Sunday, September 13, 2015

CPITS Symposium Colors of the Future poems with Marsha de la O, etc.

(Raw notes from Marsha de la O's writing intensive)
Mango grandmothers, papaya and nopales.


Having written myself into a tight corner,
no right words surface, nowhere left to go, 
but the page, and of course,
 the weight of the iconic date haunts me.
I am unwilling to write of it, give it energy.
All I can think of is how far we've come,
and how much we've regressed.
I'm repeating the names of lost cities:
Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra.
That nameless boy in the surf, what we've lost. 
Irreparable stations of the mind, no longer functional.
Burned into the retina, also,
the aftermath of refugees in the Budapest train station.
To arrive in a strange place, and to leave again 
with nowhere to go. Like the Albanians of Bari.
Photographs of shoes, toys, blankets. 
Entire lives left behind.
I cannot fathom the loss, the crusades, Isis, 
this sullen anniversary.
We are haunted by images of small children.
That small boy rocked in the cradle of the surf.
Incunabula. The sea comforted them.
They returned to the amniotic brine, breathed it in.
Tiny starfish hands fluttering 
in that final dance of the surf,
summer closing in on autumn with a vengeance.
And the winter yet to come, nowhere left to go
with only a passport for the wind.


Oh the praties they grow small
Over here, over here.
My grandmother used to sing this dirge to me.
Every night we ate potatoes
with their jackets on.
We ate them boiled, baked, mashed,
in potato salad, and in soup.
Their blind eyes were pale ghosts
still wandering this earth
searching for food.
An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger
still haunts us 150 years later.
Residual, cellular memory.

When I crossed the Andes
I ate bitter black potatoes.
When the potatoes turned black,
my ancestors survived the famine,
without giving up their religion,
without turning turncoat, which was
the British alternative. For food, give it up.
It only made my ancestors more stubborn.
They ate cattle feed, mangles, turnips,
they ate grass, their mouths stained green.

I am allergic to solincea, tomatoes,
eggplant, and raw potato juice.
Phototrophic stains turn dark on my skin
A picture developing, perhaps ghosts, or tears.
She roasted potatoes with their jackets on.
The eyes of the peat glowed like dragons.


first draft

Oh the praties they go small

Blind eyes, pale ghosts, an Gort Mor

The great hunger

When I crossed the Andes, 
I ate bitter black potatoes
When the potatoes failed
My ancestors ate grass
They survived

But I am allergic to tomatoes, potato juice
Photo tropic stains turn dark in the sun

She roasted potatoes with their jackets on
The eyes of the peat glowed like dragons



My grandmother was late and missed the boat
Out of Cork Harbour. It sank. 
The next boat was between munition runs,
so she made it to Ellis Island with her brother.
The Lusitania, the Titanic—names passed down.
Journeys undertaken. Almost never begun.
Her brother Joe had five pounds in his pocket,
it was enough to put Jenny on a train to Battle Mountain,
but not enough to get him to Home Ranch
where Uncle Paddy waited 

for the rest of his family to arrive.
Joe got a job on a tramp steamer
and worked his way to Galveston 

by way of New Orleans, he earned
enough to catch a train to Nevada 

and he left the high seas
to herd cattle and buck hay
in the dry desert heat 

of the Reese River Valley.
A long way from Bantry Bay.


She pulled at the thread on the seam of her skirt
So much effort went into making that gabardine suit.
The painstaking hand stitches,
and knotting the threads so they wouldn't unravel.
It was different sewing the suit for herself
instead of for the customers at the shop.

She flicked imaginary lint from her skirt,
brushed smooth her lap. New beginnings.
There was never any question of staying.
She would miss the glass mirror of the harbor
but not the stench of fish. Catch of the day.
She didn't care if she ever ate another fish again,
Friday, or no.
She'd do without, that's what she'd do.
She fretted the edges of her lace collar,
the nuns drumming in the catechism 

of thread and homily,
all was God's work. All 

was God's work.

The cart was late. The horse snorted, 

and impatiently pawed the cobblestones.
She boarded with a cardboard suitcase 
filled with all her earthly possessions
destined for the New World.
The horse's breath hung on the chilly morning air
as they trotted towards Cork City.
She could hear the lonesome call of the ship's horn
as it pulled out from the harbor. Reprieve.
She wasn't yet ready to say goodbye.



