Margo Berdeshevsky
“CHEVY LEGS” 
[for the sex and the music—Havana, Cuba]

Margo Berdeshevsky
“CHEVY LEGS”
[for the sex and the music—Havana, Cuba]

Editor’s Note

Readers:

 

First, this just in: Plume at AWP:  Friday, April 10, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm 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). I am looking for readers! The time slots will be short  (brief? small?) — 5-8 minutes. Perhaps not so taxing then, yes?

Those of you who might be interested, and have appeared (or will be appearing) in our pages, please contact me at plumepoetry@gmail.com

If more than we can accommodate express a desire to read, we’ll operate on the first come, first served basis.   

 

Now, then –

 

December:  Month of dread for many, those recluses and cynics among us, under whose soiled banners I, too, have marched for too long, I think. And if not dread, a kind of surrender to the holidays’ dolphin’s smile as it has come to be: its soul-crushing perfunctory-ness.

But: for others: something like real joy: the opportunity to give to and of themselves, sincerely and without reservation. And how fortunate we are that they are among us!  It is to them, then, that we turn now, happily.

The premise was simple. In fact, I quote its entirety here, from the email I sent to some of our contributors:

Name the book that you would like to receive for Christmas this year

and/or

Name the book that — supposing you had lots of money lying about — you would press on your most cherished friends

Below, then, their replies, some short and sweet, others with a bit of (interesting, illuminating) explanation, amended where needed to fit this forum. In order of their arrival in my Inbox:

 

Marc Vincenz

1. The book I would like to receive for Christmas this year:

C.G.Jung, The Red Book (Philemon)

2. The book I would press on my friends if I had lots of money lying about:

The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom, ed. Ben Mazer, Un-Gyve Press

 

Idra Novey

A book I would press upon my friends: Laura Sims’ My God is This a Man (Fence Books).

 

Rosanna Warren

The books I’d like to receive for Christmas (assuming a Santa with deep pockets): the five volume Bollingen edition of The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

The book I’d press on friends (and in fact have pressed on at least one person): Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate, translate by Robert Chandler, published by The New York Review of Books Classics Series. This novel has changed my life.

 

Daisy Fried

I already have “Marvelous Things Overheard” by Ange Mlinko (FSG), but it should have gotten lots more attention than it did, so I’m endorsing it! It’s just over a year old, and recently out in paperback.

 

Ron Slate

If I could have but one book as a gift for the holiday this year …

Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography

Yale University Press (published 11/11/14)

$75.00 hardcover

 

John Skoyles

The book I would like to give as a gift is: Federico Fellini’s The Book of Dreams, which my friend Pamela Painter gave to me before it was $645 as it lists now on Amazon.

The book I would like to receive is the newly published

New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight Hardcover – by Jenni Quilter

 

David Huddle

Mark Wunderlich’s The Earth Avails (Graywolf)

 

Billy Collins

I would give any one in the series of about 40 volumes in the animal series put out by Reaktion Books in the UK.  Might start with SWAN, PIG, DOG–it makes little difference as the series is as addictive as salted peanuts.

I would love to receive the new reissue of the classic THE POETICS OF SPACE by Gaston Bachelard from Penguin Classics.  My copy of the original is frayed.

 

David Baker

I’d love to receive the new novels by Toni Morrison and Kent Haruf, though I think neither novel is yet available.  SO: I’d like to give (if I had bottomless pockets) “The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson” to my friends.  This is the two-volume oversized hardback boxed collection of all her poems, in her handwriting.  That is, these are copies of all the fascicles, in her arrangement.  Harvard University Press.  This changes how you see and understand the poems.

 

Phillis Levin

The one I’d like to receive would be Pieter Bruegel by Larry Silver. To give, I’d “press” (gently, since it’s a boxed set of 7 volumes) August Sander: People of the 20th Century, edited by Susanne Lange and Gabriele Conrath-Scholl.

 

Troy Jollimore

Which book would I want to get for Christmas? I’ll go with “The Banquet: The Complete Films, Plays, and Librettos” by Kenneth Koch. Which I will probably just end up buying for myself at some point.

And which book would I give to all my friends? I’m sure you’d get a thousand different answers depending on when you asked me, but right now I’m in love with Brenda Hillman’s latest book, “Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire.”

 

Nicole Cooley

Book I would like for Christmas: The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems.  Even the outside is so gorgeous I can hardly stand to look at it!

Book I would give to friends: Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Best book ever about what it is like to be a parent and a human being in the world.

 

David Rivard

The History of Rock n’ Roll in Ten Songs–Greil Marcus

 

Lisa R. Spaar

The book I’d most like to receive and press on my beloveds is a catalogue published in conjunction with an art exhibit I’d very much like to view at Christie’s Mayfair in London (you see, the necessity of airfare &c!):

THE BAD SHEPHERD:  THE BREUGHEL DYNASTY IN CONVERSATION WITH CONTEMPORARY ART

The exhibition opened on 10 October 2014 and runs, I believe, into January 2015.  In addition to bringing the astonishing work of the Breughels into visual dialogue with contemporary artists, the catalogue contains glosses by the exhibition curators (Darren Leak, Jacob Uecker, and Alexis Ashot) but also texts by poets such as William Carlos Williams, for whom the quotidian, luminous work of the Breughels has been a touchstone.

