the body and clamant voice a young crow tagging its provider
to the lecture grove how many human beeves in yard after yard and not enough crows and grackles and bugs to outeat them maybe
the beautiful foolishness of things / 4
her offering was the simplest and most natural: that the world would disappear into itself.
FLAVIA COSMA Flavia Cosma is a Romanian born Canadian poet, author and translator. She is the director of The International Writers’ and Artists’ Residency, Val David, Quebec, Canada and of The Multilingual Writers’ and Artists’ Festivals, held biannually at the Writers’ and Artists’ Residence Immigrant poetry in Canada There is nothing higher than the truth Plotinus, 700 BC Many immigrants came to Canada in search of a better life for themselves and their families. But this search was never simple or easy, and never will be resolved just at the material level.There is someting else that pushes people to abandon their places of birth, something that’s beyond the need for survival. In my opinion, what people are searching for by moving to other regions of the world, is the truth. The reason which makes someone leave his homeland is his thirst for higher knowledge about the real and imaginary life that surrounds us all, and the hope that this would allow us at the same time a better idea about who we really are. In this respect the immigrant has much in common with the poet, because the poet and his poetry always ask the great questions about life and the world in which we live. The power and the lasting effect of poetry is that it searches passionately for the truth, in a constant dialog with itself and the external world. In a new country, the first sentiments that welcome, or better said, overcome the immigrant as well as the poet, are the fear and the loneliness. Loneliness and anguish are always present in the everyday life of an immigrant, and this is true for everyone, from the very first people who arrived in North America to the most recent immigrants of today. And what is the greatest incentive for the creation of a strong, meaningful, transparent and beautiful poetry, a poetry pure and without false modesty— than the suffering? In this fashion, the immigrant poetry stands out in a country as Canada, through its extraordinary qualities of powerfulness and lucidity. It falls on immigrant writers to mix the experiences lived in the past with the present ones, the nostalgia for the lost places and people with the hope for the future. Thus, they are the ones who have to build the bridges between cultures, their culture and the culture of others, commonly much diverse. But there is a major impediment in the integration of the immigrant writers in the Canadian culture, and that is the language barrier. How to surpass it?
The government is trying to alleviate these problems, offering now and then subventions for the translating of these writings into one of the two official languages of the country: French and English. But nevertheless it is incumbent on the immigrant writers to articulate the foreign realities with their personal necessities of expression. And this role is never easy. In spite of the government help, there remains a profound non-adaptation and this fact can explain why International Multilingual Festivals like the ones I started organizing a few years back in ValDavid, Quebec, enjoy a great level of popularity with the immigrant writers. These festivals create something like a gate that opens backward—like in a fairy tale—to allow the poet to relive the time of his apprenticeship in the art of speaking, in his own maternal language. It’s an opportunity to go back in time, to make everything possible again, eliminating obstacles and giving free reign to poetry, as it was born in the first place in the soul of its creator. In this way, poetry succeeds in elevating itself above the barriers of any kind, and from one moment to another, each person understands the other like in a modern, enchanting Babel Tower. In this new realm of poetry without borders, the art of poetry stirs up, inspires and touches people, obsessing and galvanizing anyone with its incomparable magic.
La poesía de los inmigrantes en Canadá “No hay algo mas alto que la verdad” Plotinus, año 700 antes de nuestra era Muchos inmigrantes llegaron a Canadá buscando una vida mejor para ellos y para sus familias. Pero esta búsqueda no fue y no será jamás sencilla, en el orden material. Hay algo más, al margen de las necesidades de supervivencia que impulsa a la gente a dejar sus lugares. Mi opinión es que lo que uno busca a través de ir por otras regiones del mundo, es la verdad. El motivo que lo hace a uno partir es su sed por saber algo mas sobre la vida real e imaginar que lo que nos rodea, también nos podrá proporcionar un mejor conocimiento sobre nosotros mismos. En este sentido el inmigrante tiene mucho en común con el poeta, porque el poeta y su poesía siempre plantean los grandes interrogantes que hacen a la vida y al mundo en que vivimos. La fuerza y el gran efecto de la poesía es que ella busca siempre y apasionadamente la verdad, en un diálogo constante con el entorno.
En un nuevo (lo pongo en cursiva porque nuevo se refiere a nuevo para el inmigrante) país, los primeros sentimientos que envuelven tanto al inmigrante como al poeta, son el miedo y la soledad. Tanto para los primeros inmigrantes en América del Norte como para los actuales, la soledad y la angustia están siempre presentes en la vida de ellos, en el día a día. ¿Y cuál es la más grande propensión para crear una poesía fuerte, estremecedora, sin falsos pudores, pura de belleza y transparencia, como la del sufrimiento? De esta manera la poesía de los inmigrantes se destaca en un país como Canadá por su calidad de potencia y lucidez fuera de lo común. Les toca a ellos mezclar las experiencias vividas en el pasado con las del presente, la nostalgia por el pasado y la esperanza por el futuro. Así que son ellos los que deben construir los puentes entre las culturas, la suya y las otras, a veces muy diversas. Pero hay un impedimento mayor en la integración de los escritores inmigrantes en la cultura canadiense, y esta es la barrera lingüística. ¿Como sobrepasarla? El gobierno se esfuerza en allanar estos problemas, otorgando de vez en cuando subvenciones para las traducciones de sus obras en una de las dos lenguas oficiales del país: el inglés y el francés. Pero todavía les toca a los escritores inmigrantes el papel nada fácil de poder articular las realidades del afuera con las necesidades de expresión propias. Sin embargo a pesar de la ayuda, hay aquí una profunda inadaptación y este hecho puede explicar porqué los Festivales Internacionales Multilenguales como los que yo comencé a organizar hace dos años en Va-David, provincia de Quebec, gozan de un alto nivel de popularidad entre los escritores inmigrantes. Es como una puerta que se abre por atrás -como en un cuento de hadas-, para permitirle a uno revivir el tiempo de su aprendizaje en el arte de hablar, en su propia lengua materna. Es una oportunidad de volver atrás, de hacer todo posible nuevamente, eliminando obstáculos y dando vía libre a la poesía, ella que ha nacido en el alma de su creador, en primer lugar. De tal modo, la poesía logra elevarse por encima de las barreras y de buenas a primeras, cada uno entiende a los demás como en una moderna y encantada Torre de Babel. Allí es donde la poesía mueve e inspira a la gente, obsesionándola y galvanizándola con su incomparable magia. Traduccion de Luis Raúl Calvo, poeta y ensayista, Buenos Aires, Argentina
the beautiful foolishness of things / 5
for those who were able to maintain a certain confidence even the desolate wake of her absence would be fertile.
