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Category: Poetry

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.

x12

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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Morning Morning by Tuli Kupferberg

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Morning morning
Feel so lonesome in the morning
Morning morning
Morning brings me grief

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Sunshine and the sunshine
Sunshine laughs upon my face
& the glory of the growing
Puts me in my rotting place

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Evening evening
Feel so lonesome in the evening
Evening evening
Evening brings me grief

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Moon shine moon shine
Moon shine drugs the hills with grace
& the secret of the shining
Seeks to break my simple face

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Nighttime nighttime
Kills the blood upon my cheek
Nighttime nighttime
Does not bring me to relief

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Starshine and the starshine
Feel so loving in the starshine
Starshine starshine
Darling kiss me as I weep

xx2

Morning Morning written by Tuli Kuferberg & recorded by The Fugs on their album The Fugs.

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The Fugs (1966) is the second album from The Fugs.

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Historical info & album downloads can be found at The Fugs official website: http://www.thefugs.com/history2.html

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Morning Morning by The Fugs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dM8jpbaw3A

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I make no claim whatsoever to these lyrics, whose copyright, I assume, remains with the author & Fugs founding member, the late Tuli Kupferberg. I simply wish to share these beautiful words & music.

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Lyrics found at Lyrics.com as submitted by jinny.

z11morning morningmorning morningmorning morning

A Divining Rod of Ancient Silver Divining Twin Streams

blake jomon

A divining rod of ancient silver divining the outlines of the future

Chejesus

A divining rod of ancient silver divining channels between flowers

print

A divining rod of ancient silver divining the stone wheel of memory

film and granite

A divining rod of ancient silver divining the wind upon the fields

klee summer

A divining rod of ancient silver divining the moons beneath the city

giotto and russian pilot

A divining rod of ancient silver divining the roots of wisdom fruit

centre 2

A divining rod of ancient silver divining sea and Self, an ongoing dialogue between sea and Self

moon turin

A divining rod of ancient silver divining social collapse

fish street

A divining rod of ancient silver divining twin streams:

Pottery: the Jomon (縄文) Period (Japan, c. 12,000-300 BCE) and William Blake (1794) England.

Religious calendar art showing Jesus with children and the iconographic image of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevera.

Many years ago I did a printmaking project in an elementary school. One of the students made a print of (what I thought was) a Central or South American religious deity. I was intrigued with the clay pots or possibly drums. Then I realized I was looking at it upside down. How odd such a cartoon, reversed, depicts an altogether different creature. Nothing about the ‘accidental’ image reflected the student’s cultural heritage.

Photographic still from the B movie ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space.’ And the Pietà, Michelangelo’s great work, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Angelus Novus by Swiss-German artist Paul Klee & the exquisite Donna Summer modelling a gown.

A painting by Giotto and a photograph of the parachuting Russian pilot whose jet was shot down by Turkey. Photographed before being shot, as he floated to earth, by terrorists allied with Turkey.

Digital configuration of Blake’s art + Jomon pottery.

Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 spacesuit & the Shroud of Turin.

Goldfish and residential street in Toronto.

Sugar by Sheila Stewart

slightly blur

1.
Dust rises off the hot low veldt.  Vast sugarcane estates: the only irrigated
land.   Wide lush green fields sprout a million tiny sprinklers. The cane is
ready, burnt to make it easier to cut. Flame sweeps the fields, fierce as a
forest fire. The air black soot, a flurry of ash falls miles away, drifts in
doorways, a line of soot runs across the table in our classroom Monday
morning, mirroring the crack in the roof’s peak.

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2.
How I love a dusting of sugar over a slab of chocolate cake, a script of
raspberry sauce.

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3.
Give me brown sugar, white sugar, cubes and icing sugar, caster sugar,
sugar daddy, sugar mummy, sugar baby, sugar bear, sugar-beet, sugar
bowl, sugared and sugary, sugar plum fairy, Shake Sugaree.

avery

4.
Long, open cane trucks, chains along the sides, drive past the auto-
wreck’s Jesus is Coming, into the refugee settlement, collect workers
early in the morning, return them dirty, tired at day’s end. The cane cutters
earn a little more, dressed in layers for protection, sooty as chimney
sweeps. Our students tell us, Cane can cut you. Snake can get you in the
cane.  