 

Carol Muske-Dukes

The book I have (but which I’d buy for all my friends) would be Mark Strand’s Collected Poems, out this year.

 

Hank Lazer

to receive:
O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica (Siglio Press)

to give:

David Hinton, Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape (Shambhala)

 

Alberto Rios

Without making the exchange precious—that is, books that are exorbitant in price, or otherwise overly special—I would gravitate to the simple conversational exchange of books I’m interested in at the moment.  And there are always books I’m interested in at the moment.  The one I’d press on someone else right now is When My Brother was an Aztec, by Natalie Diaz.  The poems are unlikely subject matter made to rise, and we are made to care.  The book I’d like to get comes as something of a confession—To Kill a Mockingbird.  It’s just one of those things that happens, but I never read it, not really.  I pretended to read it in high school, and that was that.  I’ve come to know better.  It’s time, and I now want to read it.

 

Mark Wunderlich

I would most like to receive a book of photographs by Charles Feger, called Wilder Mann: The Image of the Savage.  The book documents European traditions of costuming in the form of animals, monsters, demons.  It’s a gorgeous and strange group of photos.

As for a book I would love to give to everyone, I really love Matias Viegener’s book 2,500 Random Things About Me Too, published last year by LesFigues Press.  The book is a memoir of sorts, attempting to be “random.”  The result is a moving, smart and beautiful book.

 

Terese Svoboda

I’d liked to receive The Appointment by Herta Muller

I’d liked to give Maureen Seaton’s New and Selected Poems Fibonacci Batman

 

Barbara Ras

Receive: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, Anthony Doerr

Give:  A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA, Anthony Marra

 

Dorianne Laux

Mark Doty’s Fire to Fire, Ruth Stone’s Collected: What Love Comes To, and Lucille Clifton’s Collected: 1965-2010. I would like to give this bound trilogy to as many people as possible who, after they read them from cover to cover, would have a bird’s eye view of a poetry America can be proud of producing. Mark Doty is one of the clearest voices writing today. He takes us through the streets of New York, lushly revealing its beauty and pathos, and documenting the tragedy of the AIDS pandemic in language as stark as the skeletal men he has loved and lost.  Ruth Stone has probably been writing for the longest, watching the world move from the heart of the home to outer space, from the simple shape of the circle to the complexity of the fractal. Lucille Clifton speaks the loud, full, rounded truth of the black woman who has dared to live through the worst of our country’s history and emerge triumphant. Three brilliant, various and distinctive voices representative of important aspects of our cultural psyche.

 

Clare Rossini

I spend so much time with books of words that I often take refuge in books of pictures, where my eyes may feast on reproductions of paintings I love.  Of these, the one I would wish for every friend is Giorgio Morandi 1890-1964: Nothing Is More Abstract Than Reality.  The catalog of a 2008-09 exhibition organized by the Met in New York and  the Museo d’Arte Moderna in Bologna, this volume contains a rich selection of Morandi’s work, including a series of vase paintings that always and ever calm me with their intimate scale and pale, tender palette.  Morandi often has been called a painter-poet; his cloistered life and impassioned, eccentric sensibility make me think of Emily Dickinson.  Never easy or sentimental, Morandi’s paintings nonetheless provide a respite from our noisy, often heart-breaking world.

 

Maurice Manning

A book I’d be glad to have for Christmas is Richard Holmes’s The Age of Wonder, How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Vintage, 2009).  For whatever reason this book had escaped my attention, but I just read a great article by Holmes in The New York Review of Books and I learned about this book.  Why?  I think we’re still living with the influence of Romanticism.

If I could peruse a top-flight used bookstore I’d be on the look-out for anything by Vachel Lindsay.  I love his spirit.  He picked up the torch from Whitman.  I’d also be glad to have complete editions of Robert Hayden’s first two books from the 1940s.

 

April Bernard

Book I plan to give:  Hillary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatchereerie, complex stories from this moment’s very best writer of fiction. When a short story is perfect, as many of these are, I think of them as poetry in prose.

 

Peter Cooley

​​Book I’d like to receive: HEADWATERS  by Ellen Bryant Voigt published by Norton

Book I’d  give to others: BEFORE THE DOOR OF GOD: AN ANTHOLOGY OF DEVOTIONAL POETRY  ed. by Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson and published by Yale.

 

Charles Bernstein

Paul Celan,  Breathturn into Timestead, translated, with commentaries, by Pierre Joris (FSG, 2014)

 

Chase Twichell

For both: Emily Dickinson’s The Gorgeous Nothings, facsimiles of her scribbles on envelopes and various other small pieces of paper. Fabulous!