KARI BERT AND JACKY TANGE As painters, poets, and friends, Kari Bert and Jacky Tange have had a long and fruitful association. What follows is an exchange between them based on the prose-poem DEARY, written by Kari to his late wife Gilberte de Leger, whose painting DOVE is the point at which Jacky responded. While it would be desirable to reproduce a photograph of the painting the use of shade and light so essential to the painting do not make for a satisfactory reproduction.
DEARIE Light can be too strong for human eyes. Shadows hide what we need to see. When the light becomes weaker, the veil of shadows vanish, we see chinks and crevices, new colours and shades that are real and we are aware. That is the start. It comes as feelings, or thoughts. The searching of the heart and mind to find right words or make new ones. This is how language is born: otherwise there was nothing on this paper. In the shadow not a nothingness but a niche, a whole part of the real world has its place. Whatever a word is pointing to leads to a particle part of the world. To work with the words is the world of imagination not the world of the void where nothing can bud and grow. In the world of the possible the growing from “not yet” to “yes” is the path of the worker (hence also the path of the poet) “No” can never bud as “yes”. We need light, bright or soft, hard shadows and dusty ones, clean and clear weavings but also rags,hard jewels or soft pebbles of human dirt –which is where the poets, and herd of artists, work, and when they find it, it is a present from a wind that never tells her name And that wind comes from heart, mind, awareness, sometimes his anger or fear, but never from nothingness. I wrote this to my muse, her name is Dearie. I wrote it as a letter the way water streams and it can surely be a bad work, yet even bad work can give life to a lovely creature and then the riddle is complete on this paper which was once an unbearable void What was worded can be read in many ways. But what is worded lives, somewhere, in a human being: as fishes in the living sea, or birds above the same sea: their togetherness is the life in us. Dearie, I end but will never end. The wording wind calms down my breath as a breath of realest love (K.B.)
Kari, The gull ! I saw her again just like she was painted. None of us that saw her ever died. Times were like that then. From among the painters you could defy with colour and never die. Joanne of Ghent over the waves ! And in waves of sound even forever colour in defiance in ways imagined to un-imagine that particular drawing of a female cry. Can they have some? Who come to you now to realize her fine shade in the eternal light of waves and ways of gesture Are they among the painters too? Just like when she beckoned to immortality or at least to change, for Sometimes she moves and scoops so far away you have to look through blue at darkness through red away at gravity dethroned at coherence created from her And you have to look upward for a path. I saw her again Just as when she took us there and left us forever living. (J.T.)
Wood of words are the shrubs in the back of your brains; the words will be read on this whitish paper like a slight morning breeze.
Remember the first word and now for the other words there will be aiming, hitting the target or missing it, but you and you alone decide like a slow slug or a flashing light, for the wood of words canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be mapped: you are the one and only for there is no muse; remember : this is work, work of words and you can be the victim of your mistakes, so donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe in the phantom of a muse: in the wood you work
is an invisible path for words that becomes clear as you find and work and centre on what is not yet seen, as a helmsman, on a paper made of flowing wood. (K.B.)
Kari, We must have been writing at the same time. I found your poem “Wood”, inviting a shot with the arrow. And I had just addressed some critics hidden in ambush. ( I like them, so pliable, so easily wrap able and not a word wasted ) I had also used the image of the arrow. Now it seems I was not moving aimlessly through the “shrubs”. There must be many more of us. I send you my thoughts. They are also my words. 1) Tell me how well will you travel my sharply painted road I shot an ochre arrow and it slid through grey and greys through child drawn tulips at the feet of defoliated giant stems that dodge the sway of change winds And will meeting Vincent awe you and will you slip him the 20 euros as well you must if ever you are to hold that certain poverty so close paint drips from your spectacles
You can use your wipers then and see there are hungry children busy with their pencils patiently blending in your art a coloured name for “stove wood” and there is a path 2) Pardon me while I brush away some tar I am not hurt by your fluid black I am a painter too Pardon me while I brush some more at your kitchen table from where I can see doves against some black advance I’ll roll some coal paste black velvet paper on a sheet and highlight with dense violet 3) You could call it the era of the coal black sea. I had my father’s ashes disappear there. In the madness of unadulterated washes. “Une Marine” … That’s where the waves of time collide Where they climb each other hungry in their fluid renaissance ( -where rivers impeded accelerate you can see the same frantic feeding of the water -waves that claw at each precursor clawing … With my two hundred pounds I would be hard pressed to dance that stance Still, as in the watershed so alike in man: Movement
And the language of movement is a dragon The dragon that flips here tail in dreams While at the same time majestically diving Full lead heavy, slippery and fully enchanting She attacks with the full force of an ocean You can either run dancing Or wake up and paint A seascape Do you like my story so far? My blues leaning on the violet That open up the black roaring And promise a living lumen-essence Full colour comforted with white shaped symbols of afterlife of space for writing, yes for writing even in the very painting Of silence, of wish washing at night Of whisper of waves Of reading the dragonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s thought moves Of daring to go there Of howling . (J.T.)
In the open circle with how many have we not welcomed the ones that came from broken circles How have we gathered the stories A child would at the edge set free his talking bird when the dancing groups again departed Welcome chanted and re-enchanted Our contemplation was never silent And when the cycle closed
with the cloak laid over our dream It was seen that we had become impatient painters of mute rebirth (J.T.)
Kari:This happened in reality. Unknown people brought us in the green country in a sweet hamlet with grass “A hamlet is never closed”, an inhabitant said, “but it is a circle, a ring that never closes”. It was between the sunset and the night, inside the little houses there was a sweet, calm smell and everybody moved slowly and talked less, grandfather did as he was asleep, but the fire in his pipe was alive. The looks of their eyes went in their own mental innards sitting as they simply were as almost sleeping owls in an unspoken unity without the shade of “played” superstition, or foolishness of invented magic as the day sank behind the skyline and the air was as human as the free living minds and after a long silence mother said: “ switch the light on “ and the spell was not broken, no rests of magic felt from the walls and each moved in his own being that was open as their hamlet was open for a new smiling night in their houses, that were not a jail at all
but loved and loving silence. “Tomorrow we can see the green of grass again”, one said and added after while: “I hope I’ll see the red butterflies laughing in their beloved green, for the night brings life to live in the day.”