spoon sum

5.
Monthly rations: maize, beans, salt, sometimes dried fish, and a little
sugar.

suncube

6.
One more lump of sugar, please.

kandinsky

7.
Simon learned English fast: homeland, refugee, truck. Hot and cold. Love
and hate. Past, present, future.
Simon cut cane. He told us of his last trip
on the back of a cane truck. Returning to the settlement one black night,
the truck broke down at the side of the road. People got out, lay down and slept, waiting for another truck. Simon watched a lorry full of oranges
crash into the cane truck, knocking it over onto the sleeping workers,
pinning the dead and injured to the ground. The sugary smell of oranges
but none to eat. The truck carried on, cutting through the night taking the oranges safely to Durban.

intersect

Sheila Stewart has two poetry collections, The Shape of a Throat (Signature Editions) and A Hat to Stop a Train (Wolsak and Wynn). She co-edited The Art of Poetic Inquiry (Backalong Books). Sheila’s poetry has been recognized by such awards as the gritLIT Contest, the Pottersfield Portfolio Short Poem Contest, and the Scarborough Arts Council Windows on Words Award. She teaches in Equity Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and the Writing Centre at New College, University of Toronto. ‘Sugar’ is from The Shape of a Throat.

bowl

A Small Experimental Drawing (and the law of intended consequences)

experimental

After visiting the JMW Turner exhibition for a second time at the Art Gallery of Ontario and wading through the busloads of students and groups of seniors from retirement/nursing homes I realized how fortunate I had been on Friday night when the place was half deserted. Possibly half full.

Detail 1

Again I am reminded of Turner’s grey. Vanishing yet insistent. Drawing the eye. Drawing the eye into. Possibly even halfway in.

detail 6

Sometimes one is drawn by the air of an unexplored territory. Or summoned by insistent mystery. Summoned halfway into a vanishing mystery.

detail 44

I focus on the brilliant whites in Turner’s work, and escape the crush, wandering into a drawing exhibition pulled from the print & drawing vaults.

detail 15

Three of the works refresh anew my dilemma. I think of the Judge’s black robes.

detail 8

 I join a raiding party. The Captain’s name is Font. His horse is called Halfway.

detail 48

The raiding party does not solve my crisis. Nevertheless I raise the end of a burnt stick from the fire.

detail 7

Marking the edge of the law. My declaration marking the edge of the law.

detail 4

There is no natural boundary to the embedded law of intended consequence.

ink amber 4

Another edge must roll it back to where it came from. Or swallow it. Leaving its bones along the trail.

ink amber detail 3

The edge of the sun!

The ambers, and whites, and Naples Yellow in Turner’s sky, radiating with silent resolution.

amber ink sun 100

Let me tell you a story about Naples Yellow.

ink amber 9

I visited an artist one night many years ago.

There are many stories to tell about that night but I will tell you this one.

When I was leaving, at the bottom of the stairs, the artist began talking about Naples Yellow.

And did not stop.

ink amber

The artists, the art periods, the art movements involved with Naples Yellow.

The secret uses of Naples Yellow, The powers of Naples Yellow, the magic of Naples Yellow.

ink amber 8

Perhaps Naples Yellow can solve my dilemma.

amber ink sun 100

 

Lost by Chris Pannell

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Every street was Italian

the inks on my map blotched and ran

the motorways rose and fell like roller coasters

singing choruses from I Pagliacci.

German and English signs

had been broken and tossed aside.

Gargoyles on buildings dressed in suits

money managers amok

commandeered red double-deck buses from

their streetcar tracks.

efg
I was driving a taxi full of hit-men

who were expecting me to get them quickly to

their destination

and to avoid the carabinieri.

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Chris Pannell’s latest poetry book is A Nervous City (Wolsak and Wynn, 2013). This title recently won the Kerry Schooley Book Award from the Hamilton Arts Council. In 2010, his book Drive won the Acorn-Plantos People’s Poetry Prize and the Arts Hamilton Poetry Book of the Year.

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From 1993 to 2005 he ran the new writing workshop and published two anthologies of work by that group.

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He has a book of poetry forthcoming in 2016 called How We Came to Pass. He is a former board member of the gritLIT Writers Festival and a former DARTS bus driver. He hosts and helps organize the monthly Hamilton reading series Lit Live.

pqrs

Mémoire by Arthur Rimbaud

refugee 13

I

Clear water, like the salt of childhood tears:
The white of women’s bodies opened in the sun,
And truth, beyond walls or the silk oriflammes, won
Out with the valour of a maid pure in her years.

