Nightingale Series. 
Anne Graaff. 
Ink and pencil on cotton rag watercolour paper. 
May 2007.

Nightingale Series.
Anne Graaff.
Ink and pencil on cotton rag watercolour paper.
May 2007.

Editor’s Note

Readers:

January: in Latin, as you know, Januraius, after Janus, god of beginnings (and by necessity endings) and transitions; the two-faced god – looking into the past and the future at once. And as I began this little note tonight, I thought I’d scratch out another of those dreadful reports in which the author, CEO-manque — reminds his audience of the past year’s achievements while providing a rosy syllabus of those to come. But, really, could you bear it? I couldn’t. (And, readers, you are not stockholders, not in the usual sense of that term, nor so easily hornswoggled!) Too, how might such an approach lead to our “secret poem(s),” the usual purpose of this introduction, anyway? No, better to take our cue from those poems, I think. Both of which take as their organizing principle the vestibule. Appropriate, no?, to this drafty, unfurnished room of a month, with its “blank white movies” as Jim Harrison has it, at which we stare, day after day, our heads stuffed with the dank straw of the past holidays — les petites croisades of the familial with their maddening frivolities, their gossip and laughable contretemps   – or worse, to me, the drudgeries of work, or at least routine, that lie ahead, endlessly. In any case, the vestibule: not a place intended for mere lingering, but in these exquisite ruminations an “in-between…queasy” space in which we might at least for a moment  consider more seriously what lies beyond our present sensibilities (or indeed is our ever-present residence if  we but knew it); or eschew “etiquette” and speak  “intimate[ly]..in words that “cauterize/ all wounds to the truth.”  (Both poets, by the way, come with the advantage of having so generously advertised their talents in our journal, as well.)

 

In the Vestibule

The in-between is queasy

but all is in between.

 

Midsummer green?  Monotonous

when everything is green.

 

The sea: a glittering question

when everything is sea.

 

This vestibule? Unsettling.

I teeter first one way

 

and then the other.  In

or out?  I am a fool

 

to be so caught off balance.

All is vestibule.

 

—Rachel Hadas, Plume: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry,   Issue # 17

 

 

Vestibule

What etiquette holds us back

from more intimate speech,

especially now, at the end of the world?

Can’t we begin a conversation

here in the vestibule,

then gradually move it inside?

What holds us back

from saying things outright?

We’ve killed the earth.

Yet we speak of other things.

Our words should cauterize

all wounds to the truth.

 

—Chase Twichell, from   Dog Language (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)

 

And so: adjourned.

Or not quite. For we have our own bits of business to conclude before you depart for the much more interesting pursuits that follow in this issue.

The first – despite my avowals above: our new look, long promised and…not quite ready for delivery. Pushed back to February due to various interruptions.  Many thanks, though,  to Heather Henderson, for her many hours spent on this project. I am pleased with what she has produced so far, and I hope you will be too.

Next, as part of that re-launch, you might notice the acknowledgment of the support provided by Saint Petersburg College, where I have taught for some twenty years, and which has graciously agreed to fund Plume in both its online and print anthology incarnations. Special gratitude extended to our college President and Dean of Communications, Doctors Law and Campbell respectively. In many ways, Plume has found a home, and due also to the efforts of our publisher Madhat/Evolution Arts, and Marc Vincenz in particular, seems poised to enter the coming years on solid financial footing.

What else?

Ah – AWP. A reminder: Friday, April 10, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. in the Minneapolis Convention Center, Conference Room 209 A & B, Level 2, there will be a joint reading with Plume & Fulcrum (with a full bar). My request for readers has been answered – many times over, I’m afraid. (How generous our contributors!) As noted, on a first come, first served basis as their emails arrived in my Inbox, the line-up (with perhaps a bit of tweaking in order yet) is as follows:

Page Hill Stargazer

Rae Armantrout

John Skoyles

Clare Rossini

David Baker

Robin Behn

Patricia Clark

Dore Kiesellbach

Please come by if you can: I plan to be there and hope to meet so many of you who have remained far too long faceless presences on my computer screen!

And another entry in your calendar, if you are in the Saint Petersburg area: Richard Blanco will be the featured poet at the third annual Plume Poetry Series reading, 23 March, @ 7: 30, The Palladium Theater. Details TBA.

The Plume Anthology of Poetry 2014 is all but completed and will be sent for layout shortly. Preface from Terese Svoboda, with an extended Featured Selection of new work by Afaa Weaver.  An astonishing (why, I continue to wonder, but then recall that line from Simic — don’t wake the damn cards!)  compendium of new work from some of the best poets working today, national and international. Again, more to come. For the moment: much gratitude to both – and all.

Our cover art this month is from Anne Graaf, a South African artist, art historian and poet, who lives in Paris. She is married to composer/musician Christopher Culpo. She is a painter and maker of artist’s books. (Her Fine Art MA degree thesis, on contemporary book art, informs her practice). An art historian, specializing in Outsider Art, she has written two books, published by Penguin, South Africa, (under the name Anne Emslie) and numerous articles. Her poetry is published in various publications and, most recently, in an anthology of African poetry, Africa, My Africa, by Sun Publishers. Recent exhibitions of her artist’s’ books in France include the exhibition, curated by Caroline Corre, Elles métamorphosent le Livre II at the gallery, Espace des femmes, rue Jacob, Paris 6ème. February and March 2013, an exhibition of artists books, The Fan Books, at Atelier du la Main d’ Or, Paris. July 2012. And a contributing artist to group show, Be:e, at la Porte Peintre, France. 2012-2013 and an exhibition of paintings at the Chateau Cremault summer festival 2014.  She continues, too, to regularly exhibit her art work in South Africa.

Next up, after this issue’s Featured Selection from Daniel Bourne and Tadeusz Dziewanowski in collaboration, look for extended work from Luljeta Lleshanaku, translated by Ani Gjika; Nin Andrews; Gennady Aygi and the great Russian Tatar painter Igor Vulokh, also in collaboration; Linda Pastan; Chris Kennedy; Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda; with others just appearing on the horizon. (Here, too, again, let me add as always: those with projects that might be suitable for the Featured Selection please do contact us with your proposal at plumepoetry@gmail.com ).

Finally, New Work Received this month includes pieces from G.C. Waldrep, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jeffrey Skinner, Martha Serpas, Linda Bierds, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, C.D. Wright, Sandra Alcosser, Brenda Hillman, Christina Davis, Deborah Landau, Diane Wakoski, Maureen McLane, Tomas Morin, Jennifer L. Knox, and Christopher Buckley.

As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!

 

Daniel Lawless
Editor, PLUME

Two Poems

Shamshad Abdullaev trans. by Alex Cigale

A ROMANCE

 

A creature without definite feelings. Better so.

On the white-washed verandah, fouled by flies,

early morning, with a veined rope in her left hand,

she thinks of the senseless spark of the minutes

(while the man deliberates with a friend

about nothing in particular), because he is afraid

to live, her fingers fussing over rest

unwind, bit by bit, thread from thread,

as though the stigmata were erased after the bitter names.

The marsh of routine cropped up in his path,

but the swelter is torpid, plodding,

and we have buried the dead. He feels happy

when he is emptied, drinking tea,

observing from the balcony the rotting expanse

converses with a guest, though

inside each, gnawing away is: “is it today, or tomorrow?” Among them,

any woman will do instead of a grave, for a time.

He laughs,

gazing in his manly pretentions at pictures of hunting dogs,

peacefully scuffling away the sandy powder in sun’s spume.

Who has remained whole? Later. For no purpose,

the basil swaying in the breeze, and the summer’s might multiplies

reflected in the gleaming vases.

 

 

DOUBLED MIDDAY

 

Innumerable, that which doesn’t exist.

It paralyzes, and something changes as though

black metal has penetrated all the way into the worn leather scabbard,

when a man sits in a blue armchair in a summer hallway

and calls over to himself the muscular German shepherd across the deserted rug.

Shift your shoulders – the sun crackles:

the stamped out forms of one-story houses stand guard, like elephant ivory,

over the spent kingdom

between the Mazar wall and the shimmer of distant locust.

Daylight, magnolia, copper

have settled on the banks of silent rivers.

Why is it so and not otherwise?

(For, better the dust, thickly suckling on your forehead,

then the voices of the classics.) All this has been said before

in conversation with others, in another stomping vat, another country.

 

 

РОМАН

 

Тварь без прочных чувств. Так лучше.

На белой веранде, засиженной мухами,

она держит венозную бечёвку под утро в левой руке

и думает о зряшном искрении минут

(покамест мужчина рассуждает с другом

ни о чём), ведь он боится

жить, и пальцы пеклись о покое,

распуская нить за нитью,

будто стёрлись стигматы после терпких имён.

Рутинная топь выросла на пути его,

но медлит зной,

и мы закопали мёртвых. Он счастлив,

когда пуст, и пьёт чай,

озирая с балкона гниющий простор,

и беседует с гостем, хотя

внутри обоих сверлит: “сегодня ли, завтра?” У них

всякая женщина вместо могилы на время.