Old men gather around the standard of the Numen windless for speech. Numen is no symbol the gathering is. Yet from the gathering should come the sound. And speechless stand the old men Numen is immobile as well. No song, no dance? A routine of gathering old men for no purpose ? Let us do different. We have the age, we have the spine. Marrow unspoilt even in our disease. Let us once more gather. Let us also gather. There is as yet no need to teach. The Numen is still immobile and no symbol as well. 2) In the year 10.000 You may still think:
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Alas I am dead What do I do now ?â&#x20AC;? But what will you know ? 3) There is in the palace of memory A place for looking ahead. A spring of completion A surge to leave sometime in the future The memories all their richness To only collect new accessories For the imagination. There is in the palace of memory A spring of assembled insights. Friends that were Have gone and become. Friends that are No longer gather. They are in the palace of memory Well remembered.
the beautiful foolishness of things / 6
the barest of glimpses would suffice.
JULIAN HOFFMAN was born in England, and grew up and studied in Canada. Since 2000 he has been living in northern Greece beside the Prespa Lakes, the first transboundary protected area in the Balkan peninsula, shared with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. His writing has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Kyoto Journal, Terrain.org, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Flyway, Wild Apples, Three Coyotes and The Redwood Coast Review. He was awarded 2nd place in the 2010 Carpe Articulum International Short Fiction Prize and has just completed a book-length collection of essays entitled The Small Heart of Things. You can catch up with him at his blog, Notes From Near and Far, at www.julian-hoffman.com
A Sense of Place Greeks living in Athens and Thessaloniki, or any of the country’s other large urban centres, usually have ties to somewhere else. If you were to ask them where they are from, rarely would they reply with the name of the city, even if it was the place where they were born and raised. Instead they would name a village, one among thousands and thousands scattered across the countryside and islands, the place of their forefathers and origins, the place that sustains their ancestral sense of self, the place they return to – at Easter, on saint’s days, for memorials and celebrations – to keep traditions and a link to the past alive. Place has a profound bearing upon our lives, from the countries we are born into, or end up inhabiting, to the light, landscape and weather peculiar to our home. Each has a say in shaping our cultures and souls. But place also pertains to the relationships we foster with the wider world around us. “Awareness,” says Sigurd Olson, “is becoming acquainted with environment, no matter where one happens to be.” In this sense, we are continually capable of deepening that acquaintance, of becoming intimate with more than one place. And in an age when the ecological and social integrity of our world is threatened on unprecedented levels, it is worth remembering the words of Alan Gussow: “The catalyst that converts any physical location – any environment if you will – into a place, is the process of experiencing deeply. A place is a piece of a whole environment that has been claimed by feelings. Viewed simply as a life-support system, the earth is an environment. Viewed as a resource that sustains our humanity, the earth is a collection of places.”
The Way the Light Shifts The way the light shifts is sudden, like wind slamming shut a door. All day clouds have been gathered seamlessly above, immobile and the colour of slate. Unexpectedly they let in the sky. A thin sunbeam parts the dark, then further streaks swell through, throwing coins of light onto the lakes. They float for a moment before sinking into the deep. And then the sky closes over again, as if it had never been opened. Not all seasons at this latitude are as open to change as this - the violent incandescence of clouds torn apart, the storm of winds that unstitch the sky. Riding into the warm months these shifts become more common; volatile and unpredictable before the settled spell of summer. While they sometimes bring spring rain, it is the light that falls today, dropping like veils. These wild squalls are fragile displays, as brilliantly short-lived as shooting stars. Light that turns dark before it has a chance to linger; a light too rare to squander.
A Way Within A few days ago our winter warmth arrived. Eight tons of beech was unloaded at the foot of the garden, having been hauled from the mountain forests behind our home. It’s now been bandsawed by the woodcutters doing the rounds of the village with a tractor-mounted blade, the rising metallic whine starting with the light each day. They worked on into the dark, sawing their way in seconds through decades of fibrous life. When Julia took a lamp to them at dusk they declined it with a shrug. Whether they were comfortable with not seeing or just crazy I couldn’t say, but come morning the wood and sawdust was ridged along the drive and glazed with frost. Now it’s awaiting our labours. A close friend who visits most years is helping me with the work. Along with carting the split wood into the garden, we’re building a gate to replace the slumped boards that no longer swing open but grind reluctantly out of the way. Chris and I have known each other for many years, having lived, worked and travelled together at various stages over that time. The essence of a close friendship is its already established intimacy. There’s no need for a conversation to begin for it never ended; the wheel keeps turning while we’re away. We talk while we work, catching up with the lives of mutual friends and acquaintances, the journeys we’ve made during the year or those yet to begin; we discuss Chris’s deepening meditation practice, and the multitude of possibilities for engaging with the natural world. We both catch sight of the shifting light on the hills as we measure up the wood or barrow beech along the path. We turn away from our labours when a bird cleaves the blue sky, when a butterfly drifts near, finding enough of the November sun to stay afloat. Without the need to speak about it, we both hear the call of the land and the pull of the light, the twin sparks steering us along the day’s undiscovered course.