THESE ARE FREEWRTES 
scribbled while Marsha de la O was reading many poems from Latin America. Unfortunately Marsha didn't really give us time to write, she was reading too many poems, perhaps assuming we didn't have the background, and all I wanted to do was write, and so, when I saw the writing on the wall, or, rather, the lack of it, I began to randomly write, in order to keep my sanity. Words become a skeleton to wrest into meaning, not necessarily having anything to do with the original poems. So, they are collage poems, where I wrestle meaning into the randomness of juxtaposed words.


César Vallejo talked of hope 

and the shuffling feet of despair
as if they were blossoms of bright light.

In a Trujillo prison, he dreamed of words,
like stone islands, interrupting the current.
He longed for a new language scoured clean of artifice
with words, sharp enough to feed the hungry man.
The inarticulate night, a evil cup of darkness.
No matter how many times he turned, 
the four witewashed walls entombed him.
In his cell, he dreamed of trees, 
they would lead the way to the moon.

Neruda, have you forgotten us?
All that is fire will be repeated.

Nothing will be extinguished.
No, not lost. Forgotten. Little by little.

A slow moon dallies on a red branch
like a lobe of shining fruit, cradled 
in the arms of another homeland.
Ah, love, nothing is extinguished, 
or forgotten. These words.

I can't write of all the sadness.
My voice tried to find the source of the wind
but it was lost in the darkness.
On this earth we are all born without a name.
If you are the darkness, I am the rising sun. 

if I am the sun, you are the spaces 
between the stars. Then I am the void.
Without you.

I would like to ask Claribel Alegría,

when she invoked the rain, 
did its drumming pierce her temples, 
did the river speak to her in thin reedy voices, 
dank with eddies and fetid mud?
Did it polish river stones into comet?
Did it feed those lost volcanic flowers,
the children, the names of flowers, 
buried in ash, foliage and stone,
 did she dream of lost horizons
teaming with birds? Sentinel herons.
Chacmool's hard-on, another offering
to Tlaloc's thirst that is never slaked,
The Lord of the third sun will always feed
on the dying pulse of her remembered country,
for Tlaloc never sleeps.

And what of Ernesto Cardinal?
Those tropical lights and moonlit lagoons 

of the zero hour on palaces 
Another beach, another time.

Was it Octavio Paz who said no one listens to the rain?
You must listen to the water that is true.


If I am the darkness, you are the rising Sun

What of Lorca , and the kingdom of Harlem
Repeat the airs lost curves. Baila conmigo.

Like Pessoa, my gaze is clear as a sunflower.
What is seen when the window is left open
to a life we seldom use?
It has little color, the sky is an impoverished
river of blue feathers.


Once I found a red stone in the middle of the road
as divine as love, as heart's blood 

blossoming in the alkali dust.

Say a word now that can't be invented.
What now, José? 

You, without a name, who mocks the others?


My heart bleeds for Carlos,
oranges under a full moon.

Our children are the colors of the future.
Mangoes in a grandmothers backyard
Say these words: olive, avocado,
canyon, arroyo, barrio, camino.
Words we know, but are indifferent to:
papaya, piraña, pachuco, prostitute, 

pecadillo, politico, peon, 
renegade, vigilante, desperado.
Those small sins that come to haunt us in our sleep.



Dream suitcase

I dream with a suitcase
of words: guayaberas
the color of snowflakes.

Parsley goes to the devil seven, 
no, nine times.
I walk on stone, on sand
Every last step is always in front of me.
Ah, to walk on the sky
or on a sacred parcel of earth
hidden beneath the pavement.


Define the notes of a foreign land
I remembers the scent anchored in dreams
Guyana tenements. Trumpets
caressed the overtones of summer
other planets of time ran like oiled clocks.
Concrete sky, and streets made of sand.
I found small pieces of earth at the bottom of a cup
The basement of letters and tapestries made of love. 
We have deceived language in a foreign land.
'T'was mercy brought me to my pagan land 
to negotiate my identity, on sea and sand.
Compositions of lynchings 
and who was named after a ship?
Whose teeth mastered the spoken word?
Gazing at the night sky, and writing of the stars
Wy aren't we genuflecting to the sun?
You too will come and go.


'T'was the colonies that brought me here
from my first winter to pay, to owe you your life
Racing to port the tradewinds whispering
freeing the harbor's dark trade.

Systems of the sky
Write, always write, 

always keep paper at your bed
Then the prodigal darkness won't devour your psyche.
Sitting rooms of generals come and go
like a drowned tree in winter.



Train to Lvov

To go to Lvov, which train, which station?