The frolic of angels in their moving blaze of gold,
Imponderable arms sparkling with the coolness of the grass,
And the blues of Heaven taking up their beds to pass
Under the canopy of shade into the arch and hill’s fold.

refugee 3refugee 15

II

The stones, under the water, extend as in a clear broth,
And depths, freckled in prepared beds of pale gold,
And frocks of girls, loosely faded, as green as mould,
And willows, and hopping birds, unfettered, woven in the day’s cloth.

Round as the eyelid, with the warmth of a gold Louis,
Blooms the marsh marigold, fresh in its wedding vows.
The mirror at prompt noon, jealous of the day’s drouse
Tarnishes into a sphere, heat-flecked and dear to us.

refugee 10refugee 5

III

Too upright is Madam in the meadow’s rippled glass.
The sons of toil are in the cotton-fields falling as a white cloud.
In her fingers she twirls her parasol, tramples it, too proud
To watch her children reading in the flowered grass

Their books in red morocco. Of what they think or dream —
As on all paths a thousand angels flare upon the day —
Of hopes lost in high mountains, she cannot follow; her way
Is overcast and cold, as is the shadowed stream.

refugee 12refugee 11

IV

Regret of arms satiated and celibate,
Sainted, straight white beds on moonlit April nights,
And the tear-wet joy falling on abandoned river sites,
And the rotting evenings in August that these germinate.

Under walls let her weep now: the winds possess
Only the high poplars, their motions tremulously sown.
Underneath in lead, unglinting, weighed with stone,
An old dredger labours, the small boat motionless.

refugee 15refugee 4

V

Flotsam, plaything of these waters that nothing hinders,
A boat beholden to stillness, and with arms too short,
And flowers blue or yellow, not then ever sought,
And breath now spread upon a water dull as cinders.

And for all that there are willows, powder, the plume of blood
That would drag out roses from reedbeds of time’s jaws,
The boat stays here, unmoving, and the chain draws
On the eye, water-heavy and deep in the unbanked mud.

refugee 13

Translation C. John Holcombe

http://www.textetc.com/workshop/wt-rimbaud-1.html

refugee 3

 Original photo credit: Massimo Sestini

If You Decide

a

We need to learn an almost extinct language I will study with you.

e

We need to live among the people whose language is almost lost I will join you and also learn traditional survival skills.

c

To leave me for the shaman I will drive a stake through his medicine box, realize my grave error instantly, and escape, although barely.

d

To beckon and summon, seducing me with whispers that reach into my blood, I will return.

b

I must stand trial for my crimes against love and magic, I will escape, again.

fadeout

If you decide to hypnotize me while I sleep I will seal my heart against your vibrations and embrace the crazed dream of modernity. Because I am a fool. Weary of surviving on roots. Even the root of you. Even the root of me.

fadeout

If you decide I must seal my heart against the sounds you once made I will throw the window open a final time, upon your murmur coursing & drenched in starlight, intersected by a highway carrying the disappeared.

fadeout

If you decide to remain quiet I will train my ear to hear the sunlight falling.

fadeout

If you decide it is my duty to dig out the wooden stake I will return in the dead of night speaking an extinct language.

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Photo credit: Renee Perle, a Romanian Jewish girl who moved to Paris, is famous as the first muse of the famous French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986), who is considered one of the leading photographers of the 20th century.

http://www.romanianculture.org/personalities/Renee_Perle.htm

shadowssoftly 3violet detail 1

Gestures Simply Slip Out and On by Heather Cadsby

2

Turtles are very old, have no teeth.

Not lost, never had. Not fearful

8

of first-person singular.

No turtle turmoil. A reptilian gaze

1224

is fixed on us as you

adjust the focus.

20

This is our assignment. A singular adventure

to create a life list for ourselves.

3

Something outside ourselves. Before

we do ourselves in. Copulation

2

requires an hour underwater.

Aye aye aye.

17

But the good part is a start.

So get your picture.

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We’ll call this one painted

and turn the page

3

as if that’s all we need

to know it all.

4

Heather Cadsby is the author of four books of poetry. The most recent book, Could be, was published by Brick Books in 2009. Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Antigonish Review, The New Quarterly, PRISM international and The Best Canadian Poetry in English (2008).

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