Chris and I leave the tools in the shed one morning and step out through the broken gate, past the hill of waiting wood with barely a look at it. We meet up with François, and carry on down to the lowland plain where a willow-fringed river can be followed through a spread of dense reeds, where wet meadows pool with young frogs and the tilled fields hold on to their harvest stubble. It felt as if spring had suddenly risen when we arrived; on such days of layered and trembling light, when the very air itself seems within reach, I’m reminded of a line by the American naturalist John Muir: “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” We each walked at our own pace, absorbed by a particular set of connections unique to our internal worlds. We picked up different signals from the landscape, sifting and reshaping them, allowing them in. These differing sensitivities dictated the ways that we wandered until we gathered by something of mutual interest: the sharp notes of a Cetti’s warbler calling invisibly from behind weeds, the glistening stand of fungi sprouted by autumn rains or the reed song rising and falling, finding its way on the wind. The morning resolved into mystery, something just beyond the edge of my reckoning. I have no language for that mystery, at least no words that would do it justice. And I’ve learned to stop looking for them, simply to embrace the essence while it’s there. On a walk along the same river last winter, François and I had watched a European wildcat navigate the glittering snow while hunting in daylight. The cold weather must have edged it out of its nocturnal world to seek sustenance beneath the sun. Now François turned to me as we walked beside the fields where we had seen it and said, “So far no surprises. But there will be.” The fields were furrowed and splayed with light; geese streaked above the reedbeds, their strident calls sounding like a homage to home, guiding them back down to their grounds. A raptor flushed from a gully and trailed off into a poplar at the end of a field. We offered guesses to the bird’s identity, but none of us had seen it well enough to tell. We crabbed forward through the fallow mud until the bird slowly focused with each step, wedged between two branches like it had been set in a sling. There was a silence I wasn’t even aware of until much later; the bird’s orange breast materialised in the tree, the dark mantle of its head. When it arrowed from the branch we followed its course. Its sharp-edged wings knifed the air, a dark and hurtling form shying away from us. Its smallness was suggestive, along with its striking agility. Having summered as far north as Siberia, the bird was a wintering male merlin that will stay in Prespa until spring. The raptor curved beyond the reeds, spilling into the mystery. It was only the second time I’d seen a merlin in over a decade, and although it was gone within seconds its echo still shimmered. “There is today’s surprise,” said François, smiling his way to the end of the track. Chris and I are back at the wood today, stacking it to face the cold winter sun. And the gate’s nearly finished, though until we set it into place there’s an empty space where the old one had been. It reminds me to keep things open, to let the things of the world unfold. And though we’ve returned to our garden labours, trying to get the wood in before it rains, there’s a part of me still going out.
Meridians He sat reading maps, sand-blind of eye - figuring their bends and cleft ways, the impossible coasts: where a desert might lie stripped by the sun, or a village found marooned on a monsoon lake, where caravans still crease the tenantless plains, leaving shadows in summer behind whitewashed shrines, where ancient roads walk out beneath alluvial wash, and peninsulas choke slow in the pull of salt reeds, where black hills surface into turtlebacked straits, a torn country of winter-tilled earth. He imagined meridians, sand-blind of eye - a slipped finger tracing the spine of a riverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s course.
City of Glass and Other Dreams “Berlin is a city condemned always to become, never to be.” – Karl Scheffler, 1910 Perhaps no other city has taken up as much imaginary space over the last century as Berlin. It is a city forever in flux, not in the gradual, accumulated ways of most urban spaces, but with sudden, violent reinventions. Berlin is a place without definition, occupying a landscape unmeasured. It shifts endlessly between memory and forgetting, between future and past; it encircles the span of dreams. In 1927 Fritz Lang made his iconic silent film Metropolis, an Expressionist dystopia whose cityscapes were both futuristic and fantastic. Emerging from the Golden Twenties of the Weimar Republic – an exuberant age of cultural and artistic flourishing that also gave rise to the architecture of Bauhaus, The Threepenny Opera by Brecht and Weill and the early Marlene Dietrich – Lang would have had little idea how equally dystopic Berlin would become in less than a decade. Like many others in the early 1930s - Jewish artists, German writers, concerned scientists, leftwing politicians - Lang emigrated with the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party and the dark night of the Third Reich fell upon the city. Hitler’s Berlin became the focal point of the Cold War in the aftermath of its destruction. The idea of a divided people, sundered by a concrete wall stretching more than 150 kilometres through communities, families, transport links and shared history, fastened itself to the turbulent age, embodying the stark reality of the ideological conflict. The Berlin Wall stood in the collective imagination as much as in the real city; a symbol of totalitarian oppression. Remnants of it remain in place, as does a memorial line of coloured stone embedded into the pavement along its former route. I walked the streets of Berlin for the first time this past autumn, and nothing happened when I stepped over that line in the brilliant October sunshine. Nothing physical or easily discernible at any rate. But I felt a strange emptying all the same, a falling away from the sure things of my life towards a space that was uncertain: the haunting of a place where lives were lost. I tried to replicate in my mind what the Wall entailed – the death strip, the towers, the separated relatives – but could offer nothing to the scene. The emptiness of the place was its measure. The fall of the Berlin Wall signalled the end of a divided Europe, as well as the healing of a broken city. Since reunification, and the return of the German capital to Berlin, a process of astonishing reinvention has again swept over the city. From the vacuous excesses of Potsdamer Platz to the wondrous and soaring cupola added by the architect Norman Foster to the ruins of the Reichstag, a city is rising and reborn. A Berlin condemned always to become: a place of ash, a world divided, a city of glass. So much of modern Berlin is constructed of glass that the city was continually reflected in my direction. Each sharply lit surface revealed an unusual angle, a hidden pattern of light and cloud, an unseen perspective of buildings and streets, a man or woman standing unexpectedly by my side. The glass unveiled another world, parallel but unreachable.
In Wim Wender’s film, Wings of Desire, angels descend from the heavens to wander the streets of Berlin as men, walking amongst its people and witnessing their joys and sorrows while only being visible to children. There is a sense of something ethereal about the city, something present but unseen, in the shadowing reflections. Whether it’s the ghosts of Berlin’s past, angels from its present or an unsettled fate in its future, an essence of the city’s spirit flickers in the glass.