Он смеётся,

вглядываясь в мужском лицедействе в снимки охотничьих псов,

разметающих мирно песочный помол в солнечной пене.

Кто уцелевший? Пото́м. Без пользы

качнулся базилик, и множится летняя мощь

от бликующих ваз.

 

 

ДВОЙНОЙ ПОЛДЕНЬ 

 

Бесчисленно то, чего нет.

Оно парализует, и что-то меняется, будто

чёрный металл весь проник в старые ножны,

когда мужчина сидит в летнем холле, в синем кресле,

и подзывает сильную овчарку через глухой ковёр.

Отодвинешь плечи – треснет солнце:

печать низких домов стережёт, как слоновая кость, выжатое царство

между мазарской стеной и зыбью дальней саранчи.

Дневной свет, магнолия, медь

легли по краям немых рек.

Почему так, а не иначе?

(Ведь лучше пыль, жирно сосущая твой лоб,

чем голоса классиков.) Обо всём

сказано с другими, в другой давильне, в другой земле.

 

 

Shamshad Abdullaev (b. 1957) is the former, and last, poetry editor of Zvezda Vostoka (Tashkent, Uzbekistan) that was shut down in 1994. He has been awarded the Adrey Bely prize (1993), the Znamya prize (1998,) and the Russia/Yeltsin prize (2006; also short-listed this year.) The Russian originals may be found on Vavilon.ru. Abdullaev’s other poems, in Alex’s English translation, are in Modern Poetry in Translation, Literary Imagination, The Manhattan Review, St. Petersburg Review, and in Two Lines, (translated by Valzyna Mort). He is the author of two books of prose and three of poems, the latest being Approaching Periphery; Poems and Essays (NLO, 2013).

Alex Cigale‘s own English-language poems have appeared in Colorado, Green Mountains, North American, Tampa, and The Literary Reviews, and online in Drunken Boat and McSweeney’s. His translations from Russian can be found in Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Literary Imagination, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, PEN America, Two Lines, and World Literature Today. From 2011 until 2013, Alex was an Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He was recently awarded the 2015 NEA Literary Translation Fellowship for his work on the poet of the St. Petersburg philological school, Mikhail Eremin. He edits at Mad Hat Annual, Third Wednesday, Verse Junkies, and the St. Petersburg Review, and is currently at work on the 2015 Russia Issue of the Atlanta Review.

Stopping At Whole Foods on a Snowy Evening

Ciaran Berry

If commerce, too, has its music, then it’s in kumquat, pine nut, Arctic char,

it’s the squeaky front wheel of my little cart, which seems to know the way

between the dry goods and the winter greens, and how my son says “cookie”

 

as he kicks me from his barred-in seat. All he craves these early days

is sugar, fat, the dark sweet mysteries of a chocolate chip. Outside, the snow

does whatever it is snow does. Banks, I suppose, drifts, and perhaps swirls.

 

Throws a fresh sheet over the asphalt and the cars. Stretch out here, it seems

to say. Lay down and make a pillow with your hands. And stopped forever

in those four quatrains, Frost’s horse, his man, stand still and watch it fall

 

between the pines, one seeing perhaps the rag tooth of his own gravestone,

the other winter with a bridle in its hand. The bell a Salvation Army worker

rings has me thinking of them, the horse’s nostrils steaming like a wet engine,

 

his master lost in his reverie, his swoon, and nothing to be done. His eyes

on the snow, my eyes on him, like the eyes of the cameraman, who can’t seem

to drag his gaze away from those souls who, forsaken, climb the rails.

 

We’re in San Francisco now and not this New England. Frost’s hometown

until his father, a newspaperman, succumbs to the black lung. The bridge

between the city and the bends of highway one, pressing north towards

 

Stinson Beach and Oregon. And it’s here they come to jump—one buck-

toothed in an early photograph who, a friend explains, was born an old man.

Black his clothes. Black his hair. Black his curtains. Black his plunge

 

into the black of the ocean. One who, mid-fall, changes his mind and survives

black-boned, kept alive he says by a seal until the Coast Guard comes, deed

he claims as proof of God’s omnipotence. Sometimes I think the snow

 

is its own snuff movie, white of the mind after the world caves in. Lear

on his heath charging not you elements. Our traveler weary and wanting

to lie down. Sometimes I think it’s a wedding dress, taken off, put on,

 

raised from its sailor trunk in the attic, where the moths have gotten in,

and where it sallows like old paper or old skin. The skin, let’s imagine,

about the bones of Frost’s father as he swims towards the bell buoy at Pier 24,

 

leaving his son behind to mind his clothes. Now he turns to wave, and now

he changes stroke. Later at The Evening Post, the boy will find,

in his old man’s desk drawer, bullets and a bottle of bourbon two thirds consumed.

 

“I know San Francisco like the back of my hand,” he’ll tell an audience.

And of his father? “I trailed him everywhere, in the way a boy does.”

Who’s to say, out of such loss, you might not conjure a horse, a man gazing

 

into the snow, as though it were nakedness, or the broken line down the middle

of a midnight road? Who’s to say you might not conjure a man seeking cake flour

and marshmallows before the first plough lowers the rupture of its blade?

 

Have you ever felt your life become a film you are making, and you unable

to step out from behind the lens? Have you ever felt the cold gnaw at your bones

knowing where your mind goes and what your hand has done? Before launching

 

his body waterward, our saved boy downs a final meal of Starburst and Skittles,

the colors making a sticky rainbow in his palm. A suspension bridge needs gravity

to stand, I’ve read somewhere. We hover between anchorage and midspan.

 

 

 

Ciaran Berry’s most recent book is The Dead Zoo.  His  poems have been widely published in American and Irish journals and selected for Best New Poets 2006 and Best American Poetry 2008The Sphere of Birds, won the Crab Orchard Series Award of Southern Illinois University Press, the 2008 Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize and the inaugural Michael Murphy Memorial Award, 2011. In 2012 he received a Whiting Writers’ Award for poetry.

Two Poems

Steve Bradbury

On a Version of “Lady with Lapdog”

After Chekhov

 

How clever, to leave out all the articles, thereby suggesting their story, their plight, were less a story than a portrait or a still life. Which of course it is, when you think of it, when you think of them, she with husband, he with wife.

 

 

Synch

 

In Roget “forgive and “forget” appear on the very same page. In fact, the one is synonymous with the other, and the two are synonyms as well of, respectively, “grace” and “neglect,” “overlook” and “disregard,” “live and let live” and, inevitably, “oblivion.”

 

 

Steve Bradbury is a Cooper Union dropout who still manages now and then to knock off a drawing or oil pastel. He lives in a cabin in north Florida and  translates contemporary Chinese and Taiwanese poetry. His version of Hsia Yü’s Salsa was recently published byf Zephyr Press.

Three Poems

Dorothy Chan

Centerfold of the Year

 

Full frontal I stand, knee-high socks and white heels,

legs crossed, as I’m barely covered—breasts popping out

his white shirt—the trace of a man that makes the shot

complete, holding a glass of milk,

hands on top of the fridge, acting out five fantasies at once:

cat, housewife, tomboy, a man’s risky business…playmate,

posing with a glass of milk: the fridge only has

four bottles of Dom, eggs, and strawberries.

It’s the full-frontal-balanced-meal-of-sex, but

why am I reaching for food? Was it not satisfying?

My curls are messed up, literally the “I got up this way”

look—tilting my head slightly, looking full frontal—the camera—

not that I’ve been caught, not that I’m getting the milk

for him, but like I’m welcoming our new neighbor.

 

They put the curlers back in, the vintage beauty-shop look.

They lay a fur blanket on the couch, contrasting the stone wall.

S-curve I lie, dialing the rotary phone, holding it to my ear,

and tilting the head once again, mouth,

welcoming the new neighbor—all readers are lovers—

since our husbands and boyfriends won’t come to the phone,

won’t come to bed. And from S-curve to back-curve,

the white panties lower, exposing cheeks,

the mooning that tells the reader to go away, yet pursue further—

tease: the way I grab that phone, making the cord longer,

fingering the numbers, and not letting a nip slip

for the cover, turning away from the stone wall that’s so bachelor pad,

back upright, legs stretched out—about to pounce on the fur

sheets, the white blanket, the pillows…I’m telling the reader:

“This is my bachelor pad, and you’re just living in it.”

There is no husband to come home to…because I’m both roles.”

 

 

Centerfold of the Month: Rabbit Season

 

I was born in the Year of the Rabbit. I knew I’d be perfect—

Hef’s eternal stag-turned-bunny party: his 2000s trapped

between gingham housewives pouring the whiskey

down their throats, down their husband’s throats,

and Penthouse Pets sucking on Caligula’s gold dick:

eager-beavers-always-willing-to-please—rabbits easy-to-tears.

 

But I’m told the shoot’s jungle, not hare-house:

one-piece-brown lingerie, almost cavewoman—

more like woolly mammoth, not well-mannered.