 

Carol Frost

A first edition copy of Hart Crane’s The Bridge is what I’d love to have. I’d give Memoirs of Hadrian (Margarite Yourcenar) to all my friends.

 

D. Nurkse

Book for the holidays (any denomination): Kei Miller, THE CARTOGRAPHER TRIES TO
MAP A WAY TO ZION. A mythic Jamaican poem.
Daniel Tobin 

To Receive and to Give:  Agha Shahid Ali, The Veiled Suite

 

Again, I thank you, and Amex no doubt thanks you, for these recommendations. (And my gift to you:  respite from youthful ramblings in this Note. Our “secret poem: will reappear next issue, too.)

But: again, to business:

The print Plume Anthology of Poetry 2014 is almost complete – we have our Featured Poet – and I think you will be pleased. Not naming just yet – I want to keep something up my sleeve.

(Again: on the off chance that you, poets, are interested in reading for PLUME or might want to organize a reading in your own neighborhood, please, email me at plumepoetry@gmail.com – we’ll make every effort to accommodate you, I promise.)

Our cover art this month is from Margo Berdeshevsky, currently living in Paris. Her newest collection of poetry is “BETWEEN SOUL & STONE” (Sheep Meadow Press/2011.) Her book of illustrated stories, “BEAUTIFUL SOON ENOUGH” (University of Alabama Press/ 2009) received the American Book Review/Ronald Sukenick Award for Innovative Fiction. Her poetry collection, “BUT A PASSAGE IN WILDERNESS,” was published by Sheep Meadow Press in 2007. She writes the “Letters From Paris” column in Poetry International.

Note: some changes alluded to in the previous issue’s Note remain afoot and will be fully realized after the start of the new year.

Next up, after this issue’s Featured Selection of Five South African poets (introduced by Harry Owen),  in  no particular order, Luljeta Lleshanaku, translated and with an introduction/ interview with Ani Gjika conducted byour Nancy Mitchell; Emmanuel Moses, translated and with an introduction by Marilyn Hacker;  Daniel Bourne and Tadeusz Dziewanowski in collaboration; Gennady Aygi and the great Russian Tatar painter Igor Vulokh, also in collaboration; Nin Andrews, 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, the list of  New Work Received this month, as we continue gathering material for the print anthology as well as the online issues. Yet more to come, but for the moment: Sandra Gilbert, Hank Lazer, Bob Hicok, Rae Armantrout, Barbara Ras, Rosanna Warren, Chase Twichell, Chelsea Wagenaar, Maurice Manning, Benno Bernard (translated by David Colmer), D. Nurkse, Mark Irwin, Terese Svoboda, Jane Springer, Kate Falvey, Lisa Russ Spaar, Catherine Breese Davis (with thanks to Martha Collins), Ye Mimi (translated by Steven Bradbury), Karthinka Nair. David Huerta (translated by Mark Weiss).

As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!

 

Daniel Lawless

Editor, PLUME

Two Poems

Robin Behn

Gifts

D.D.

 

Books, your books, and blocks

of darkest chocolate on my desk,

luscious, viscious.

 

And the vintage paper doll kit,

“Instant people, for your first house!”—

conjoining wedding cake skirts and stovepipe hats and cats

of the tribe of the continuous tail

and real nesting Russian dolls, her joke about the inner life,

where it gets women…

 

And,  How to Make a Fire:

pre-soaked logs from the A&P,

little rocker drawn up so close the rockers smoke—

 

Incendiary queen.

Her subjects.

 

 

The List

D.D.

 

In the day’s last light      eye-high      there

less than a hand’s      reach into     the holly

the fledgling’s stiff legs      chopsticks      jut up

out of the twig bowl where

how to say it

the red crested head was

ground to spice      the moment      of your vanishing

so loud      ringing the void     so complete      it

pulverized this       fragile antenna      so pungent

it swept on through all the world’s creatures

divining     as your poems did      their course

 

Then all night long

a windy bush-shaped      sharp red song

scorching the dark      scolding

 

Who hung the homemade suet

that beckoned my enemies close?

This was my turf my zone my loves

my puffy tattered earthly home—

You helped? Now look what you’ve gone and done!

 

Oh bird-gone-into-the-dark

who sets my whole life-list aflame

at the mention of your public name

 

 

Robin Behn won the 2001 Brittingham Prize in Poetry and is the author of three collections of poetry, Horizon Note, Paper Bird, and The Red Hour.  She directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Alabama.