This Lavender World Despite its colour having faded to a pale relic of its name, the lavender in the garden remains an illuminated host. For much of the summer its spires of scented stems have attracted the bright and the beautiful: the glazed and glossy greens of chafers drowsily clambering about the flowers; red admiral and swallowtail butterflies clinging with filament limbs to the bursting blooms; the tail of a green lizard swishing beneath a branch; the dance and swagger of bees. But autumn brings change and a subsequent shift in the creaturely calendar. Although a few late lavender flowers rise expectantly through the rain they soon slump from the weight of it. The leaves darken with the wet weather, and the whole plant carries an aspect of seclusion, a cold-season refuge harbouring the garden solitaries, the reclusive creatures that withdraw into its autumnal wreath of fading shades. October shimmers with the spinning of silk, brilliant orb-webs slung between stems by the Argiope bruennichi spider. What is unusual about the web of this beautifully banded, blackand-yellow arachnid is the ‘stabilimentum,’ a vertical zig-zag of reinforced web used to strengthen the silken snare. They’re spun near the eggcases that suddenly appear in autumn as well, mottled sacs tucked down amongst the lavender stems and suspended within a gossamer cage. They’ll hang there through frost and snow, through the winds and rains of winter until the first warmth of spring brings thousands of spiders the size of sand grains hatching their
way through. The baby spiders are so small that the lightest breeze will carry them away with ease, swinging them on strands of silk through the vast and uncharted garden world to renew their kind again. A praying mantis haunts this lavender world alongside the spiders. Perhaps even two or three. Despite scouring the plants I easily lose track of them as they blend into the tangle of bent stems, only to resurface hours or days later. ‘Mantis’ comes from the Greek, meaning prophet, and the common name which has come to be regularly used for many of the world’s 2000 mantis species is derived from the prayer-like stance of the insect’s arms held clasped together before its face. While watching the mantis, however, it occurs to me that the name might equally originate from an aspect of the creature’s character: the nature of its stalking. The praying mantis barely moves while it hunts small insects such as grasshoppers, shield bugs and wasps, waiting until they come within reach before unfolding its hands from the posture of prayer to snare its slowly closing prey. And when it does move its appendages shift meticulously; its head swivels with such precision that I’m immediately reminded of the realm of the contemplatives. There is something monkish and devoted about its deliberateness, expending no energy other than necessary. There’s no frivolous fussing about; each turn of its compound eyes is graceful and without waste, as though its true purpose were of a higher, invisible order. Standing beside the lavender I hear a deep hum circling what’s left of the blooms. It’s a hummingbird hawkmoth traplining the flowers, returning at the same time each day to a particularly rich nectar store. There’s no certainty as to how this memory-route is encoded, or even achieved, which seems apt for a moth blessed with such a mysterious form of hummingbird flight. I try photographing the day-flying moth, but eventually put my camera away without success. It seems that some things I’m not meant to slow. The hawkmoth blurs through the images, a ghostly apparition, a streak of flared and fading light that arcs over the wet gardens and pale meadows of the village at the dying of the day. So I crouch beside the lavender plants instead, waiting until the hummingbird hawkmoth eventually nears, as it always does, without any concern for my presence or proximity. It’s balanced on the very air itself, a stillness in unending motion fluttering beside my eyes. I watch its proboscis unroll into a flower like a river finding its way. I think of cupping my hand tenderly around its body, to feel the pulse of 80 wingbeats a second vibrating through my veins. When its nectar gathering is finished it arrows off into dusk where it will settle on a stone for the night. But tomorrow evening, by whatever complex route of flowers and scents it stores inside, it will make its way back to this same nectar patch, this straggle of fading flowers, this undimmed lavender world.
September Sun The blackberries by the lake have been readied and turned dark by the sun. I work steadily through the afternoon, dropping them into a pail by my feet, working my way through the end of summer stillness as I meander along the bramble banks. But no matter how good the haul, or how rewarding the gathering of wild, abundant fruit, there is always a finer berry poised a little beyond my reach. It hangs in the sunlight like a dark and forbidden charm, protected by a bower of thorned stems. I tip my shoulders forward and snake an arm as carefully as I can through the lattice-maze of canes. The berry is close, so close, merely a touch away. I lean a little more. Clasping the bramble I lose my balance and my arm falls further into the thicket. The thorns rake across my skin as I instinctively retrieve my arm, bringing blood nearly the colour of my stained hands to the surface. And then I drop the berry. It slips hopelessly from my fingers to bounce from cane to cane until it settles even further beyond reach than it was, where it will stay until another passing creature makes use of it. I stand on the open path and smear the blood off on my shirt. I swear a little as well. But a moment or two later I edge into the next tangle of brambles and resume my steady labour. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not that the rasping along my arm doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hurt, for it does, the sting as sharp as broken glass, but that the day is too forgiving to walk away. These September days are a salve, the untold sum of summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s design, when the fevered season quietens into a serene and consoling interlude. The vaulted blue sky arches clear above the trees where silver leaves occasionally stir. The lake water mirrors the hours, deepens them with a luminous glow borrowed straight from the emblazoned reeds that circle the shore. There is a sense of equilibrium achieved, as though the ever-swinging seasons have arrived at a momentary truce. October will soon brood over wind and rain, hunch down from the midnight frosts and gathering crows, and then close up with the loss of leaves. But the September sun that
precedes it is a rare relation, close and confiding, but too shy to smother you with affection. Only this month profers such intimate detachment. There is no incentive to speed, or even slow, for the month seems to articulate its own measured efforts. I merely follow in its footfalls. Small migrating warblers shimmy up the willows where I work. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re feeding up for their long, and sometimes last, African flights. When I next see them it will be spring. The seeds of rushes and reeds float past, carried off by a breeze to begin somewhere anew. Finished flowers are coloured by a cloud of blue butterflies that part and reassemble like grasses while I walk. The stillness of the settled and empty shore transfixes me; any movement is minor, any sound little more than a whisper. There is something inescapably reflective about these days, both in the quality of their light and the mindfulness they encourage. The hours are as long as we need them to be, the barely circling spokes of a still and refulgent dominion. When finally the afternoon fades, I walk away carrying a pail of summer sun.
Seahenge, Norfolk The sea sucked back the last tidal dregs offering a sandbowl studded with drowned wood. A circle of stunned trunks, set out along spokes from an upturned oak, brown as the flint walls of these coastal towns. A pickled ring of trees, pegged shin-high by time to a wind-shivered beach - stranded since the bronze age. Saved from the breakers by dark
pockets of peat, packed tight as tendons a mandala reborn with the scouring tide. What place might have been to confer the planting of circlesa seaslipped village marked by an altar of bark, perhaps a cenotaph to boatwrecks. Or if peat cutting were ceremonial, needing the leavened earth honoured by a pagan taste for symmetry. A crowd quickly gathers, having skittered down dunes to tramp the sand in search of shells. It huddles on the rim of raised wood, whispering of relics and resurrections, to watch a circle surfacing the preserving earth undone by eager feet. On the foreshore the seawhistling of oystercatchers resumes.