I’m offended. I’m insulted—the waxes I had to endure…

cavewoman, not Let-me-bend-over-

in-a-bunny-drop rabbit. Cavewoman…how unlady-like

the stylist cuts the negligee right down the middle,

one strap juxtaposing between breasts,

spraying my hair. I’m barefooted,

walking to the couch, the earth-tone-setup,

running into a plant: “Aren’t plastic plants

bad feng shui?”

 

Crotch exposed, I order a Diet Coke and vodka,

sipping as someone adds on a glass table—

the home vibe…no, the whore house of the bachelor.

“Put that glass right there,” she gestures at the vodka.

“By the table. It’ll be the trace of man we need.”

“What kind of man orders a drink like this?” I ask.

“Then, it’ll be the trace of you we’ll need,” she says.

 

The trace of me…spreading across the couch,

legs stretching to reach the plants like an Eve

reaching for her Adam for the first time…

reaching for her Adam for the first time.

Placing my hands behind my head like my Adam’s

reaching back for his rib,

eating me right up, the plants tickling my feet…

Don’t try too hard to look sexy.

You’ll look tough. You’ll look stupid.

 

 

Centerfold of the Month: Judgment

 

This shoot will break my grandfather’s heart, but at least nudes point to the old—

tradition: cherubs admiring the naked girl with white hair bow-string—

my next-door-smile brighter than the alabaster Ionic-miraculously-outdoor-

bathtub-of-bubbles—Come soak with me, because a Greek reference

suddenly makes anything “classy.” It’s the same way Las Vegas does palatial:

statues of goddesses outside gentlemen’s clubs—the Heras and Athenas,

inferiors to Aphrodite all mixed up and replica-sized—

the men, who, like Paris, need an apple to tell a difference.

Or it’s that movie: small-town-stripper transforms into goddess showgirl,

fire spouts out on stage, highlighting the cheap, gold fabric

clinging to her oiled body, as she looks up at the replica

Zeus—she’s beaten, tortured…stripped.

 

Put that on a Nevada postcard. No, put me on a postcard—

moms need to be reminded that good girls like sex too.

And no one wants to wear harlequin glasses…forever the sad secretary.

 

Like Aphrodite, I rise out of the water. But instead of an ugly husband,

I’ll be getting millions of proposals from millions of cads who read a magazine

“for the articles,” but know when to take a peep.

 

Like Aphrodite, I rise out of the water, white bubbles covering

the brown of my nipples, how the froth obediently stays on,

how the froth runs down my back…covers my armpits, my skinny arms

emphasized, as I do my signature-serpentine-turn,

next-door-smile rouged up. At least nudes point to tradition—

the statue behind me draping a cloth over itself,

eating grapes in my direction.

 

 

Dorothy Chan is a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. She is poetry editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review.

Three Poems

Andrée Chedid trans. by Marci Vogel

Au grand matin
[extrait de Textes pour la terre aimée, 1955]
Andrée Chedid

––L’oiseau de terre
nous reviendra.

 

Into the vast morning
[excerpted from Texts for the Beloved Earth, 1955]
translated from the French by Marci Vogel, 2014

––The bird of earth
will return to us.

 

 

Avant de renaître

 

Pas de fleurs ici

Pas de tiges

Pas de barque

 

L’arbre roux s’effeuille

L’agneau se noie

L’étang m’a volé mon visage

 

On n’entend que la cigale

Qui veille avec ses ailes.

 

 

Before the rebirth

 

No flowers here

No stems

No small boats

 

The red tree loses its leaves

The lamb drowns himself

The pond has stolen my face

 

We hear only the cicada

Who keeps watch with her wings.

 

 

La moisson traversée

 

Garde les yeux ouverts

Sur la moisson traversée

 

Recule les frontières de ton jardin

Laisse les eaux se perdre

Et les coeurs s’absenter

 

Si les jours égrènent ce qui sépare

Il te reste ce qui est.

 

 

The harvest field

 

Keep the eyes open

On the harvest crossing

 

Draw back the frontiers of your garden

Let the waters run to waste

And the hearts absent themselves

 

If the days reap what separates

It remains to you what is.

 

 

Chant de l’amour présent

 

Chaque image détenait son extrême

Les sentiers se mêlaient en leur nuit

 

Quand un après-midi qui fait les blés d’aurore

Soudain mon âme fut une pierre lisse ô cher repos

 

Vois la fontaine répond en métamorphoses

Ton ombre est douce à mes pensées

Vois cette soeur très naturelle

Fleurir en toute chose

Poésie ma rose illimitée

 

C’était l’après-midi qui fait les mots d’aurore

L’oiseau avait la clef de nos vies.

 

 

Song of love present

 

Every image held its outermost

Paths joined in their night

 

When one afternoon wheat sheaved from daybreak

Suddenly my soul was a smooth stone oh precious rest

 

See the fountain answer in changes

Your shadow soft at my thoughts

See that pure sister

Blossom of all things

Poetry my limitless rose

 

It was the afternoon that made the words dawn

The bird held the key to our lives.

“Au vast matin” appears in Textes pour un poème (1949-1970) and appears here with kind permission by Flammarion.

 

Remembered in Paris as La dame des deux rives––the woman who came from the banks of two rivers, the Seine and the Nile––Andrée Chedid was born in 1920 Cairo and settled in Paris after World War II. She chose French as the language in which she composed throughout her life, publishing over 20 collections of poetry, along with scores of novels, plays, short stories, essays, and children’s books. Twice awarded the Prix Goncourt, Chedid was appointed a Grand Officier de la Légion d’honneur in 2009. Of poetry, Chedid says, it “multiplies our paths, lets us see, breathe, hope. Without turning its back on reality, poetry takes us out of our narrow skin; offers both the deep and the wide.”

Marci Vogel is a native of Los Angeles and a Provost Fellow in the PhD Program in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. Her translation from French into English of Andrée Chedid’s “In the Noon of Contradictions” was selected for the 2014 Willis Barnstone Translation Prize; and recent poems, prose, and translations appear in FIELD, Poet Lore, Anamesa, Jacket 2, and the Manchester Review.

The Uncanny

Bruce Cohen

Suppose a rational man

Rations himself into an irrational man.

Construct his lifelike representation.

Take a snapshot of this pseudo-rational

Manikin.  Paint an impressionistic

Portrait of the snapshot—speckles galore.

Now click a digital photo of the painting.

Let it go viral.  With a fishing knife

Kill the man.  With a sledgehammer,

Smash the manikin.  Strike a strike-anywhere

Match to the original photograph.  Gash, not slash,

The painting with the bloody fishing knife.

The math, primarily subtraction, is subtext.

Imagine squirt-gunning hydrochloric acid

On a handsome face.  You are left with disfigurement,

The simultaneous mortality & immortality of the man

& his final image has a life void of the original

So transforms.  Is it no longer real or just art?

Notice a homeless soul sleeping over a sewer grate

In a cobalt sub-zero sleeping bag, his head

Covered—his entire un-showered body zipped in.

You see the shape of his human form

& can only assume it is a man.

It could be a woman you suppose & maybe it is not

Even a person.  You wonder if the man is

Not sleeping but dead: overdose or overexposed?

You come to realize which is different

From discovery—the sleeping bag is not a sleeping

Bag but a bronze sculpture painted speckled-blue

With a human-shaped-bulge apparently

Inside a sleeping bag. The title:

This is Not A Man Sleeping Inside a Sleeping Bag.

You are curious about the mosquito on the wall.

Is it part of the exhibit?

If you stare long enough

You can detect it is not an actual mosquito.

You think you hear buzzing.  You do hear buzzing.

A continuous film of nothing

But raindrops on gray pavement

Is ten thousand black & white still

Photographs of organic eggs frying in butter.

The elevator is miniature (five inches high)

& the female watchman

(This is her part-time gig; she’s a Community

College student) says wouldn’t it be

Awesome if we could fit inside.

Which miniature floor would it drop us off on?

Ten thousand Asian children hand paint

Pebbles to resemble sunflower seeds.

A man dumps ten thousand imitation seeds

On the museum floor & on his hands

& knees selects the most pristine,

Only a loose fistful, & places them in a hermetically

Sealed hand blown glass jar.  His knees ache

In that way knees indent when you crawl

Over pebbles.  Turquoise toilets & sinks,

Avocado kitchen appliances from the 1970’s

With matching wallpaper & rotary wall phones.

The phone never rings but as soon as you

Step outside the phone rings.

Is it your lack or presence or a manikin that has not been smashed

Calling?  Is it me or is it just me you ask.

Do all people actually die?

Is the mosquito transporting your hemoglobin,

A liquid segment of you, to another part of the globe?

The man sleeping in his sleeping

Bag doesn’t seem to stir but dreaming

People often don’t unless

They are involved in a nightmare.

Are you involved in a nightmare?

Of course there are microscopic

Elevators in our minds that don’t stop

On every floor.  Of course as much

As we don’t label them, 13th   floors exist.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could

Defy our perception of the unlucky?

You chipmunk-stuff this abundance

Of sunflower seeds & spit the shells.

You’re outside so it’s okay.

You’re inside & nobody is watching so it’s okay.