Shaft of Light

Hélène Cardona

Smile behind the lips

her face a sunflower

in a garden of trees

 

The eyes of the seagull open

Choose your beach

tears caught in the throat

 

Stand in mountain pose

breathe the flame of the ghost

a shift in reality

 

I lost my mind

hanging in the void

A voice enters

 

shaft of light

God’s finger in the shallows

consoling my inner weather

 

 

From Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry, 2016)

 

 

 

Hélène Cardona is the author of Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry), winner of the Pinnacle Book Award and the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Award, The Astonished Universe (Red Hen Press), Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry, 2016), and Ce que nous portons (Éditions du Cygne), her translation of What We Carry by Dorianne Laux. She holds a Master’s in American Literature from the Sorbonne, taught at Hamilton College & LMU, and received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut & Universidad Internacional de Andalucía. She is Co-Editor of Dublin Poetry Review & Levure Littéraire, and Managing Editor of Fulcrum. Publications include Washington Square, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The Warwick Review, Irish Literary Times, & more.  Acting credits include Chocolat, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hundred-Foot Journey, etc. For Serendipity, she co-wrote with Peter Chelsom & Alan Silvestri the song Lucienne, which she also sang.

 

What They Told Me At The Boy’s Club In Gainesville

Tony Hoagland

Right over there, in the public library, that’s where Rahul got shot–

all engrossed in front of the science fiction shelf, reading Teenage Nymphomaniacs from Mars

 

with a studious expression and a moderate erection

which may be why he got taken by surprise.

 

They took him downtown in the ambulance, but left the crime scene cordoned off and

a pool of blood on the hardwood library floor for evidence,

 

right under the murder mysteries,

like some kind of promotional display;

 

And Mrs. Kennedy kept the checkout desk open till nine P.M., out of principle, even

though she was frowning and crying the whole two hours,

 

and making little noises to herself

which in a book might have been described as “muffled cries for help.” And

 

Rahul, who didn’t make it all the way to closing time,

 

died in the corridor of Mercy General,

and left his seventeen-year-old body on the crash cart

 

with the unused library card in his front shirt pocket, as he

himself was a book that was never carefully read.

 

To some it signified the need

for more metal detectors;

 

for others it was definite proof

that reading can be bad for your health

 

but when the priest at the funeral said that Rahul had gone to a better place we

could only hope that it looked nothing like Gainesville, Florida;

 

and it made us feel better to imagine

that the angels who met and took him there

 

appeared in the disguise

of teenage nymphomaniacs from Mars.

 

 

 

Tony Hoagland’s four collections of poems include What Narcissism Means to Me and Donkey Gospel. A new book of essays on poetic craft and art, Twenty Poems That Could Save America,  hhas just been published by Graywolf Press. He teaches at the University of Houston, and also at the Warren Wilson low residency MFA. In 2012, he started Five Powers of Poetry, a program for coaching high school teachers in the teaching of poetry in the classroom.

Gun Notes

David Huddle

1.

This man and I softly discussed hunting

at a dinner party. I’d just met him,

we’d liked each other immediately,

but we spoke carefully, as nowadays

men must do who aren’t looking to argue.

 

I asked if he’d advise me on a matter

that’d been nagging me: I owned a shotgun

but had lost track of where the ammunition

was in the house, and I’d become concerned

about defending myself and my wife

 

in case of a break-in.  Should I buy shells

for the gun was my question.  My new friend

had tales to tell of tragic accidental

shootings and near shootings.  Finally, though,

 

 

2.

he said yes, buy the shells.  When I asked if

I should load the shotgun–it’s a ladies’

410 gauge side-by-side my grandfather bought

for my grandmother that she had never fired–

Clayton–that’s his name–said, Definitely not,

 

put the box of shells high up in the closet

where you keep the gun.  This was wise advice.

Clayton and I both knew if intruders

broke in, it’d be unlikely I could fetch

the box down, pluck out the shells, and load them

 

in time to confront the perps with my antique

shotgun, and even if I could have, would that

have been what I wanted?  We both knew

I just needed a way to pretend I was safe.

 

 

3.

Datillio’s Gun Shop & Gas Station

holds three young men, a leathery old codger

and a boy about twelve, surrounded

by displays of archery equipment,

towering shelves of ammunition, pistols

beneath glass cases, rifles and shotguns

on racks above and behind the counter

–and it’s still a working filling station!

 

All five males scrutinize me steadily

when I say what I want. They listen to me

describing the shotgun to the one

wearing camouflage who asks me what size

shells I have in mind.  The six of us determine

two-inch shells are what I should buy.  Small, heavy

box in my hand, weirdly validated,

I walk out into November’s fading light.

 

4.

Twilight when I get home, house to myself,

I unsheathe Grandmama Huddle’s shotgun

from its canvas case to carry it downstairs

and reckon with it in the family room.

 

I’d forgotten how a gun in my hand

unmoors me, turns me into somebody

capable of I don’t know what.  Here

with a TV, a rocking chair, toys, books,

 

a poinsettia, I fool with my weapon.

I open it, squint down the empty barrels,

load and unload the shells, switch the safety

on and off.  In this room I don’t raise the gun

 

to my shoulder, nestle it against my cheek

place my finger on the trigger.  Wrong to do that.

 

 

5.

My childhood home had rifles from three wars

mounted on its walls; a snub-nose thirty-eight

stashed in a bureau drawer underneath

my father’s socks; air rifles and pellet guns

in closets and back rooms. I adored the cap-guns

and holsters Santa Claus brought me for Christmas.

I once pointed an empty BB gun

at my brother’s ear and pulled the trigger.

I’ve hunted deer, shot birds and rabbits.

Most days in the army I carried a rifle

or a pistol.

The twenty first-graders shot

in Newtown made me want never to see

another gun.  Those dead kids, shot again

and again, made me want to kill somebody.

 

6.

Violence-addicted gun-idiot

America, I’d shed you like a rattlesnake

scraping off its old skin except I’d still

be a rattlesnake.

My wife and I said

we’d move to Canada if George Bush was

elected a second time, and he was,

and we didn’t.

We had our excuses,

still have them, but we could leave today if

we really wanted to, if we weren’t

who we are,

believers like our parents

and theirs,

citizens blind to what we do now–

kill our children, shame and imprison our poor,

dishonor our old folks, and make our crooks rich.

 

I have a gun in my house.  Don’t fuck with me.

 

 
David Huddle’s fourth novel, The Faulkes Chronicle, was published by Tupelo Press in September 2014, and LSU Press will publish his eighth book of poems, Dream Sender in Fall 2015.  He lives in Burlington, Vermont.

Ayotzinapa

David Huerta trans. Mark Weiss

On September 23rd 43 students of the teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, were detained by the police on the way to a protest, and handed over to a local drug cartel. They were tortured and killed, their budies dismembered, dumped in a pit and incinerated. Mexico has been in turmoil since.

 

 

We bite the shadow

And in the shadow

The dead appear

As lights and fruit

As beakers of blood

As rocks from the pit

As branches and leaves

Of tender viscera

 

The hands of the dead

Are drenched in anguish

And twisted gestures

In the shroud of the wind

They bring with them

An insatiable sorrow

 

This is the land of ditches

Ladies and gentlemen

The land of screams

The land of children in flame

The land of tortured women

The land that barely existed yesterday

And today where it was is forgotten

 

We are lost between puffs

Of hellish sulphur

And irresistable fires

Our eyes are open

And stuffed

With broken glass

 

We extend

Our living hands

To the dead and the disappeared

But they back away from us

With a gesture of infinite distance

 

The bread is burnt

The faces of life are uprooted

And burnt and there are no hands

Nor faces

Nor country

 

There’s just a vibration

Thick with tears

A long howl

Where we have confused

The living with the dead

 

Whoever reads this must know

That they were cast into the sea of the smoke

Of cities

Like a sign of the broken spirit

 

Whoever reads this must also know

That in spite of all

The dead have neither gone

Nor been made to disappear

 

That the spell of the dead

Is in sunrise and spoon

In foot and cornfield

In sketches and river

 

We gave to this spell

The calm silver

Of the breeze

 

To our dead

To our youthful dead

We delivered the bread of the sky

The sprig of waters

The splendor of all sadness

The whiteness of our condemnation

The forgetting of the world

And the shattered memory

Of all that live

 

Now brothers

It’s best to be silent

To open one’s hands and mind

So as to harvest from the cursed land

The shards of hearts

Of all who are

And all

Who have been

 

 

Ayotzinapa

Mordemos la sombra

Y en la sombra

Aparecen los muertos

Como luces y frutos

Como vasos de sangre

Como piedras de abismo

Como ramas y frondas

De dulces vísceras

 

Los muertos tienen manos

Empapadas de angustia

Y gestos inclinados

En el sudario del viento

Los muertos llevan consigo

Un dolor insaciable

 

Esto es el país de las fosas

Señoras y señores

Este es el país de los aullidos

Este es el país de los niños en llamas

Este es el país de las mujeres martirizadas

Este es el país que ayer apenas existía

Y ahora no se sabe dónde quedó

 

Estamos perdidos entre bocanadas

De azufre maldito

Y fogatas arrasadoras

Estamos con los ojos abiertos

Y los ojos los tenemos llenos

De cristales punzantes

 

Estamos tratando de dar

Nuestras manos de vivos

A los muertos y a los desaparecidos

Pero se alejan y nos abandonan

Con un gesto de infinita lejanía

 

El pan se quema

Los rostros se queman arrancados

De la vida y no hay manos

Ni hay rostros

Ni hay país

 

Solamente hay una vibración

Tupida de lágrimas

Un largo grito

Donde nos hemos confundido

Los vivos y los muertos

 

Quien esto lea debe saber

Que fue lanzado al mar de humo

De las ciudades

Como una señal del espíritu roto

 

Quien esto lea debe saber también

Que a pesar de todo

Los muertos no se han ido

Ni los han hecho desaparecer

 

Que la magia de los muertos

Está en el amanecer y en la cuchara

En el pie y en los maizales

En los dibujos y en el río

 

Demos a esta magia

La plata templada

De la brisa

 

Entreguemos a los muertos

A nuestros muertos jóvenes

El pan del cielo

La espiga de las aguas

El esplendor de toda tristeza

La blancura de nuestra condena

El olvido del mundo

Y la memoria quebrantada

De todos los vivos

 

Ahora mejor callarse

Hermanos

Y abrir las manos y la mente

Para poder recoger del suelo maldito

Los corazones despedazados

De todos los que son

Y de todos

Los que han sido

—David Huerta / 2 de noviembre de 2014. Oaxaca ( permission to reprint from the author )

 

 

 

David Huerta is one of Mexico’s most celebrated poets. He is the author of twelve books. A generous sampling of his poetry, translated into English by Mark Schafer, Before Saying Any of the Great Words: Selected Poems, has been published by Copper Canyon .

Mark Weiss has published 10 books of poems, as well as four books of translations of Spanish-language poetry. He has edited anthologies of Cuban and Mexican poetry

Mr. Blake’s Skin Don’t Dirt

Maurice Manning

attributed to Catherine Blake

 

Because the vanishing point hovers

ridges away and miles in the distance

of gray-green oblivion

to illuminate on a nearer ridge

the white speck of a house, it opens

the mind to wonder beyond what is seen

and only dimly perceived.  I like

this kind of scene—very little

is known, and yet it’s decorated

lavishly with absence.  Art,

before it’s made, may be like this,

and art, when finished or left unfinished,

may be like this.  And love, so long

in understanding, may be like this.

I suppose we need reflection, we need

something beyond us pointing back.

And perhaps we need to imagine a house,

no bigger than a dot on the ridge,

is the home of someone who spends the morning

or evening dabbling in beauty,

or having elevated thoughts

on what makes beauty beautiful

and how something missing is key.

And perhaps we need to look at the world

and imagine something that isn’t there

and then imagine something that is.

 

 

 

Maurice Manning’s most recent books are The Gone and the Going Away and The Rag-Picker’s Guide to Poetry, co-edited with Eleanor Wilner.  Manning teaches at Transylvania University and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.  He lives in Kentucky.

July Saturday Night 

Gail Mazur

Now I’m going to walk downtown to Cape Tip Sportswear

And buy a swimsuit. Downtown, noisy and busytonight

That feels okay to me. Long trucks still delivering breads and cokes

And not-so-fresh produce to Bubala’s and the Stormy Harbour.

The daytrippers back-packed up and gone on the ferry,

Have tossed their empties into yards, and the Sunday-to-

Saturdays gone, their vans packed, the town bike racks empty,

Gone last night’s illegal firecrackers. Tomorrow the beginning—

Another week, peach ice cream cones, foot-long hot dogs, salt water

Taffy.  Cosmopolitans. Still, mornings when I walk downtown, everyone

Passing with dogs, without dogs, with containers of coffee, everyone

Smiles and says Good Morning! though some without this

Punctuation, their mouths determined simulacra of small-town

Friendliness. I like it, starting the day with a “Beautiful dog!”

Or even just Good morning, good morning, good morning.

Some conversation. Tomorrow, I’m sure of it, I’ll be swimming

In the silvery bay in my new Speedo, but tonight, something here

Has closed, something else opened in the passing faces,

In the ones who don’t smile, in the ones that do smile.

You sense another day of shame, another day of disappoint-

Ment with themselves, with the place they’ve come to,

The couples and the uncoupled, another day ending with grief,

Mouths not tight now, really, but tired or wistful, the smiles

Tired, or trying too hard, or very drunk, you feel it, you know it,

And the little town knows it, too, but to survive ignores it.

Also the dogs, the high-strung cats, the skunks and coyotes.

 

 

 

Gail Mazur’s most recent book, Zeppo’s First Wife: New & Selected Poems, (Chicago, 2005) won the 2006 Massachusetts Book Award,   and was a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize. She is author of four  earlier books of poetry, Nightfire, The Pose of Happiness, The Common, and They Can’t Take That Away from Me (University of Chicago Press, 2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001.

Double Sonnet Ending in New Testament

Erika Meitner

This poem is meant to have the make and model

of a vehicle in it, include a food I dislike, a musical

instrument. He gave up the cello. There were multiple

mandolins on his worktable. An item that is broken

beyond repair? My body. That’s easy. This & this

& this. A love note that falls into the wrong hands?

Every poem I have ever written. Please stop posting

your thumbs-up sonogram pictures. I don’t care

if you’re 43. If you’re an exception or a miracle or

whatever you are. A bird of prey. His son was learning

to be a falconer. Are these like vultures? I’m not sure.

An item of lost clothing—this doesn’t happen often

now that I’m married. Remember those bras

that went missing in apartments, knapsacks, cars?