The Fragile Forest The silence is unprecedented for spring, a time of bird song and insect hymns. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a silence Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve never known in this forest in fact, this wild tangle of silver birch and willow, alders, shrubs and reeds. Even in deepest winter the place resounds with a living quiet, a mute but sensed presence. Instead there is the hollow echo of absence. I have been here before. Not only to this rare and mysterious place along the shores of the lake, but amidst the constituents of its devastation: ash, cinders and ignorance. This part of the world has a dark history of using fire as an economic instrument, a way of clearing the land of trees to get around restrictions on development or for illegal grazing. The fires often
shift wildly out of control, having been lit purposefully on days with high winds in order to push the flames as far as possible, and they occasionally lead to vast and devastating conflagrations like many of the fires in the Peloponnese started by arson a few years ago. The acrid scent of smoke is common throughout the land. Returning home after a day away, we discovered that the silver birch forest hugging the southern shore of Great Prespa Lake had been set ablaze. The fire trucks weren’t on alert in April, stowed in the nearest town 50 kilometres of mountain road away. By the time they came over the high, winding pass and descended into the lake basin the parts of the forest still visible through the haze had been burned beyond recognition. A fortunate turn of winds meant the loss was less than it might have been. Instead of spreading into the deepest tracts and beyond the border into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia it curled in on itself, giving the fire fighters a chance to douse it. With their work finally finished they confirmed the growing murmur of suspicion: the series of individual fires had been deliberately set, the orchestrated work of arson. As I approach the forest the sweet scent of blossom unrolls on a breeze. Beyond the white blooms fizzing with bees a black expanse shoulders out towards the lake. I slide rubber boots up to my knees and tuck my oldest pair of trousers inside them. Then I traipse a trail through ash. It lays in deep reefs, sometimes a foot thick and crisscrossed with charred branches and a few untouched reeds, the accumulated memory of a once-living time. I find myself wondering what organisms surround me, what’s been transformed into a singular and indistinguishable dark thing. The reek of fire pillows up with each step. Animal tracks pock the ash; a skin of burnt bark has been sloughed off by deer. And everywhere the silence. The tips of trees just greening hold no birds or butterflies; no bees skim what would have been an unfolding forest floor. The silver birches weep sap from their sides, strange red drops that fall when they should be rising at this time of year. Where the bark has been singed it crinkles and peels, a forlorn set of pages being turned. There is a place for fire in the natural order of things – certain ecosystems wouldn’t exist without it - but not in this manner. The silver birch forest in Prespa is a rare community of trees. Although a common northern species with a reputation for being invasive, the silver birch reaches its most southern distribution here. The elegant white tree wrapped in parchment-like bark clings to the very edge of its range around the lake. Mingling with willow, alder and poplar there are very few forest ecosystems of this composition to be found anywhere else in Greece. And its origins are equally unique. For the past half-century the Prespa Lakes have been receding. Though the exact causes remain unknown, this loss has enabled a gain. The progressively exposed shorelines are ideal for damp-loving trees like the silver birch and willow, and this young forest community has emerged in the water’s place. It is an authentic wild wood, a unique and natural expression of trees. Hosting a rich variety of migrating and resident birds and insects, it also harbours an astonishing range of mammals for such a small parcel of land, including bear, badger, wild cat, fox, roe deer, otter and wild boar. A distinguished place within the basin. The fires were probably set by, or on behalf of, the owners of animal flocks, either to curtail the forest’s expansion or to clear the reeds for grazing. The reeds will return more resolutely, however, bolstered by the nutrients in the ash, and the sandy lakeside land at the edge of the forest is too poor to provide much edible grass. But the fires continue all the same, despite the
lack of any benefit. Not long ago a friend watched the process unfold through his telescope while he watched birds from a hill. The herder dipped cotton into oil, brought a lighter down to meet it, and then tossed the flaming bundle into a thicket of dry reeds. He moved on and casually performed the process again. Within seconds a series of blazes rode away. Some years ago I interviewed the director of the NGO concerned with the natural and cultural preservation of the Prespa Lakes, The Society for the Protection of Prespa. As the lakes straddle three countries, I was interested in Myrsini Malakou’s thoughts on borders. At some point she shifted the conversation in a way that I hadn’t expected, away from the obviously political towards a line of thought that has as much, if not more, bearing on the future of many shared places: “You can’t say that the national border is more important than any other…There are the borders of interest and activity – the farmer, the fisherman, the environmentalist.” Walking through the burned forest I saw clearly how divisive and exclusive those borders can be. I feel empty amidst the ash. I’ve experienced the resilience of the natural world before, how unexpectedly riotous it can be in the most fragile of times, but this doesn’t allay the sensation of loss, my powerless rage. What takes years to become can be undone in a day. What has laced together of its own accord into complex and varied life forms can easily be extinguished. That is the measure of man at his most destructive. The forest will regrow, of that I’m sure. But unless common ground can be found across the differing borders of interest and activity then environmental conflicts will continue. The ecological integrity of the world that sustains us will eventually collapse; it is simply a matter of time. In ‘The Wild Marsh,’ Rick Bass writes of his absorbing love for the Montana wilds where he lives, even when confronted with aspects of its destruction, the dissolution of its biological beauty: “But one of the key components of love is hope – enduring hope – and to let fear replace hope would be a bitter defeat indeed, a kind of failure in its own stead.” The day is warming towards noon. My throat rasps from inhaling ash, and the remains of smoke have left my eyes watery and raw. But amidst the black and feeble desert before me I see a peacock butterfly sunning itself on a singed stick. Its wings open and close slowly, like curtains on a summer breeze. I can find no other colour, no other life in this place drained of light, but it is enough. This small and fragile creature, whose life spans days rather than years, cts as a lens, a focus for more than it is, and I leave the fire and forest behind determined to do more than merely hope.