Switch: molar cracking.  Switch back.

They are infinitely salty & you have convinced yourself

You are not thirsty, floating 32 days on a life raft,

32 entire days, after your aircraft has been shot down,

Invisible sharks circling, more an oval.

Each maimed beauty more beautiful than the original.

There is an actual fishing knife

& real fish skeletons & candy seagulls, the life raft deflating

So slowly you don’t notice the rational air escaping.

 

 

 

Bruce Cohen’s poems have appeared in periodicals including AGNI, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Poetry & The Southern Review as well as being featured on Poetry Daily & Verse Daily— and he has published three volumes of poetry: Disloyal Yo-Yo (Dream Horse Press), which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize, Swerve, and most recently, Placebo Junkies Conspiring with the Half-Asleep. A new book, No Soap, Radio, is forthcoming in 2015. A new manuscript: Imminent Disappearances, Impossible Numbers & Panoramic X-Rays was recently awarded the 2015 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press and will be published in spring 2016.

View From a Shrinking Floe

Billy Collins

Beyond the boats freed from the dripping ice

and all the bewildered sailors,

beyond the breadth of the melting tundra,

 

finally, the last polar bear

paddling away from us with its head raised,

a female, it was later discovered,

 

though she reminded me of my father,

his stark white hair toward the end

and the hands constantly moving on the tray of his chair.

 

 

Billy Collins’s latest collection is Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems (Random House, 2013).  He is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College (CUNY) and a Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College.  He served as United States Poet Laureate (2001-2003).

Listening to Stone

Alice Derry

Cycladic Woman, Athens
2300 B. C.

 

The man who carved you vied and gossiped

with his fellow artists, then too fell silent,

listening to stone. No language survives,

and, like him, I’m left hearing the shape of you.

 

If you’d been made to lie down

with the dead in their graves, your arms

crossed under your breasts would make sense,

a stilled body drawn into itself.

 

Upright, you belong to us.

Your belly swells taut, what will be

the ultimate reach into two. Hmpf,

says a woman and settles her folded arms

 

solidly on the comfortable shelf

her growing baby makes.

Resting them before they’ll be needed.

It’s good to keep the self intact.

 

The long eons of our becoming,

orangutans shifting as easily

as air moves leaves in the highest branches—

arms want to bridge.

 

When they rest, I lie down and sleep, waking

as inexplicable to myself as you are,

the day calling for shape, for remembrance.

You carry the dream of your child these four millennia.

 

Standing at the glass case, my arms wrapped

in each other, I face you.  Your bright paint

is washed away—what your eyes could tell me,

how your tears might well up to meet mine.

 

The stone of you reflects the shine

in pregnant women, a confident tilt to your chin.

When your child comes, neither of you is protected.

You’ll stretch down your arms to lift her.

 

 

Tremolo is Alice Derry’s fourth full collection of poetry.  It was released by Red Hen Press on September 1, 2012.

Q&A

Alicia Ostriker

When you take off your mask, what is your true address

 

If you had a choice, which tree

would you like to be

which Beethoven symphony

 

What is the color of Robert Burns’ red red rose

 

Which is the most difficult of the ten commandments

 

Did you take Home Economics in high school, or did you take Shop

 

Who is the one who hurt you the very most? Was this in grade school

was it at home in the kitchen

in  the forest glade of bottles of beer

 

Why did they do it

 

Why could you never prevent  them hurting you

you in your jacket of anger, your                    unlaced shoes of loss

 

Whom did you hurt the very most

while considering yourself

the innocent victim

 

Why do you believe you were born in a death camp

 

When you are freezing, does it help to bite your nails

 

Do you really still shoplift

 

Why are you so fond of dancing   do you love your body that much

 

When we throw away our handcuffs, will they be buried in sand

 

Do you want your children to spend an average three hours a day

tethered to the tube

through which an entire culture feeds them lies

 

When you were alive, did you like having money

 

Did you like sex

 

Well, did you like it anyway?

 

Which train are we on   is there a quiet car   is there a car for weepers

for weapons

for widows

 

 

Alicia Ostriker is a poet and critic.  Her thirteenth poetry collection, The Book of Seventy, received the 2009 National Jewish Book Award for Poetry; The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011 received a Paterson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.  She has also received awards from the Poetry Society of America, the San Francisco Poetry Center, the Guggenheim foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation among others, and has twice been a National Book Award finalist.  Her most recent book of poems is The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog.  As a critic, Ostriker is the author of Stealing the Language: the Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, and has published several other books on poetry and on the Bible. She is Professor Emerita of Rutgers University, lives in Princeton, NJ and NYC,  and teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program of Drew University.

The Albino Squirrel

Clare Rossini

Bury it, I said.  In the field.  No,

Said Steve.  We’ll put a rock on top, I said.  No. 

 

Steve lifted the squirrel from the street, walked stiffly through

The kitchen door and down the basement stairs

 

As I spread newspaper on the laundry table

Hard lit by a humming fluorescent.  And I stood

 

At my brother’s side as he took his penknife out and slit the belly

Beneath the keel of the breastbone,

 

Through the pale mutant fur

Matted and pebbled from the street.  His hands opened the soft paunch,

 

And together we stared

Into the riddling glitter.   I closed

 

My eyes.   Say when you’re done.

The sounds of slop, Steve’s grunts, and once,

 

A low whistle.  Steve said Look

And I blinked open,

 

The table spread with heaps of innards seeping into the news.  Look

He said, insistent this time.    And the knife

 

Nosed a small slab of lung, still pink,

As if harboring a spot of wind in it.

 

Lifted an intestine’s gleaming ravel.  Then took on its tip the plum-

Prize of the heart, bruise-dark,

 

Startled out of its music.

Oh, I said, looking at my brother, and he at me, the fluorescent light

 

Floating in his glasses, two lozenge-shaped fires.  The squirrel’s

Empty pouch to one side,

 

Its small pale head

Turned tiredly away.

 

 

Clare Rossini has published three collections, the most recent of which is Lingo.  Work has appeared in PloughsharesThe Kenyon ReviewThe Paris Review, and the Best American Poetry series and has been featured on NPR and the BBC.   She is Artist-in-Residence in the English Department at Trinity College in Hartford, CT.

The Lost Explorers

Grace Schulman

Give me the lost explorers, the last-seens,

gone missings, vanished-in-fog, no wreckage found,

with names that ring with danger, like Uemura

and Crozier, or rhyme with awe, like Fawcett,

 

lost seeing Z, the last alphabet letter,

the hidden city in Brazil he’d peer at

through jungle vines. Perhaps he found it,

walked with a lover there, and never left.

 

I’m for the one who feels exile at home

and breathes deep on departures, who would quit

leather recliners for a matchbox plane

to soar in, clutching a wind-blown chart;

 

the one who drives a dogsled through the snow’s

blank pages, the way unmarked by tracks

or wheelruts, and the life an open question.

Names echo like the last notes of a fugue.

 

Watch them stir to chatter in hissing consonants

and growls of a new language; dare them to travel

across the world’s time zones until they find

extra days, past and future. I’ll cheer for

 

listeners to wind song, losing balance

only to right themselves (who hasn’t walked on,

steadier, once lost?), just as I write this

with broken compass and no GPS.

 

 

Grace Schulman’s latest book of poems is Without a Claim, (Mariner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Her recent collection of essays is First Loves and Other Adventures (U of Michigan Press, 2010. Among her honors are the Aiken Taylor Award for poetry, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and five Pushcart prizes. Editor of The Poems of Marianne Moore (Viking, 2003), she is Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY.

Schulman is former director of the Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y, 1974-84, and former poetry editor of The Nation, 1971-2006.

from Fourteen Fourteenliners

Hsia Yü trans. by Steve Bradbury

13 Though he said he would be waiting at the bistro at 6

 

Why can say passion fruit for instance always begin again

Every summer as lustrous as ever as juicy

As ever the same artful trick of many seeds or say

Peas-in-a-pod for instance or even for instance ferns?  But flesh O flesh

My dearest flesh O where have you gone?

Most likely we’ve just missed each other though he said he would be

Waiting at the bistro at 6 most likely we’ve just gotten separated

When suddenly we were violently loving in the sands of time

Two low-lying Netherlands falling into ruins collapsing

In the tulip beds

I said, c’est la vie.  Am of a mind to compile an index

An index of all those to-no-avails, before all the details have faded

We are so not like those silkworm cocoons that always begin again

We’re not so much as a fungal infection

 

 

而他說6點鐘在酒館旁邊等我

 

為什麼譬如百香果等總是可以重新開始?

每一個夏天帶著同樣的色澤同樣豐盛

的汁液同樣多子的詭辯又譬如

四季豆又甚至譬如羊齒植物。而肉體肉體

我最親愛的肉體你在哪裏?