 

Bless that time: fear of conception. Holy ruckery

& whiskey & some guy. I drive the highway

in my Honda Civic to the phlebotomist, try to arrive

early to avoid the trainee who always leaves

the bloodless needle halfway in my arm, then

calls for help to the other woman who looks like

a former heroin addict or the Mennonite; both can

deftly navigate my scarred veins. Falcons are

the fastest moving creatures on earth. Your baby

this week is the size of a poppy seed, a sweet pea,

a black olive. I hate olives. In the lab, they play

Spirit FM & don’t know anything about me. The DJ

croons, ‘I am the vine & you are the branches. Those

who remain in me, & I in them, will bear much fruit.

 

 

 

Erika Meitner is the author of four books of poems—most recently, Copia (BOA Editions, 2014).  She is currently the Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Creative Writing at Queen’s University, Belfast.  She is also an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she teaches in the MFA program.  https://www.boaeditions.org/bookstore/copia.html

 

Bad Harvest

Dzvinia Orlowsky

               “even if it was mentioned, it was one sentence…”

The Ukrainian Weekly:  Day of Memory,
Recollections of Famines

  

Swallow

Does my name take your tongue’s

otherwise unclaimed space?

 

Swallow once for me.

These gooseberries are not stones,

 

this cup of water,

this cup of water.

 

Famine

My father worked, mother waited in line

at night for maloyem, crust thin as a wrist,

a breath, an octave

 

between one child

and the other lying in snow,

how blue that blue.

 

Dnister River Snails

faces, green grey,

like of those fallen with swollen bellies

 

The snails promised

we’ll hold you

 

until summer.

 

Eating Grass

no livestock   no chickens

no crumbs

 

hunger  if it could open its mouth wide enough

open its wide enough

open wide enough

 

hunger would tear

out the windows

 

Shortly before Deaths

of those already called back to air,

 

silk plums of your bruised feet split

& you dreamed, instead,

 

of slipping through any weightless surface.

 

Want

Come out we have a doll for you

 

Neighbors disguised–kindly,

not succumbing.

 

Never open the door.

 

I am not afraid to speak of this

a cry from the heart

given by my parents,

 

a grain from the burning storage chamber

doused with kerosene,

 

the meat from the market–

 

no history

no pigweed, no stinging nettles left.

 

 

Dzvinia Orlowsky is a poet and translator.  She is the author of five collections of poetry published by Carnegie Mellon University Press including A Handful of Bees, reprinted in 2009 as a Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary; Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, recipient of a 2010 Sheila Motton Book Award; and her most recent, Silvertone, for which she was named Ohio Poetry Day Association’s 2014 Co-Poet of the Year. Her translation from Ukrainian of Alexander Dovzhenko’s novella, The Enchanted Desna, was published by House Between Water in 2006; and Jeff Friedman’s and her co-translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun was published by Dialogos in 2014.  She is a Founding Editor of Four Way Books and a recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a Massachusetts Cultural Council poetry grant.

 

 

 

This Could Happen

Susan Rich

If you kept walking you would eventually step out of yourself.

You would leave the bones of your body,

 

the bloodlines to all that you loved.

 

You would be free of breasts and legs, liberated

from the eyes of body admirers—

 

To travel this earth again like star lily or skunk flower

 

with the forbearance of golden bees.

If you kept walking out of yourself

 

you could begin again as seawater, as spindrift.

 

Don’t worry you’d say to yourself

you’re a virgin non-body, you’re a witness

 

to ten thousand new worlds.

 

No lungs, no heart, no breath—

Irresistible now, what might you see?

 

A bird’s dying shudder

 

or lovers knotted in a plotline of release?

You’re an example now

 

of nothing, a fountain of nowhere—

 

 

Susan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry including Cloud PharmacyThe Alchemist’s Kitchen, named a finalist for the Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award, Cures Include Travel, and The Cartographer’s Tongue, winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry and the Peace Corps Writers Award. Along with Brian Turner and Jared Hawkley, she is editor of The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders. She has received awards and fellowships from Artist Trust, CityArtists, 4Culture, The Times Literary Supplement of London, Peace Corps Writers and the Fulbright Foundation. Rich’s poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, New England Review, and the Southern Review.

Free Descent

Martha Serpas
m4s0n501

i

It seemed I had always been kicking

in the fringing reefs, fiddling with my breathing

to find a buoyancy I thought was neutral.

 

Don’t get me wrong: there was charm

to the coral coliseum, light curling

right to left on the golden vase sponges.

 

Mostly I had been holding my depth gauge

in front of my mask like a railroad watch,

a needle

telling me where I had to be, my hand opening

too soon for the anchor line.

 

ii

Today I am rolling into spangled

 

blue with no air in my vest. I’ve quit signing

OK. I am not equalizing, inflating,

 

adjusting, or looking for my buddy.

I drop like windswept rain over glass.

A stowaway on a blue exhale.

 

This is the wall of my free descent.

Extravagant sound

 

and bright flourishes, annunciating

anemones flaring like Roman

 

candles. Sea fans swaying

in a last red trace

 

past nothing I am owed or owe.