. Enduring Time Two things were of particular interest to me when we travelled to Tetovo in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and they both concerned longevity. While one was a religious building that had withstood a devastating fire in the 17th century, armed ethnic conflict and the changing fortunes of shifting political borders, the other was a religious order that had endured the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Communist ban on worship and the suspicions of its co-religionists. And little held the two things together. Tetovo sits at the foot of the Šar Mountains, an imperious range that separates Kosovo, Albania and FYROM. In the days of Yugoslavia, often recollected with great nostalgia by citizens of the region, it was a popular ski resort, but much of its allure has drained away over the course of conflict, coupled with the fact that Tetovo became the de-facto home of the ethnic Albanian resistance movement. Arriving in the city, I was surprised by how quiet and unassuming its character seemed, home to two enduring Ottoman relics. The Šarena Dzamija, or Painted Mosque, was built in 1459 and paid for by two women, Hurshida and Mensure, whose graves are located within the grounds. While the 17th century fire destroyed much of the town, the mosque survived with its eccentric elegance intact. The Painted Mosque resembles a deck of ornate playing cards laid side by side over the facade. More than 30,000 eggs were used to prepare the paint and glaze that went into such elaborate decoration; it is an exquisitely rendered piece of religious art, commanding attention amidst the drab, Titoist surroundings. But it remains of practical purpose as well. The mid-morning call to prayer brings men and women streaming into the grounds, carefully setting shoes aside to step into the place of prayer, having done the same for centuries. Along with the stone bathhouse beside it, and the richly latticed woodwork that adorns the entranceway, the mosque complex is a tribute to a meticulous and enduring craft. Not far from the mosque are the grounds of the Arabati Baba Bektaši Tekke, home of another enduring belief. The Sufi equivalent of a monastery, the tekke belongs to the Bektaši order of dervishes. Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam and the dervishes are popularly known for their whirling, trance-like meditations, although in actuality only certain orders perform them and they comprise a small part of a much greater system of belief and ritual.
The Tetovo tekke was founded in the late 18th century, though the Bektaši presence in the area can be traced back to as early as the 16th, and is one of the most important remaining monasteries in the Balkans. It was the seat of the Bektaši order until 1912; until that time tekkes were a common feature of the Ottoman landscape in the Balkans. But with the collapse of the empire the Tetovo dervishes fled, no longer secure amidst the land’s changing ethnic and religious composition. Even in Turkey their demise was swift and decisive; in his drive towards a secular state, Kemal Ataturk had tekkes throughout the country, including three hundred in Istanbul alone, closed as of 1924, and the Sufis’ practice of mystical rites was forbidden. Ironically, the whirling dervish performances have been revived, and are a muchtouted, and often expensive, tourist attraction in contemporary Istanbul. Many of the Tetovo dervishes fled for Albania where the Bektaši order retains a strong presence, and by the Yugoslav era the grounds and buildings of the tekke had been converted into a hotel, restaurant and disco for the ski tourists arriving in the Šar Mountains. The lodge finally returned to its original purpose in the early 1990s when a law was passed restoring property nationalised by the socialist state, and a small number of dervishes live within its walls. The baba, or priest, of the tekke was a giant of a man, tall and gentle, with a long ginger beard tapering to his chest. He’d been working in the garden when we arrived, so we were seated at a table and brought Turkish coffee and sweets. A young man, a dervish in training, acted as the baba’s translator when he eventually joined us. The baba spoke thoughtfully of his belief in tolerance and equality, of having no barriers between faiths; he talked of how the tekke, that complex of gardens, cemeteries, meditation halls and prayer rooms, was the perfect place for him to pursue a connection with God, a divine communion. But he also spoke of unresolved problems with the more traditional Islamic communities that use the Painted Mosque, who regard the mystical element of the dervish orders with suspicion and have been trying to usurp the usage of the tekke. The young dervish, who had chosen his vocation when still a boy, showed us around the grounds. I asked him how he saw the path of his life progressing. “When my training is complete, I will be sent where my teacher, the baba, believes I will be best able to help others on the Sufi path.” “Where will you go?” “I don’t know. Turkey maybe. Albania. Maybe the Middle East.” I then asked the young man if he would miss the place that encircled us, the enduring gardens and prayer halls, the wooden sleeping quarters that had housed his predecessors, the Ottoman fountains – simply the peace of being there. “I love being here, but it doesn’t matter to me where I am. Here is no different from there. This place is the same as that place. They are all God’s places, so they are all one.”
Field of the Mosses A riverway needles the heather-bled hills, skirts the ruins of an old farm that has sagged back to earth, passes the fallen ends of serried stone walls. It brushes bulrush and spiked gorse - then slides beneath tabled stone, where a man of these waterlogged lands chiseled 1683, having heaved it into place as a bridge over bog a place of dry passage after a day working fields, where the priest would cross when a child died at birth. Bog cotton stammers in the raking winds a field of white flags pitched in retreat, while clouds disconsolate as ash press in like a lowered boom, and mosses take hold of each numbered groove. His home of slipped stone slumps roofless, a place to watch stars and winter rains, or a kestrel in its wingborn waitseen for a second before it strays, then fades over buckled moors that spread like a sudden bruise dark as windfall plums.
The Light of Birds, Evros Delta They’re returning, wave after wave of them spilling over the delta of the Evros River. The sky is streaked with sharp-winged falcons, with storks whitening the meadows when they descend, with flocks of ibis that close like black umbrellas on the lagoons. The air is awash with wings. The delta belongs to the sea as much as any continent, and its light reflects the confluence of the two, the land shot through by both water and the sun’s incandescence. Shorebirds shimmer and then turn invisible, flashing like shoals above the shallows. The languorous white drapery of an egret’s plumes shines like crystals in the snow and isolated shrines taken on a glimmer of warm stone. The delta glows with the light of birds. After days of rain the dark reefs of cloud have been swept away by a cold northerly, and migrating birds have resumed their journeys, crossing this watery realm that clasps Greece to Turkey, the Middle East to southern Europe. Raptors rise and fade like passing smiles, brief and wheeling in the wind. Pelicans circle towards the sun, shards of white light barely visible from below. Lark song trickles down from the sky and hoopoes unfurl their frilled and regal crests. Terns screech and sail by, moving back and forth on the air like kites being pulled from whatever lands and seas they’ve left behind. What maps I would need to chart these trajectories. And as many again to sketch the birds’ destinations: impenetrable reed beds lining the Danube’s estuary; a mist-wreathed marsh in a Polish oak wood; a scrape of sand on a Scandinavian shore. These birds stitch the hemispheres together, and within seconds many of them are gone, streaming north along invisible rivers that wend only through air. Just an afterimage of wings in their wake, and the sky hanging still.
Joshua Foer has written that “remembering can only happen if you decide to take notice” so I try to etch each moment and brilliantly glimpsed bird as if the day held no others. But there’s no hope of holding on to them all. I could twirl forever beneath this burnished sky swept clear by storms and remember but a fraction of what it contains today. Some days out on the delta aren’t filled with moments to remember, but successive waves of light and flight. You are washed and wakened by wings. Brought into the company of creatures adhering to scarcely believable rites. Enduring storms, wild seas and starvation. Following stars and winds, ancient encoded memories. They pass over this place as they have countless others along the way – pushing north according to ancestral longings and taking the warm season with them. And the light that swells over the delta seems to lift the birds in the same way as the furrowing wind. Edging them over the salt marshes and shallow pans, making them buoyant after days of wrecking weather, spinning them on across the sky.
the beautiful foolishness of things / 7
for those that knew her bathed in light was not just an expression.
T. I. In an indirect and anonymous manner the editors have been contacted by one who, out of respect for his wish for privacy, they refer to as T. I. The body of work presented below has been taken from a larger body of work (which included a large amount of visual work) in an effort to focus on the central theme that work contained. It appears that the writer is a Russian poetess but beyond that we do not know who the writer is nor will we seek to pry. The work has its own merit and should be seen as such. We wish her well
The Beatrice Journal Passing past passed / speak of me / know me if you dare / passing / passing it will pass / already has / these dyings are my life / I joined it, I’ll leave it / these dyings are my life / the river I sink in my silence declares me but will pass because these dyings are my life / the tiny shipwreck of some god’s voice invented me yet who now deconstructs me? even the night has stolen my dreams no water will baptize me / serendipity –luscious word, possible salvation? / even salvation will pass singing as if they believed it, as if I still believed it, as if singing were still possible / five Russian nuns sing (after their fashion) a specificity defined Halleluiah I have forgotten the words they used / I have forgotten the words I once used / who can sing Halleluiah to darkness from darkness? who can sing? I make no judgements / that which I can defines me / that which I cannot defines me / how will you know me if you only know can and cannot? saint’s blood in a whore’s veins fear / meaningless word I fear / I am / led but that I can’t ‘begin’, but that I do –my anguish, my adoration / what dark do I kneel to? I do not know the name of the god who destroys me / he (or is it she?) kisses the throat of the other who is also he or she / Oh kiss me lover for the sake of some possible grace 8 poémes & 5 dassins compose a life / my life cannot be counted by numbers mountain –Russia or Crete? / elsewhere
elsewhere? / elsewhere two figures / landscape in a landscape / none as star-dark as my mind a snake eats its tail / a hand holds weighing-scales of snakes / they crawl about my face and neck I am Medusa and you, my friends who have been called away an angle comforts a saint / she shows her glittering pussy to the world in brazen innocence see me in my innocence? / see me? / see me / will you? imagination inadequate to the life it leads / have seen what I should not have seen a dog’s life? – enjoy the silence / the bible a child holds will be smashed / smash it! / his phallus is imperial to her regal imposition what fountain of fire am I among? / of all the other places open to me / go down –and answer this is it the cry for daily bread? / Tell me thy Name I am unfolding worm, mud fish, weird tree of Igdrasil shaping out of darkness endlessly / under the blooms / known/unknown / nature / beyond all disappointment / the doomed man carries his burden / phrase and mockingbird / my Christ your cross is upside down / ‘I’ve accepted the humiliations and let them sink into me. Do you understand?’ happiness a consumed suffering / break the pattern angel? / wings and pods / a cyclist into darkness / a woman dancing to cymbals heart does not live within its bounds / has no / to live / righteous non-believer - you’ve traced the scoliosis snake of my spine forgive the emptiness of these spaces as you find them / that boat and bird -moving away from or towards where I see them from? earth that holds me find me breath thunders of love in the thunder-storm / I stare at you, and close my eyes / passion which only the martyrs know / (that it be mine, be mine –and is, oh is) / I stare at you and close my eyes real shadow that you are / amid the despair / flowers and music / sadness in coming to the day les amours imaginaires» «l’enfer» «le feu follet» la frontière de l’aube» «le lit de la vierge» let the magistrate supply him / whose body…… / naked to see / don’t walk away / don’t
sing sleep -to me -and the red –god’s eye above us? / and still my beauteous one you multiply yourself about me when your name is spoken for the last time the answer is the questions’ justification I have nothing to justify Lorca said, and the pen wept beauty of disfigurement / a devil fucks an angle for delight / her face / half-facet that might be….. I grow familiar with the unspeakable / and in the end, all that is really left …… / Or sent by mistake to an old address apparently won’t be apparent / there, in simplicity / the door opens / shy man of Prague / forerunner learning to abandon the world the girl cries in human pain / it became more like fucking and less like love-making cherry-Ferris-wheel I feel as if heaven lay close upon the earth and I between them both, breathing through the eye of a needle / empty space where should I stand / a measurement / absence / fluorescent light about landscape / icons / innocence of her glittering pubic hair / what’s it like to be a human / two skeletons locked in a kiss / that face be not my face six shades of black in a dark room / butterflies and Madonna / no body’s light crisscrosses the darkness / ends in the other’s beginning / walking (to ask of destinations is misleading) / one should even grow to love the bones of the dead as also the unborn / (I have loved them beyond all instruction being both dead and unborn) Spanish death – chargings and blood erotic / spine of one lover compared to the spines of others / (some were pleasing) falling, hoping –I am human / (Schiele has drawn me) I tell my tears not to weep – oh lover / (do not weep with me)/ his cock told me the flesh of all things that which we are will pass / already I am what I will be forget your past? / forget the present a black wall disguised a white wall –some colour seduction? / (I have known many such deceptions) four butterflies of a species that has never existed yet (how unseemly to the rational) there they are virgin –it is in my profaneness that you shelter / will the lantern of my body cast eventual light? kisses / books / stairways / crossroads / stains / obstinacy / snow / melting / poems in wood / grief
common strife / heart / sunbeam / oblivion’s sin november, inexhaustible miracle, speaks –who is it who wants such words? am Hamlet / do not accuse me / have sacrificed even death, frontiers are everywhere, much is not nameable, secrets, sufferings, changing the shirts of despair, drowning in every Rubicon sweet beast! I am before you the light does not disguise hide nor cleanse me he feels he must welcome it, wants to open his eyes, wants to wake up, has a nostalgia / “he has me say things saying it’s not me, there’s profundity for you..... / what counts is to be in the world, the posture is immaterial” / “that’s where I’d go, if I could go, that’s who I’d be, if I could be.” canvas where yellow welcomes dark which refuses it / what waters part for you my water-waiting one? eye witness what do you witness?
the beautiful foolishness of things / 7
the abyss too was a bridge.