poemimage

Where text meets image. Where the visual intersects the literary.

Category: Poetry

Wind

 

 

When the Situation Hits Reverse

When the situation hits reverse
When you sleep and the situation speaks in tongues
When you don’t have a seatbelt and you don’t have a car

Going backwards off a cliff is not such a bad plan.
You might start dancing and you might change hats
You might introduce yourself as somebody new


But you don’t have a car and you don’t want to steal
So you rise from the dead just to try it out.
And you’re not such a dunce – as you feel your way –
And you spin even more – and feel even more new.

I wrote this in a couple of minutes to the tune of Fates Right Hand by Rodney Crowell – sort of a country rap song from years ago. I always like personal transformation stories. Not that Fate’s Right Hand is a personal transformation story. But I guess the juxtaposition of these images signifies such a possibility.

 

My Mother Did Not Speak to Me of Such Things

When I was young and my mother even younger in the history of the world I stood one day looking at the rain outside the window and on the window.

And my mother did not speak to me of rain upon the sculptures at the Hoysaleshvara temple in Halebedu, Karnataka, SW India, carved in the 1200s of the common era. No. She said farmers need the rain.

And my mother did not speak to me of astronauts or ancient astronauts or vimanas sailing through rain and cloud. No. She said farmers need the rain.

And I believed her. I had no reason to not believe my mother speaking of rain.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vimana

JFK at Woodstock

Just before Jimi Hendrix played the Star Spangled Banner
A wave went through the crowd.
He’s here.

Sleeping girls with feet caked in mud stirred.
Boys asleep with long wet hair awoke.
He’s here.

Potheads spinning up looked down.
Potheads coming down looked up.
He’s here.

Country Joe and Buffalo Springfield and Melanie
saw something moving like a river & coming into view.
He’s here.

He spoke without using a mic.
Ask not what your country can remember for you.
Ask what you can remember for your country.
The crowd applauded and gave him a standing ovation.

‘Inauguration Day man,’ the guy next to me said.
I looked at him closely.

The pottery in the next to last image is of Cucuteni-Trypillian neolithic heritage. I thought it played off the idea of ‘pothead’ as well as being a vessel the motorcade passed through. The images superimposed over JFK in the third image are the Sri Yantra diagram and a detail from the Book of Kells representing JFK’s ancestry. JFK loved poetry and read for pleasure so these are perhaps fitting images of tactile and spiritual deep time.

I do not claim copyright on original images. I have created new, non-commercial artworks for the purpose of parody or commentary.

 

HABITS by Majlinda Bashllari

Around here we measure everything

words, costs, speeds–

so nobody gets hurt

be sorry et cetera.

Define and predict: the span of germs,

the time of dinosaurs,

the era of humans.

Expiry dates on foods

favour short-lived romances

over the lifetime ones.

We’re being practical.

We measure tumours.

Sizes disturb us

same as their unyieldingness.

We keep notes. Calculate and file.

Out of stubbornness

we look for equals.


The whereabouts of clouds

we know precisely. Not so sure

about our thoughts,


we get near them,

they dodge

and wave –


young hands inside a steep creek.

Realm of flesh fingers that measure

the cruelty of flow.

Born in Albania, Majlinda Bashllari is the author of two poetry collections, Një udhë për në shtëpi (A road to home), published in Tirana, Albania (Morava, 2007) & Love is a very long word, published by Guernica Editions in 2016. Bashllari’s work has appeared in numerous Albanian art and literature magazines and in Albanian anthologies of essays and short stories. She lives in Toronto.

Later he pretended the moon was a mystical source of enchantment

He fell in love with a visionary


who cared for a tree.

Her visions became commonplace,
although beautiful,
as she cared for the tree.

The knight sometimes

aimed
his telescope

at a leaf dangling in the wind,
or a branch bent low, or bark,
or beds of moss
on the edges,
warming.


Invincible
sunlight
streaming.

 

Reposed in Flight by Ned Baeck

Basement bright with skin

shows dark, rapt faces.

They hold him

in their hearts and brains.

Someone whispered the world

is not worth becoming evil for –

On the ceiling, which is the maiden mother’s floor,

they pound, and pause, and pound again.

Blood pulsing in their fists,

the pierce of loathing under their ribs.

In a shadowed mezzanine

below the conscious mind,

they gnaw on river fish,

direct you to the wrong people,

put glitter in their eyes,

control the atmosphere,

arrange stillborn thoughts in old places.

Later they will say you brought down

the old, dull, rusted sword

with your own hands – and you did –

on the samovar that hid her hand

and the bed where she bared herself.

Motionless,

bird reposed in flight,

love for whose sake everything, murderous

and merciful, is done –

It’s so quiet now,

vouchsafed to a world of sullen depravity,

a few crumbs of dust for the broom.

The true operation of your mind – follow it –

 

Ned Baeck lives in Vancouver.

His poems have recently appeared in untethered, The Continuist and Sewer Lid.

His first full-length collection of poems is forthcoming from Guernica.

would you rather wake up or have an egg

My mother told me theatre is like a rooster
but film is like a hen.
She said would you rather wake up
or have an egg?

Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal

Metamorphoses by Elana Wolff

spoons 1

Some are born human, most have to humanize slowly.

I want to say I’m on my way > at this point: pelican;

in time, perhaps: writer. It seems every act of writing

is compensation for a shortfall of some sort; that to become

a writer one not only has to work hard at the part, but also

be a little less than human. Ideas like these weighed heavily

on Franz K. much of his truncated life. In fact, under their

anvil, he forged one of the few perfect works of poetic

imagination of the 20th century—according to Elias

Read the rest of this entry »

Sun in the Palms: Thirteen Flashes for My Mother by Nancy Kline

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1.

Flash!  One minute to the next.

Short circuit in the brain, struck dumb.

When I get the call, I am eight hours away from her, by car.  It takes me six, foot to the floor.

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2.

In Intensive Care she lies still as a stone, but whiter than stone, on her tall bed.  The walls of her cubicle are curtains, pulled to, on a metal ceiling-track.   A small black crucifix hangs on the wall.  Mother the old Marxist overseen by Jesus.

“I’m here, mommy,” I say, and take her hand.

She opens her eyes.

Our look acknowledges the proximity of death, and of death’s silence.  Mommy, writer mother, has been stripped of speech.

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3.

Three days after the stroke, she has not said one word.  I’m singing songs to entertain us, my sneakers propped on the iron bar of her hospital bed.  She’s had her swallow test  (she can’t), she has been tested verbally  (zero).  I’ve already sung the lullabies, the folk songs.  I am into patriotic melodies.  I sing, “Allons enfants de la pa-tree-ee-uh–”

And suddenly I hear my mother’s voice.

“Le jour de gloire est a-ree-vay!”

Suddenly she’s singing “La Marseillaise.”  She’s warbling out the words, she knows them, she remembers every one of them, both of us burst out laughing, I am singing, she is singing, laughing, “Contre nous de la tee-ra-nee-uh!”

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4.

When I run down the hall to tell the speech pathologist, she’s unimpressed.

“Your mother sang a song with you?” she says, so bored that she can hardly speak.  “Different part of the brain.  She’s not recovering.  No.”

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5.

I bring in the Hospice rep.  I’m filled with trepidation.  Mother knows that Hospice means the end, and mother can be rude.

Or could be, when she could still utter insults.

“Mom,” I say, “this nice lady is from Hospice.  She is going to help us.”

“How do you do?” the social worker says, bowing at the end of the bed, beneath the crucifix nailed to the wall.

My mother smiles at her.  And then abruptly says, “Hail Mary well-met!”

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6.

Scraps of language.

On the seventh day, when I tell mother we are leaving the hospital, she asks, “Where are you traveling?”

She is afraid, I know this (I have always known it, she has always been afraid), that I will put her away, as she was forced to put away her sad ill raving mother, in what mommy always called the insane asylum.  I was there; I was ten.  I saw my grandmother dragged, struggling, up the stairs by two male aides.

“We’re going home,” I say. “I’m taking you home.”

To die, the two of us know.

My mother leans forward and kisses me on the mouth.

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7.

The story of my father’s dying, in the very same house twelve years earlier, waits for us there.  His unintelligible bellowing in the middle of one night.  Then silence.  How pointedly the ambulance crew told me that mother and I needn’t rush to follow them to the hospital.  I didn’t get the message.  His was my first death.

Halfway there, my mother realized she was without her teeth.  We turned around, we roared back home, we turned around, we roared back down the highway.  Stopped by the cops.  Released.

But daddy was already dead before the EMTs arrived. The moment we glimpsed the sly tip of his tongue.  No need to rush.

We couldn’t know it, how to believe that he had stopped? 

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8.

How to believe my mother is in diapers now, enormous basins, monstrous, rigid white papier-maché, like those we laughed about together, in some hospital, years earlier, when we did not believe them relevant.  Does she remember how we joked?

I change her.  I brush the six teeth in her mouth, and the others, in the water-glass.  I know this body as I knew my babies’.  This is my mother’s body, demystified.

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9.

Scraps of language, tender buttons.  “Skillet!  Skillet!” she says.  “She has gone to an extent to spread her trestle.”

I put a warm washcloth over her eyes.  “Oh,” she says.  “Very valuable.”

We send for the speech therapist.

He makes a house call.  He stands close up against her bed.  “C-can you say b-b-banana?” he asks.

“Banana,” mommy says.  She looks alarmed.

“G-good,” he says.  He leans in toward her face, as though to kiss her. “Now say muh-muh-muh—“

“–gician?” says my mother.  “Marauder?  Muckraker?”

“You’re d-doing very wuh-wuh-well!”

I catch the eye of mother’s healthcare aide, who looks at me and quickly leaves the room.

“C-call me, any t-time.”

The therapist hands me his card.

“You g-get t-two more sessions.  Although muh-muh-most people think wuh-one’s enough.  But p-please don’t heh-heh-heh—“

“I won’t heh-hesitate,” I say, with effort, and shake his hand.

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10.

Still as a breathing stone I sit each morning, on my cushion, while the Hospice nurse bathes mommy’s body in her bedroom.  I count my breaths.  I inhale, exhale my grieving.  We keep a dented dark-red iron tank of oxygen, as tall as mother standing, beside the hospital bed we’ve borrowed from the Rescue Squad.  Sometimes the racing of my small mind stills.  Then I am present, an instant.  For an instant I am not in pain.  A myriad of birds whose names I don’t know call to each other in the field.  Construction trucks roar past, down on the turnpike.

One day, after I’ve parked the car in our garage, I’m summoned by the waterfall.  I walk to the wall beside the brook and look down.  Below me, a great blue heron stands on a stone.  The stream is tumbling around him.  He looks up.  Then calmly opens his slow wings as wide as the water and flies low up the length of the creek bed, until he vanishes in the trees.

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11.

Thanksgiving night, I go to tuck my mother in and find her weeping.

“What’s wrong, mommy?”

“I had wished,” she says.  “I had hoped.  I would be dead.”

“But you didn’t die,” I say.

“I didn’t die.”  As lucid and articulate as if she weren’t aphasic, hadn’t ever been, she says, “I think I know myself.  I think I know what I can do.  I can’t do this.  I can’t do this anymore.”

I stroke her arm, her forehead.  Her birthday is two weeks away.  If she lives another  fourteen days, she’ll be one hundred and one.

“I think,” I say, “that when you really can’t,  do this, you won’t.  I don’t know even what that means.  But I believe it.”

Murray, her fat orange cat, jumps suddenly up, out of the dark, to plop down in a circle at the foot of her bed.  “Good kitty,” mommy says.

A calm transparency connects the two of us like a windowpane.

“Thank you,” she says.  “You have helped me.”

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12.

The next day she insists on walking the length of her house, to the window in the living room.  On her aggressive metal walker, thump! to say goodbye to the view.  Although I can’t know that, not yet.

Snow lies along the branches of the pines at the border of her field.

“Look!” she says.  “How beautiful the sun in the palms.”

Any of us might have said as much, we’re sliding down the slope into forgetting language, all my friends and I.  But our slow glide is not the black hole where my mother disappeared.

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13.

One week later, in the middle of an afternoon, she dies.  It has been days since she last ate or drank.  We moisten her lips for her, now that she’s sunk into impenetrable sleep, immobile, white on white, against the sheets.  Could she be tinier?

She said to me once, years before, “Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could just get littler and littler until we disappeared?”  She’s nearly done it.

I hold her hand, although she doesn’t hold mine back.  I sing to her about a bird, a looking glass.  I watch the tiny pulsing artery in her neck.  It is her only moving part.

At the hospital, I saw the moving pictures of her heart, how her aortic valve came fluttering open, fluttering closed, it dizzied me to think that tiny shred of flesh had kept on going for a century.

That afternoon, the faintest rhythmic pulsing in her neck throbs, throbs, throbs.

Doesn’t.

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Nancy Kline’s memoirs, short stories, essays, and translations have appeared widely. She contributes regularly to the New York Times Sunday Book Review and has received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Grant. She has published eight books, including a novel, a critical study of René Char’s poetry, a biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, and four book-length translations of modern French writers, the most recent, Jules Supervielle’s Selected Prose and Poetry (with Patricia Terry and Kathleen Micklow).

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