The metro, the tracks, a green thread of copper
Which station, which metro, the train.
 a green thread along the copper tracks
 and the stench of coal

The sweet tea of the babushka 

the glass cups in their picket fence 
metal prisons
The amber eyes of tea
the murmur of stones.
He sucked tea through sugar cubes
hissing like a snake.
The forked tongues of bells peeling from the church
The Antichrist is inside the houses 

Writing overflowed into the lake of regret
Carpati. Woven rugs 

boundless fields of summer
Shearing the length of memory
Voluptuous dresses 

cathedrals of tears
 just pack it all in a satchel
and pass it on.


To go to Lvov
so many train stations 

where fate has whisked me off
or left me stranded
The aftermath of Syrian refugees in Budapest 

abandoned shoes, toys, blankets – 
entire lives left behind, discarded, 
leaving literally with only the shirts on their backs
I cannot fathom this tragedy, this grief.

We are haunted by images of small children 
rocked in the cradle of the surf
Incunabula. This scene comforted them, 

they return to the amniotic brine 
tiny starfish hands fluttering that last dance,
summer closing in on autumn.
They will not see the winter
Leaving Aleppo, leaving Damascus

a tide of refugees, like ants 
pouring out of the country being bombed 
back into parched earth 
leaving Palmyra in ash, smoke, and dust 
on this anniversary of 911
I am heartsick of this world, 

no place to get off, no train station left,
I want to bury my head in the sand, 

emigrate to another planet, maybe Mars. 
No history to destroy there, yet.


I am trying hard not to hate, 

but I hate hate hate
I hate the loss of Palmyra, 

the bullshit of false idols
How are stone pillars that have stood 

2000 years in the desert sands, idolatrous?
No god no false gods no idols, just architecture
Blow it all up, and then what?
To what purpose? 

But this is not the stuff of poetry, 
it is raw anger. They want us to hate them 
it makes it easier 
the objectification of lines 
traded for an ideal 
justifies their actions.

And what the Syrian boy 

lying on that last sure before his life has begun, 
have they no heart no soul at all?

Yes, I hate

Knowing that hatred is part of the problem. 

They want me to hate them 
I cannot get beyond it. 
This unseen enemy we have come 
retribution upon retribution? 
Are we paying for the sins of the Crusaders 
leaving Damascus so long ago 
the city of roses where no rose grows, 
only the rows of hatred, the rows of death 
the rows of bloodshed 
I throw red roses into the sea 
on the other side of the world 
for that Syrian boy. I do not understand 
I can make no poetry from it 
because it is not art 
we are all too close to it 
to render into art.




A man's soul is worth different weights
depending upon his remembered homeland.
The disappeared are always against forgetting.
The salsa of the volcano in remembered countries
Is both the flower and the trigger points of politics,
The blind road of the revolution
Is that which separates us, cleaving us
in the name of religion, politics and gender.
We are undressing the day, minute by minute.
But the relentless sea churns and devours the cliffs
and we are left with nothing but tenuous handholds,
saving everything for the warriors of the sun
Singing at the edge of the tides.



Michael McLaughlin's class
first draft

In the republic of poetry
the day undresses, hour by hour
in extremis, mountains to ocean
counting the stones, shells
singing at the edge of the tide

Spirals, plant mind
saving everything
for the warrior in the sun

A man's soul is worth different weights
depending upon his homeland
The disappeared are against forgetting
The salsa of the volcano in remembered countries
Or the trigger points of politics
That which separates us
in the name of religion and politics
and gender

We are undressing the day
minute by minute
As we observe the minutiae
But the relentless tide
churns and devours he cliffs
We are left with tenuous handholds
saving everything for the warriors of the sun



transliteration with John Oliver Simon

Last of the bird singers
Dedicated to the men of the selva

The Pleiades, messengers of the day
Nights fall down to their knees with yearning
The golden ego of the morning butterfly






After Wang Wei
transliteration with John Oliver Simon

In the bamboo pavilion

I sit alone in a bamboo glade
And pluck the lute string
That sings alone


In a bamboo glade
I sit plucking at lute strings
Only the wind sings


Deep in the forest
Where no people go
A skinny bright moon dances
With secret shadows


A house made of trees
Blossoms on the bridge
Young shoots in the field beyond


A horse in a barn
A woman in the house
So many warriors asleep
In distant mountains


Waterfalls, forests
A place of beauty, a tree
Gateway to the soul


Sun and moon, a gate
A tree of ships and wooden keels
Sails on moonlit skies


Warrior fields blossom
I remember how water
Plashed between rocks and foam

No comments: