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Susan Brind Morrow
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I like having a fierce dog Who barks and bites And leaps at your head The beauty boy who sleeps at my thigh Red fox red My beautiful Ted. What carnivore brought down the deer Whose rib-cage stands red In the brown spring fields below Venus rising in the dawn Frost on the lawn This April morning. * We sat and watched the sun go down across the lake below through the broken black outlines of the trees. The faint flicker of a rainbow formed for an instant in the low sky to the north as though it were the rim of something suddenly visible, the shining fragment of the rim of a halo. The last light fell in a wave of gold that swept quickly around the room settling for a moment on each of us in turn. We sat talking in the dark, in what seemed like a box of deep blue light as we had in summers past, so that the evening had about it a sense of timelessness. I reminded Terry of how once he said that everything operates on the level of four basic elements, their combining and breaking down, and that we are all “just some spectacular sideshow,” as though all the desperate suffering of life were simply an elaboration of this basic principle. “What is it that makes a human being?” He had said, “What defines being human? Falling in love. And what is that? Seeing something ordinary- as numinous. Seeing. The intensity of that focus, that concentration of energy, would be the heating up in which some significant transformation could take place.” Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
1970s Songs of Baramhat Salah Jahin Baramhat is the first month of spring in the Coptic calendar, the calendar of ancient Egypt still in use today, along with the Islamic and the Gregorian. The most notorious months are Amshir (February/March) which is characterized by inescapable sandstorms, and Tuba (January) which is bitterly cold. The poem follows the progression of the year from midsummer (Abib, Melaoon) during which time it is often too hot to go around in the day time. Tut (toot) is September. Sucked through the ribs Like milk from the breast Unceasing, but not by a child- Tears give way to blood Give way to fire Give way to words- Red, resounding, terrible… So the strength of the sun in summer burns out sweat. And I- My breast Is a bronze fortress That scorches the eyes The heat increases And melts its lock And passes. * Malaun in all the books is silence, Malaun in all the books is dumb. The silence of branches webbed tight by spiders Though horses trip through them. Bright delicate birds sing, They chirrup out their lives. And I… My heart is another bird And if it doesn’t sing it dies. * Oh sweet wind, the month of Tut, The lock of summer is melted and gone. Fly away over the roofs, my heart, To the house without ivy or jasmine, To the mother of the eyes The eyes with hard words and sad smiles And say to her, “Oh friend to those who wander Your friend who has loved you year after year has returned. And by life- a night of longing, By dawn and those who cannot sleep By morning and those who hope By noon and those who sweat By evening and those who are tired By Maghreb- and what is it But a punishment for madmen? Do not abandon a friend Who was never false And never- though love was lost Cried out- And never said, “But I…” May the earth and sky be my witness.” And around the shanties and the hovels, Heart,when you go Don’t go as a nightingale or as a bat- Go as what you are, A heart With a thousand eyes and a thousand ears And a thousand thousand tongues. Crawl on your belly on the pavement in the dust And if it is the cowardly month of Tuba, the brutal, Listen and see what rises in the wind, Oh heart, oh million, Say to those in the house of tin, “Wake up! Your lost friend returns. Your friend who wandered too far, forgive him. Oh you who live in a house of tin, Come out, rejoice! I am not Christ, But I’ll tell you something, And I swear it to you, I swear to you- The world is lie upon lie And you alone are true.” * Sucked through the ribs The heat of noon unbuttons my breast, My breast, still full of sighs, Sighs and clanging iron and songs. Oh come Baramhat-... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
The horns of a deer are still soft in September An owls face is mostly ear Fire in the trees at the end of winter When red tongues of color run under their skin The season of death begins with strokes of red Its cold breath pours over the hill that swallowed the sun Beeswax and fruit And honey that tastes like raspberries thick with crystal in the comb The full to bursting days of leaves on East Lake Road A map of color in the fall between the fields and lake, Sharp prickling smell of winter- Pale blues, crushed powder snow, The early green of winter wheat In upturned earth; and summer’s riches Seaweed and fish slime and stones baked on the shore, And wreathes of rainbowed gasoline that flow Under the dock where the carp spawn at night In the shallow water- The good things about Geneva Almost make me forget its gloom, And how my heart was broken there- Torn into a blossoming wound, The rose grows out of the wound * Unsheathed deer gut by the stream A black living rust licks it down to the soft stones Soaked in green light. A leopard frog froze in the water last night Dozens of snails in rose translucent shells And yellow Plastered like closing flowers on the dead stems of reeds Now in cinders Cedar has leaves Like the skin of a salamander Her hair was like the fur of a winter animal And her hands were webbed like stars Scraps of color in the forest the head of the red-bellied woodpecker satin against the dead wood She made a pillow out of the dress Dragonflies settled around it with a light papery scratch Throbbing salamander bodies- and glossy prismed eyes Funny how insects prefer certain colors And beyond them the mirrory river Full of forming stars Soft as a newborn, milk fed fawn Left in the woods by its horned mother and afraid Black vultures shadowing each other around the white rock Pale blue bone white days of winter When the sun is warm and the wind is bitter David found a luna moth- or had my mother found it for him Pressed against the screen door of the kitchen, a left-over from the night. It’s huge delicate wings were the most deliciously cool shade of green I had ever seen, Such a fine unusual shade of green I could taste it in my mouth, Feel it’s delicate tissue on the tips of my fingers. How could I draw such a rare color into myself? I could only do this, taste and feel the color, as I looked at the moth Clouds closed the sky like a fist The silver light has retreated onto the branch tips, silvering now only the shells of the trees. It is November. The air is cold, and there is still a burning color to things The red squirrels are whistling in the maples by the road. On the dry stoney... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Light There is a clarity of light in the desert that articulates things very strongly. It changes from moment to moment, and with it the colors change, the colors and tones of the shadows and the rocks- from violet to blue to gray. One might say that this light enables one to see in a way that is not possible elsewhere. The light itself has a kind of purity, and for some this is why the desert is a holy place. The desert eats everything, desert nomads say. And one might say, if this is death, this stark beauty, I’ll take it. For the desert is not a static thing, a place, but a process that is ongoing across the face of the earth. The Western Desert was once an ocean floor, peopled with fish and crinoids and oyster shells, whose remains are thickly embedded in the vividly colored layers of sea clay sculpted into isolated outcrops by the desert wind. Once it was a forested plain, and the shells of trees, turned to red and brown shards of stone, lie heaped in places among the fragments of bone scattered over the ground like a fine covering of soft white snow. If everything- oceans and forests and all living things, ultimately become this pure land of rock and light, one might think, if this is death I’ll take it, I am willing to be part of the inevitable transformation of all things into this stark absolute beauty. The Translation of Nature Tongues in trees Books in the running brooks Sermons in stones And good in everything The great sea that surrounds us all is not death but life. We cannot see the radiant flow of animate minutiae that pervade the water, earth, and air around us. What we can see are the detailed symmetries of individual living things, and in these symmetries the underlying pattern that is the key to the mystery of eternal life. This hidden structure of life manifests in the Fibonacci lattices of growth that underlie the forms of plants and animals, and the dendritic mechanism of memory itself. The mind is a mirror, illuminating minute particularities even as it reflects in its very nature the universal flow. The flow of radiolarians in the sea, shells and fragments left by drifting waves on the shore, masses of people drifting through airport corridors, rushing in waves toward departing planes. To capture these things is indeed to capture both beauty and insight as a bird in flight, to bring a sense of joy and motion to the intricate plethora of forms in nature, and to pass this vision on as a radiant gift to the world. Plants and animals are spun on the same pattern. To see the human form as a fibrous mass of roots touches on this profound truth: A lace-like pattern of nerves underlies the skin of both, raising the question- when did these parallel life forms diverge? The seed is what is left of the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
1. Water I realized in my teens that the only thing I was really interested in was poetry, and everything I did had to do with that. My mother had a reverence for poetry and knew a great deal by heart, and we were trained to memorize at a young age and grew up with the Oxford Book of English Verse and American Verse as primary books in the house. Her Aunt was a Canadian poet who lived very simply in a wilderness retreat called Abbey Dawn with her husband, a Canadian gunner in the RAF who was shot down over Germany in WWI, and after a long time in a German prison camp just wanted the life of a woodsman in the Great Lakes. So for us from the beginning poetry was connected with nature, and with a kind of religious feeling too- a traditional perspective I think, and very American. It had to do with looking closely at things, with the translation of the visual world. There was an awareness, probably coming from WWI, that everything falls apart, but poetry lasts. Later as I looked at other languages I was keenly aware of words having a tactile quality, a closeness to the physical thing. Like a lot of people of my generation, I imagine, as I look back I am very happy to have been alive when I was, when there were no cellphones and you could go anywhere and nobody knew you, and those who did didn’t know where you were. I spent a long time in Egypt, a spectacular environment not unlike the Finger Lakes where I come from, an environment dominated by water. I am publishing a book of poetry and watercolors next year. The book is called Water, and begins with something I wrote on the beach at Exuma where we used to go in the wintertime, a poem in which I am just describing what I see. The book is a sort of American Zen album like the albums of China and Japan with images from nature and poems beside them. I published a book like this called Trees in the middle of my second book Wolves and Honey and include pages from both books below: Water: Conch shell watercolor, Stocking Island Trees: Cicada, Cicatrix (Webster's Dictionary), Thaw Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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Sep 15, 2022