最多就是擦身而過吧而他說6點鐘

在酒館旁邊等我最多也不外是走散了吧

但忽然我們兇猛地愛著

時間的流沙裏兩座荷蘭崩毀下陷

直到整座鬱金香的花園

我說:再見。想編一本索引

徒然的索引,在全部細節消失以前

我們不能像繭一樣地重新開始

我們甚至不能像癬

 

 

Hsia Yü is the author of six volumes of verse and a noted song lyricist and award-winning book designer. The poem translated here is from a series of fourteen fourteen-liners included in her second book of poetry, Ventriloquy, which first appeared in 1991 and has remained in print ever since. As the title of the poem perhaps suggests, many of the fourteen-liners were composed while traveling in the Mediterranean.

Steve Bradbury’s translation of Hsia Yü’s Salsa collection was recently published by Zephyr Press. He lives in northern Florida near the Ichetucknee Springs.

FEATURED SELECTION: A Journey Between the Lands

Daniel Bourne Tadeusz Dziewanowski

By way of introduction to this month’s Featured Selection, here is a splendid forward to “A Journey Between the Lands,” the collaborative work of Daniel Bourne and Tadeusz Dziewanowski written by the former, followed by the work itself and some more detailed biographical material.

featured selection 42

Reading Between the Lands: An Introduction to a Poetry Road Trip Through Northern Poland

 

As an “author’s photo,” I offer a description of myself standing on the edge of a sandy road in the little village of Sasek Mały, in the middle of the Mazurian Lake District, a region similar to northern Minnesota or Wisconsin, with a little bit of northern Michigan thrown in.  No mountains, but lots of lakes, wetlands and trees.  And this isn’t any spot, but the actual nerve center of the village—the crossroads.  As you can see from the signage, there are choices.  The top sign “Plac zabaw wiejski,” points out that behind me is the village playground.  The lower arrows motion to the right should you wish to visit the beach (do plaży) or  the village mayor (do Sołtysa)— truly opposite fates, one involving swimming and the other rural bureaucracy.  But the red arrows point off in another direction, the sandy road leading off into the forest, past the graves of a German family (with Polish last names), interred in these spots in the last months of World War II when this area was still East Prussia and on the verge of yet another disruption of family and nation and language— when even the ghosts often end up being deported. This one family plot, however, was the exception, and its collapse into the surrounding birch trees seemed to be slow, on its own terms. Maybe it was that the family’s name actually was Polish, despite the German words on the gravestones (Hier Ruht in Gott unsere liebe Mutter Auguste Chmielski geb. Kowizki). Or, perhaps the newly installed Poles decided to honor these forest graves as their own.

For a photo of Tadeusz Dziewanowski, I offer my memory of him poised by the railroad tracks leading past the ghost of the Osława Dąbrowa train station in the Kaszubian countryside to the west of Gdańsk. The only remains are that of a dilapidated sign—half buried in the ground with only a few letters of the village’s name still intact—and some old Communist-era cement outhouses, his and hers, with some globally-aware graffiti sprayed across them with true tomcat flare. Here too the world was disappearing, and Tadeusz and I were trying to notice and make sense of this ongoing vanishing. Indeed, one of the aims in Tadeusz and my “poetic road trip” conducted in August 2013 was to try to slow down the disappearance of the world we were traveling through just long enough to capture, through words, some traces of its passing. Likewise, we were aware of how we were both here in this one place in our lives and already vanishing as well, hence many of the poems from our bilingual collaboration in Polish and English were also tuned towards ourselves—our own thoughts and reactions to these glimpses of a Poland continually fading in the rear view mirror of our minds.

Thanks in part to a “New Directions Initiative” grant from the Great Lakes College Association and Henry Luce III grant from The College of Wooster, I had the good fortune to hang out in Poland from mid-July 2013 until the end of January 2014, combining my decades’ long interest in Poland and Polish literature with my equally strong interest in environmental issues. Basically, I was itching to get beyond the usual orbits of Warsaw or Kraków, of Wrocław or Gdańsk, and take a look not just at some new areas of Poland (because I have already done a lot of traveling or hiking in Poland’s more “natural” areas), but to look at these new places through a completely different lens—one involving the environment as well as culture. All fine and good. Unfortunately, however, the day after Tadeusz picked me up at the Gdansk airport, he became floored with a high fever and a nasty series of back aches that eventually was diagnosed as pneumonia. When we finally did head out on our trip, Tadeusz was still fragile. (In fact, just a few days before our departure, he had to take a final exam for a post-diploma degree in English literature he was pursuing, fielding a question on William Blake’s poetry while being delirious with a temperature of around 103 F. —He aced it.)  But as we headed out of Gdańsk at last, passing the last vestiges of shopping malls and multi-lane bypasses, I was hopeful. The admonition of William Least Heat-Moon in Blue Highways kept cycling through my head: “Look at the land; it too is medicine.” I was hoping for Tadeusz’s breathing to get stronger. And, like plums ripened on a low-hanging branch, for the poems to come.

But what we found was a world that itself was ailing, under stress. Our first stop in Oslawa Dąbrowa was hardly an interlude in a fairy tale village with peasants making paper cut outs on the doorsteps of their thatch-roofed huts. Instead, we found a place in which there was a complex and often contentious interplay of land usage: a mosaic of untended woods and both large and small scale agriculture, the presence of logging and a large cement and other building materials factory (Prefabet) alongside birch woods and reed-lined lakes where people fished and swam and hunted mushrooms. (Add to that the complexity that the Kaszubian people themselves are a Slavic group distinct from the Polish, with their own language, so that among other differences the road signs with the names of towns and villages in Kaszubia are printed bilingually.) Also taking place were new nation-wide garbage and recycling strictures that drove our landlady crazy, who not only provided us with plastic buckets to separate every scrap of refuse we produced into paper, plastic, and biodegradable components, but also provided us with hourly warnings about the need to use these containers or else. The sorting was sound, but she wasn’t so much worried about saving the earth as avoiding a fine. She was hardly a font of knowledge about the local environment either. When we asked her about the possible identity of a bright yellow bird we had seen through our binoculars as it hung out on a faraway electrical line (I thought it was some sort of European oriole counterpart while Tadeusz insisted it was a parrot solely because he wished parrots lived in Kaszubia), she snapped back that she was too busy working to worry about the names of birds. But she did brood constantly about her daughter leaving home for the big city of Gdansk or even nearby Bytów (whose glory days were actually in the 14th century when it was the site of a major castle of the Teutonic Knights). True, there were some “fairy tale” elements—for example, a nearby lake which according to a local Kaszubian legend possessed a submerged causeway that had been created by the Devil as part of a Faustian deal gone bad with a local sheepherder—but above all there were tensions in evidence that were much more contemporary: resentments towards both Warsaw and the EU for the new trash/recycling regulations; worries about fracking very similar to those in Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio; a group of young men not getting paid at a local factory on time so they ended up being thrown out of their lodging because they couldn’t pay their rent; worries about overdevelopment because of Gdańsk city-slickers (mieszczuchy) building too many vacation homes. Meanwhile, with Tadeusz’s wistful indulgence, I set about learning and naming (in Polish) all the birds and trees and plants surrounding us. I was like a kid in a candy store of language.

And this is where Tadeusz and I began our poetic dialogue, writing new texts partially in response to work that the other writer already created, but also in response to what we were noticing during the long walks we took each day. He wrote in Polish, I wrote in English, and then we translated the other’s work into our own tongue. The result is a poem-cycle in two languages, and one we hope makes sense in both Poland and the United States. Moreover, we are hopeful the excerpt you see here in Plume gives you an idea of the entirety of the project, containing as this fragment does what I think are some of the project’s central pieces.

Indeed, after Osława Dąbrowa, we then traveled onward to Sasek Mały in the Mazurian Lake District and further eastward to Białowieża Forest, the last old growth forest in Europe, located on the eastern border of Poland with Belorus. Almost 1200 square miles in area, it is approximately one half the size of the state of Delaware. It is also the site of oak trees ranging up to 600 years old, including one tree under which Władysław II Jagiełło supposedly rested before leading the Polish and Lithuanian army in a decisive victory over the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. That tree, named Jagiełło in popular parlance, survived intact until early November in 1974, when it was toppled over by a windstorm. (Legends of course are very powerful, especially since tree-ring dating established that the oak’s sprouting didn’t take place till the early 1500s.)

As with many natural regions, Białowieża still survives today due to a fortuitous interplay between its own natural features and the various twists and turns of human history. Not felled for timber or agriculture because of its boggy terrain when most of the rest of Europe’s forests were being cleared, Białowieża became a hunting preserve first for the Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania, then the Romanovs of the Russian Empire. As recently as World War II, Hermann Göring envisioned claiming Białowieża as the Third Reich’s Hunting Preserve über alles. It is also the site where the European Bison (żubr, in Polish) made its last stand, and where the only free-roaming herds of this animal currently exist in the world. There is not only a vodka (Żubrówka) and a beer (Żubr), but a luxury hotel in the village of Białowieża named after this august beast. Thus, nature is still being appropriated—but by commerce rather than czar. (It’s no different here in America, where there are countless examples of the commodification and other re-purposing of nature, including the turning of Walden Pond into a crowded summertime swimming hole). But this is the eastern Polish version of this popular narrative. Where else on this planet can you buy in one store an umbrella imprinted with a bison on its ribs as well as all sorts of Ukrainian herbal liqueurs made from balsam or black currants?

Certainly Tadeusz’s and my poems were marked by the natural features of Mazuria and Białowieża—as well as our bemusement at the commercialization and commodification we saw. But we also found ourselves almost against our wills immersed—or rather re-immersed— in the tragic human history of these seemingly remote and bucolic regions. We were here to experience to some degree “the wilderness” of Białowieża, yet Tadeusz and I instead kept coming into contact, mainly through discussions with local people, with numerous stories concerning literally centuries of ethnic cleansing and other types of strife taking place in these villages seemingly remote and buffered from the grasp of civilization. Yet, while on the one hand the imagery found in these poems we ended up writing fits within the well-known “category” of Polish historical tragedy, on the other hand what happened in our poetry (and our understanding) was a realization of the connections between natural place and these atrocities suffered by humans as well as animals. Poems such as “To the Dead Children of the Wilderness” or “Budy” (named after the village where Tadeusz and I stayed) were not the type of poems we had expected to write, but they turned out to be ones that we felt we needed to compose.

Otherwise, we will let these poems speak for themselves. Already we have presented some of them during a bilingual poetry reading held in late January 2014 at the Pionova Art Gallery in Gdansk, but this is their first appearance to an American audience. We hope that they have survived their travel from one world to another more or less intact.

Daniel Bourne, Wooster, Ohio, December 22, 2014

 

 

from A Journey Between the Lands

Glistening Wings (Daniel Bourne)

 

A day in which so much glistens

but nothing can be seen. At least the trees stay in one place

long enough to name them. Linden sap seeping onto cars, the small puddles

even a foreigner can recognize. Or the pine trees

always standing in the background, like a Greek chorus

choosing their words carefully, because they involve our fate.

 

Osława Dąbrowa, a land of geese of sand of lake. Tadeusz and I walk

the railroad’s slightly buckled tracks, the platform

already breaking into weeds, the pockmarked cement

of the old Communist era toilets

now standing side by side, pan i pani, husband and wife.

 

No wonder then, how the blue robes of the Virgin Mary gleam.

Each porcelain-fold of her statue a small country in itself, the glaze

enough to blind me as I try to watch

a small family scurry by her shining feet, their own afternoon of glare

waiting at the shallow lake, its neon crop of algae, bright bathing suits

and umbrellas, their hands held up against the glare.

 

But I keep my own eyes open. I want to name the birds,

this one with a black mask, that one with its yellow belly

perched on the power line in the distance. The unknown bird

in the rowan tree at the corner of the shed. I despise

what I recognize in English. I tell Tadeusz the words sparrow and stork,

Queen Ann’s Lace and ash, but I’m like the parent who obsesses

only with the child they can never understand.

 

But even in this village, everything keeps moving.

The dog who won’t stay home. Our landlady’s daughter

who wants to fly off  to Gdansk or Liverpool. Everything I’ve done

I’ve done for my own children, Pani Jadwiga says, clipping

a rose beside her greenhouse, rubbing

her mind once again upon the wound. But they fly off.

 

Oh my god! Oh my god! Glistening wings! Glistening wings!

 

 

Here and Now, After James Wright   (Tadeusz Dziewanowski, translated from Polish by Daniel Bourne)

 

Yellow plums, wild blackberries, the dog that joins us from the house beside the road, the call of cranes, the nodding mahogany stems of buckwheat, the warmness of the evening after a long day of cloud and chill—Dan names each thing in Polish, these gifts of time and place.

Except that here and now the dog with the big snout and one eye smaller than the other starts in eating berries from the bush and accepting us into her pack. Except that here and now the yellow plums taste succulent as peaches, the buckwheat concealing its secret life of kasha behind the white droplets of its flowers, the cranes in their courtship screeching loud as the sawmill. Except that here and now, our footprints mingle with the tracks of deer and boar, with the paw prints of the dog, when finally she deserts us in the forest and gallops off to home. Except that here and now the driver on the freight train smiles out at the stupid rube who still waits on the platform of the closed station to catch the train to Bytów. The low sun starts to blind. In a few hours the moon will shed its light on all these tangled things. Here and now I know— I have not wasted my life.

(August 10, 2013

Kaszuby, Osława Dąbrowa)

 

 

Fruits of the Forest (Runo leśne)  (Daniel Bourne)

 

Mirabellas so yellow and sweet, blueberries in August, a dog who eats blueberries as we eat blueberries tearing her tongue through the leaves and smiling from pleasure the shrill call of the cranes that made us crash through the white-flowered gryka to get closer to see them the orange yellow back of a deer in the moment she saw us she jumped straight up but then slowly loped to our right as if it was no big deal for her to take her party elsewhere.

We saw the silhouettes of the cranes but did not see the cranes we saw the insides of the berries on our fingers but did not see the berries as we ate them we saw the ants in giant rivers swimming to their anthills and their small floods up our pants legs as we turned on the road through the birch and pine but we did not see the road as it ended in the water nor the tops of the pine trees or nests of nervous birds that flitted in the blessed give of the branches that held their weight but for a moment but that was long enough.

In Kaszubia every town has a second name every word a second way of saying it every person a second language they pretend to never speak only when the forest is around them do they fall down on their knees and say the words for bird and mushroom the true words for dog and deer the true words for what has flown off beyond them in the pounding hammers of new houses built by mieszczuchy from Gdansk the last fruits of the forest the last harvest of the year when anything will taste the way it did when first they came and named the world.

 

 

Fragment in Four Colors   (Tadeusz Dziewanowski, translated from Polish by Daniel Bourne)

 

A fragment of crooked tracks from the Prefabet Factory to the next bend, just a local segment of the infinity of railroads. Beyond the wall of forest, beyond the yellow silos of the plant, lie the endless steppes of the Ukraine divided by the parallel lines of straight track, the mountain highlands wrapped in serpentine coils of steel. From Lipusz the last crows of the day return home to their nests near the abandoned station, in the darkness calling out like wild geese. Perched on a telephone wire, two lemon-yellow birds look with alarm at the black swirl of these ghosts, their silhouettes looming larger and larger in the gloom. But none of them can see what really awaits, the deep freeze of winter. The blue diesel, already turning gray in the last scraps of light, pulls its two boxcars behind it, coupled love-birds of cement and sand. And the dark cloud, laden with water, dragging its heavy belly through the tops of the pines.

(August 9, 2013

Kaszuby, Osława Dąbrowa)

 

 

Rewolucja śmieciowa (Garbage Revolution, Osława Dąbrowa, July 2013) (Daniel Bourne)

 

Sometimes Poland bursts into blossom, the dangling red necklaces

on the rowan berry trees, the tents opened around

 

the lazy blue lake, the smoke through the trees.

 

It’s Friday. One cottage over, the four boys roar in

from the cement plant, their fingers itching

 

to pull the triggers on their beer. But the landlady

 

has changed the locks on their door. Pay me, she says, pay me,

and they race off, back to Prefabet, to see if their boss

 

will cough up the cash he owes them.

 

It’s another bad weekend. None of them thinks

 

to recycle. Nothing

will ever blossom from trash. Nonetheless,

 

all over Poland

the great sorting has begun.

 

Plastyk and bio, papier and people.

Who goes in this trash can

 

and who is predestined for that one?

 

 

The Mazurian Lakes  (Daniel Bourne)

 

Sometimes too much tries to be in one place.

We drive by the fish ponds, the stained silos

on the edge of the forest to the east of Olsztynek.

So many lakes, so many trees, a fish so large

it can break a pole in two. But here,

 

it’s fin to fin, a steady rain

of antibiotics and feed

made of other fish.

 

Don’t get me wrong.

We all like to eat. The browned filet

in the black mouth of the skillet.

 

I think about this a lot, shoulder to shoulder

with a stranger in the store. Farm raised,

the package in the freezer always says.

 

As if sympathetic cows

Were mooing in the distance.

 

 

Domination  (Tadeusz Dziewanowski, translated from Polish by Daniel Bourne)

 

The alpha crow sidles along the ridge of the barn roof, trying to shoo off the magpie, who is at first taken aback, but then turns it all into a joke, as magpies are wont to do. But the top crow isn’t joking, and with little malevolent hops it scoots sideways back in the other direction, towards a crow lower down in rank, who yields immediately and skids down from the tip of the steep-tiled roof, coming to rest in an awkward pose as he wonders at the power of his gray- and black-robed boss.

A spotted old beta mare past her years disrupts the whole herd, irritating the three philosophers who have to turn their hindquarters to their sharp-hooved colleague so they can more easily complain about their ill-fitting saddles and the continual senseless jaunts through the village forest.

In the dining room the entire gang of subordinate males sits. Long ago they gave up their chance of being top dog either at work or in their family. But regular, meaty feedings put down just before their nose quickly puts to sleep the sense of struggle in these particular specimens, puny intellectuals on vacation from the big lights of Warsaw.

(August 14, 2013

Sasek Mały, Mazurian Lakes)

 

 

Bialowieża  (Daniel Bourne)

 

Does it matter that the queen of Poland slayed twenty five bison

Or her husband could kill a bear with one thrust?

This young family walking through the oak trees

Are the true denizens of this preserve, the man

Carrying their young acorn strapped to his back,

The mother with her camera pointed upwards in the branches

Of a massive beast with arms both withered and mighty.

 

These are the oaks of the Polish kings! The Grand Dukes of Lithuania!

The young boy needs his diaper changed. Meanwhile,

On the oak named after the last king of independent Poland,

I hear a woodpecker record his own history, hard beak

Drumming through the falling bark. The young boy coos.

He has a new diaper. The end of the boardwalk looms.

A group of girls swoop by on their bicycles, mad laughter and magpies.

 

 

To the Dead Children of the Wilderness (Tadeusz Dziewanowski, translated from Polish by Daniel Bourne)

     

A dead field vole, toppled oak,

the carrion beetles

dancing in their chitinous gowns

in their colored stripes

in the shallow grave of a deer print

from the snout to the tail

from paw to backbone

on the gray scrap of fur

on the black ground.

The eternal rest of Jagiełło

the slender young elms

and the hornbeam tough as steal

the linden and ash

a new generation of subjects

praying for a thin ray of sun

the one true god of the wilderness

In the cradle of the villages

stir descendants of the char-men, the shack-makers,

the wardens of beavers, the beekeepers tending forest hives,

beyond the blackened ashes of the huts the bison

croon to the children both lullabies and laments,

the balsam of Belarus liqueur

from the store Alcohols of the East

swathing perfectly all wounds

 

(August 17, 2013

Białowieża, Sioło Budy)

 

 

Budy  (Daniel Bourne)

 

Here in this tree is a figure of god crucified,

The knots in the wood are this god’s wounds

The god is the children of this village

They went shrieking to the woods like ghosts

 

This village burned like this ash tree burned

The Germans christened the war in the name of that lightning

The same lightning that slashed down the trunk of this ash tree

The sap evaporating like the body gives up the ghost

 

This place was burned and does not remain

Yes, the place is extinct but not the name of the place

As for the people drawing water from the well

Their names have rotted in the forest

 

They say the forest will last beyond us

They say this one oak tree has survived five hundred years

There is linden and maple there is ash and hornbeam

The local population was deported to Siberia

 

Tourists love to ride their bikes up the border

To piss off the edges of their worlds

This is the primeval forest of Białowieża

Where only the dying trees have second lives

 

Orthodox and Catholic Polish and White Russian

The pine hacked down until only the white bone remained

The old people tried to stay warm behind the oven

After awhile the children lay quiet scattered in the glens

 

 

A Romanticism  (Daniel Bourne)

 

Somewhere in the forest the bison steam.

It’s a cold spell. Even the birds that winter here

Are desolate in their own biology, not able

To buy a ticket out. In the bogs

 

The deer break down slowly, each hoof caught

By the slow jaw of ice. Their bellies

Grow lonely. The thin bark of the trees

Can only write to them so often, a language

 

That dies out each season and then slowly revives.

Meanwhile, in the library of each spruce and each pine,

The books all crowd together. Some years

They might speak of heaven. But this year they produce

 

Only the tight ring of hell.

 

 

Fragmenty z cyklu “Podróż przez cztery kraina” 

 

Lśniące szkrzydła, Osława Dąbrowa (Daniel Bourne, translated from English by Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Dzień w którym tak wiele lśnienia

lecz wszystko niewidoczne. Chociaż drzewa stoją w jednym miejscu

na tyle długo by je nazwać. Syrop z lipy kapie na samochody, jego ślady

rozpozna nawet obcokrajowiec. A sosny zawsze stoją w tle, jak

grecki chór wyraźnie szepczący słowa, które przepowiadają nasz los.

Osława Dąbrowa, ziemia gęsi piasku i jezior. Tadeusz i ja idziemy

krzywawym torem, peron zarosły chwastami, dziobaty

cement komunistycznych toalet dla pana, dla pani – mąż przy żonie.

Nie dziwi więc, że błękitne szaty Maryi Dziewicy tak się mienią. Każda

porcelanowa fałda, mały byt sam w sobie, wystarczający by oślepić każdego,

kto próbuje patrzeć, nawet tę małą rodzinę u progu spokojnego popołudnia.

Jaskrawe kostiumy kąpielowe, parasole, rękami zasłaniają się przed poświatą.

A ja chcę nazwać każdego ptaka -  z czarnym łebkiem czy żółtym brzuszkiem.

Dzięcioł usiadł na szczycie słupa elektrycznego. Nieznany ptak

i drzewo. Nieznany chwast pod płotem. Wypowiadam przed Tadeuszem słowa sparrow i

stork,

Queen Ann’s Lace i ash, lecz cóż rodzic może powiedzieć o dziecku, które

wszyscy dobrze znają. W tej wsi wszystko jest w ruchu. Nawet

pies nie trzyma się domu, i córka pani Jadwigi, która chce odlecieć do

Gdańska lub Liverpoolu. Wszystko, co robiłam,

robiłam dla moich dzieci - mówi

rozdrapując stare rany.

One odlatują, a skrzydła lśnią, skrzydła lśnią.

 

 

Tu i teraz (Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Mirabelki, czarne jagody, figlarna suczka z przydrożnej budowy, żurawie, gryka na wątłych, mahoniowych nóżkach, spokojny, ciepły wieczór po chłodnym i pochmurnym dniu – Dan wymienia po polsku wszystkie dary czasu i miejsca.

Tylko tu i teraz suczka z wielkim łbem i jednym mniejszym okiem potrafi jeść jagody prosto z krzaka i tak bezwarunkowo przyjąć nas do swojego stada. Tylko tu i teraz mirabelki smakują jak najlepsze brzoskwinie, gryka ukrywa przed nami tajemnicę pospolitej kaszy w drobnych białych kwiatkach, żurawie w zalotach przekrzykują się z piłą tarczową. Tylko tu i teraz  nasze ślady przeplatają się z tropem sarny i dzika, śladami galopującej do domu suczki, która nagle zostawiła nas w środku lasu. Tylko tu i teraz maszynista z towarowego uśmiecha się serdecznie do głupiego Franka, który nigdy nie doczeka się pociągu do Bytowa na nieczynnej stacyjce. Niskie słońce nas oślepia. Za kilka godzin księżyc wyjaśni nam wszystkie zawiłe sprawy. Tu i teraz czuję, że nie zmarnowałem swojego życia.

10 VIII 2013

Kaszuby, Osława Dąbrowa

 

 

Runo leśne (Daniel Bourne, translated from English by Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Mirabelki żółte i słodkie, czarne jagody w sierpniu, suka, która je owoce wraz z nami uśmiecha się radośnie wsuwając język między liście, przenikliwe wołanie żurawi wabi nas w pole biało kwitnącej gryki, spłoszona łania podskoczyła, pokazała nam pomarańczowo-żółty zad, po czym wolnymi susami, jakby zupełnie nie zależało jej na tym miejscu, skierowała swoją ważną osobę na prawo.

Widzieliśmy sylwetki żurawi, nie widząc ich samych, widzieliśmy wnętrze jagód na naszych palcach, lecz nie widzieliśmy zjadanych jagód, widzieliśmy wielkie rzeki mrówek płynące do mrowisk i małe ich strumienie na naszych spodniach, gdy skręciliśmy przez brzozy i sosny ku ginącej w wodzie drodze, której nie widzieliśmy, ani też wierzchołków sosen ani gniazd niespokojnych ptaków, które z wdzięcznością przyjmowały pomoc wiotkich gałęzi dźwigających przez moment ich szybki ciężar.

Na Kaszubach każda miejscowość ma drugą nazwę, a każde słowo można wypowiedzieć w inny sposób, każda osoba ma drugi język do którego się nie przyznaje, tylko w środku lasu pada na kolana i wypowiada nazwę ptaka i grzyba, prawdziwe nazwanie psa i jelenia, prawdziwe słowo dla nazwania czegoś co uleciało w huku młotków na budowie domu dla mieszczuchów z Gdańska, ostatnie leśne owoce, ostatnie zbiory, a wszystko smakuje, jak w dniu, kiedy tu przyszli i nazwali świat.

 

 

Fragment w czterech kolorach (Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Fragment krzywych torów od Prefabetu do zakrętu to oswojona część kolejowego kosmosu. Za ścianą lasu, za żółtymi silosami fabryki leżą bezkresne stepy Ukrainy przecięte prostą linią szerokich torów i alpejskie wzgórza oplecione serpentynami stalowych szyn. Spóźnione wrony wracają z Lipusza do swojego domu przy nieczynnej stacji kolejowej, w ciemności nawołują się jak dzikie gęsi. Dwie, siedzące na drutach telefonicznych cytrynowożółte papugi z przerażeniem patrzą na powiększone przez zmrok  czarne sylwety kraczących upiorów. Nie wiedzą jeszcze, że czeka je najgorsze – mroźna zima. Niebieska lokomotywa, teraz już szara w resztkach światła, ciągnie dwa wagony nierozłączki,  z cementem i piaskiem. Ciemna chmura pełna wody ciągnie gruby brzuch po wierzchołkach sosen.

9 VIII 2013

Kaszuby, Osława Dąbrowa

 

 

Rewolucja śmieciowa  (Osława Dąbrowa, lipiec 2013 r.)  (Daniel Bourne, translated from English by Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Czasami Polska bujnie rozkwita rozkołysanymi

gronami jarzębiny, namiotami rozbitymi

 

nad leniwym błękitem jeziora, dymem wśród drzew.

 

Jest piątek. W sąsiednim domku letniskowym ryczący chłopcy

z cementowni niecierpliwie targają zawleczki

 

piwnych granatów. Gospodyni zdążyła

 

wymienić zamki w drzwiach. Płaćcie – mówi – płaćcie.

Ruszają do Prefabetu wyciągać od szefa

 

zaległe wypłaty.

 

Następny zły weekend. Nikt z nich nie myśli

 

o recyklingu. Nic teraz nie rozkwitnie

ze śmieci. Jednak

 

w całej Polsce

zaczęło się wielkie sortowanie.

 

Plastyk i bio, papier i populacja.

Kto do tego śmietnika

 

a kto do tamtego?

 

 

Mazurskie jeziora (Daniel Bourne, translated from English by Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Czasami zbyt wiele, jak na jedno miejsce.

Mijamy stawy rybne, zardzewiałe silosy

na brzegu lasu na wschód od Olsztynka.

Tak wiele jezior, tak wiele drzew, a ryba tak wielka,

że może złamać wędkę na dwoje. Lecz tu

płetwa na płetwie, ciągły deszcz

antybiotyków i karmy

powstałej z ryb.

 

Nie zrozumcie mnie źle.

Wszyscy lubimy jeść. Brązowy filet się spełni

w czarnym łonie patelni

 

Dużo o tym myślę, ramię w ramię

z kimś obcym w sklepie. Opakowanie w

zamrażarce zawsze głosi: z hodowli.

 

Jakby krowy zaryczały

ze współczuciem w oddali.

 

 

Dominacja  (Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Wrona alfa posuwa się bokiem po kalenicy stodoły. Zdecydowanie wyprasza srokę, która trochę zmieszana obraca wszystko w żart, jak to sroka. Alfa jednak nie żartuje i naciera drobnymi kroczkami, znowu bokiem, na szeregową wronę, która z respektem zsuwa się na strome dachówki, i tak stoi cierpliwie w akrobatycznej pozycji, podziwiając moc czarno-siwego olbrzyma.

Łaciata klacz beta, agresywna chabeta, sieje zamęt w stadzie i przeszkadza trzem filozofom, którzy odwróceni zadami do kopytnych koleżanek, narzekają na niewygodne siodła i bezsensowne galopy po wiejskim lasku.

W stołówce cała gama samców gamma oddala swoją szansę na uzyskanie dominującej pozycji w pracy i w rodzinie. Regularne, kaloryczne posiłki, podane pod nos usypiają ducha rywalizacji w wątłych organizmach inteligentów z Warszawy.

Mazury, Sasek Mały

14 VIII 2013

 

 

Białowieża (Daniel Bourne, translated from English by Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Czy to ma znaczenie, że królowa Polski zabiła dwadzieścia pięć żubrów

A jej mąż potrafił uśmiercić niedźwiedzia jednym ciosem?

Młoda rodzina idąca wśród dębów

To prawdziwi bywalcy rezerwatu, mężczyzna

Niesie młodego dąbczaka na plecach,

Matka z kamerą skierowaną na korpusy

Masywnych bestii o mocarnych, choć słabnących ramionach.

 

To dęby polskich królów! Wielcy Książęta Litewscy!

Chłopiec wymaga zmiany pieluchy. Tymczasem,

Na dębie nazwanym imieniem ostatniego króla niepodległej Polski,

Słyszę dzięcioła zapisującego swoją historię, twardy dziób

Bębni przez odpadającą korę. Chłopiec gaworzy.

Ma nową pieluchę. Koniec drewnianego chodnika widać w oddali.

Dziewczęta przemykają na rowerach z szalonym śmiechem, jak sroki.

 

 

Martwe dzieci puszczy   (Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Martwa nornica, powalony dąb

Tańczące omarlice

W chitynowych sukienkach

W łowickie pasy

W płytkim grobie jeleniego kopyta

Od pyszczka do ogona

Od łapek do grzbietu

Na szarym futerku

Na czarnej ziemi.

Śpiący Jagiełło

Żywi młode wiązy

Twarde jak stal graby

Lipy i jesiony

Nowe pokolenia jego poddanych

Modlą się o promień do słońca

Jedynego boga puszczy.

W matecznikach  wiosek

Rodzą się potomkowie smolarzy

Bobrowników, budników, bartników

Na zgliszczach spalonych chałup

Żubry mruczą im kołysanki i treny

Balsam białoruskich nalewek

Ze sklepu Alkohole Wschodu

Doskonale leczy wszystkie rany

 

Białowieża, Sioło Budy

17 VIII 2013

 

 

Budy (Daniel Bourne, translated from English by Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Wewnątrz drzewa figura ukrzyżowanego

Boga. Sęki to jego rany.

Ten bóg to dzieci z wioski, które zawodząc

Szły do lasu jak duchy.

 

 

Wieś paliła się tak jak ten jesion.

Niemcy ochrzcili wojnę imieniem tamtej błyskawicy,

Która rozpłatała jego pień.

Soki wyparowały, jak duch opuszczający ciało.

 

To miejsce zostało spalone, unicestwione.

Tak, miejsce zniknęło, podobnie, jak imiona ludzi,

Którzy czerpali wodę ze studni,

Lecz nazwa została.

 

Mówią – nie będzie nas, będzie las.

Mówią – ten dąb przetrwał czterysta lat;

Stoją lipa i klon, są jesion i grab -

Mieszkańcy zesłani na Syberię

 

Turyści lubią podjeżdżać na rowerach do granicy.

Mają gdzieś krańce ich świata.

W dziewiczym lesie Białowieży

Tylko umierające drzewa mają drugie życie.

 

Prawosławni i katolicy, Białorusini polscy,

Sosna ociosana aż do białej kości.

Starzy ludzie grzali się jeszcze na przypiecku,

A już dzieci legły cicho w dolinach okolicy.

 

Romantyzm (Daniel Bourne, translated from English by Tadeusz Dziewanowski)

 

Gdzieś w lesie żubry parują.

Atak chłodu. Nawet ptaki owej zimy

Są osamotnione w swojej biologii, niezdolne

Do podróży.  Na moczarach

 

Jelenie powoli poddają się, każde kopyto łapie

Powolna paszcza lodu. W ich brzuchach rośnie

Samotność. Jedynie cienka kora drzew

pisze do nich dość często, językiem

 

Który wymiera co sezon a potem powoli odradza się.

Tymczasem, w świerkowych i sosnowych bibliotekach

Książki tłoczą się. Któregoś roku może

Przemówią niebem, lecz teraz przedstawiają

 

Tylko ciasny krąg piekła.

 

 

Born in Gdańsk in 1953, TADEUSZ DZIEWANOWSKI was involved in Polish street theater as both a writer and performer during the 1970s, and was a co-founder of the Gdansk-area creative group, Tawerna Psychonautow (The Tavern of the Psychonauts) in the 1980s. More recently, he has been a poet and translator from English.  His first book of poetry, Siedemnaście tysięcy małpich ogonów (Seventeen Thousand Monkey Tales), appeared in 2009, and his poetry, reviews and translations from English appear regularly in the major Polish literary journal Topos.  In the U.S., Daniel Bourne’s translations of his poetry have previously appeared in Plume, International Poetry Review and Cerise Press.

Daniel Bourne’s books of poetry include The Household Gods (Cleveland State University Press, 1995), Where No One Spoke the Language (CustomWords, 2006) and a collection of translations of the Polish political poet Tomasz Jastrun, On the Crossroads of Asia and Europe (Salmon Run, 1999). He teaches in the English Department and Environmental Studies at the College of Wooster, where he edits Artful Dodge. His many trips to Poland include a graduate fellowship between Indiana University and Warsaw University in 1982-83 and a Fulbright fellowship in 1985-87 for the translation of younger Polish poets. His poems have appeared in such journals as Plume, Ploughshares, FIELD, Guernica, American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Salmagundi, Tar River Poetry and Cimarron Review. His translations of other Polish poets such as Bronisław Maj and Zbigniew Machej appear in FIELD, Boulevard, Mid-American Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere.  In July 2013, Plume printed as its Special Feature his translations of another Polish poet, “The Angel’s Share:  Six Poems by Krzysztof Kuczkowski.”  Finally, “Agitprop” and “To the Feral Cats of Vilnius,” two of Bourne’s poems from his collection Where No One Spoke the Language and originally appearing in Salmagundi, will be re-printed in a special issue celebrating that journal’s 50th anniversary in the coming year.