 

iii

A satin ball, huge as Saturn, hangs

from the lowest branch. I reach

 

for its crescent lights and it falls,

sickles spinning.

 

Red tentacles spill from my fingertip

into a waterfall, the chrome, the porcelain glowing.

 

Lesson: Wonder precedes and postpones pain.

 

iv

The tangs and triggers wave

from their convertibles. The peppermint wrasse

 

hides and reappears, tilts and twirls, comical.

Around them

skillet fish flash like dimes in a gumball machine,

pop up and vanish into slick, chromatic sheens.

 

A spotted moray lurches purple and black

 

but doesn’t bite, skirts the whorls of tender pink

shells then disappears into the mind’s blue cup.

 

v

Only a dream, I was told: the water

rising around the legs of my high chair,

tin cans stacked like doubloons.

 

First the water swallowed

the linoleum, the baseboards

then the cat’s red dish, the teetering blinds.

 

vi

I once dived along the platform’s algae-

shaped legs thick as a lady’s stockings.

 

Spearfishers, sharp barnacles,

a sudden chop, all dangerous

in the confines of the rig.

 

A mobile of lookdowns

in a glowing white thermocline.

Above us a buoy sounding steady

as an artificial heart.

 

vii

No quiet like inescapable quiet.

 

viii

Demand. Valve. Draw. Pull. Hold.

Her mouth seals my mouth.

Her body seals my body.

 

I am so full, inside the trees,

in the field, on a child’s bed,

I break elemental.

I beat the lungs. I free flow.

 

A silence behind the staircase

where only souls can fit.

 

ix

The disk of sunlight at the surface

is less a roof than the wide rim

 

of a bottomless shot glass, or the spinning

jeweled ballet of a mirrored box.

 

My body falls, an effervescence,

a threaded streamer, a thought about to sleep.

 

How could I miss what remains above me?

 

And here where the light passes off—

a green sea turtle, no longer clumsy

 

on the hard shore, wrangling with a trawl,

or bobbing bloated on the surface,

 

dives under me. How little we have

to say to each other, how its limbs move

 

for mine. Today I drop past the jellyfish’s

giant ghosts into a black mouth, a bliss.

 

Sliding deeper, not to see the stars

again, but to fall and release the fall.

 

My smallest bubble rises on its own string

and narcosis with it, beginning.

 

 

 

Martha Serpas is the author of two collections of poetry, Côte Blanche (New Issues) and The Dirty Side of the Storm (W.W. Norton). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Southwest Review, and Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, as well as in a number of anthologies, including the Library of America’s American Religious Poems. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston.

After the Invention of Polystyrene a Ligurian Goat Crosses the Equator

Marc Vincenz

Abut in a tailspin, mad spark

of horn, keratin scratching hard-

wood—and that buck-

toothed back-bite, a double-

chew driving through

everything that if-you-pleases:

 

shoes, hats, buttons, ties—

that crumpled trilby Giuseppe wore

with his 30s Valentino, and

in the buttonhole, an off-

white carnation, and in another incarnation,

carrying the fleas of late middle age—;

 

an idler, a swiller of leftover

orange pop, a guzzler

of misconstrued trash, gunk and grease—

‘sono malcontento e raccattaticcio,’

as was parlayed

by Great Uncle Fabrizzio

 

before his last hand of blackjack

on an ocean liner

from Jakarta to Genoa via Dar es Salam

as he observed an empty

can of mystery meat circle

a lone polystyrene container,

 

then hover and dive gullishly

into a shoal of mackerel

in a calm whaleless Indian Ocean

crossing the equatorial

with a borderline heart attack

—and finally, that Bornean warrior,

 

not raised by Cain, but a clan

of cannibals, a bird’s delicate leg bone

through his flared nostrils, adjusting

his penis sheath on the crux

of an equinox while dreaming

of a creature he’d never seen

 

but knew from a lifetime of belly-

aches and breathy sighs, curried

in Bombay on a street stall

in sinews and gristle, fat-

dripping to the chuffed-

up floor, dusted in finest particles

 

of the most ancient Macedonian gold

collected mote by mote on fingertips

by a team of orphaned ragamuffins

known as the ‘All That Glitters’—and

that mad pan-flute-playing

Ligurian passione that carried

 

Uncle Fabrizzio from the silver

platter of bright colonial Indonesia

to the shredded and shaded

terraced alleys of serpentine Genoa

in pursuit of an idle dream of old wives’ tales

more than anything he might have foretold.

 

 

 

Marc Vincenz‘ eighth poetry collection is Becoming the Sound of Bees, forthcoming with Ampersand Books.  He is also the translator of several German-language poets, including Herman Hesse Prize winner, Klaus Merz.  He lives in Cambridge, MA.

 

 

 

FEATURED SELECTION

By way of introduction to this month’s Featured Selection, and with many thanks to Marc Vincenz who was instrumental in arranging it, an interesting introduction to the work of five South African poets by one of them, Harry Owen, followed by the work itself and some more detailed biographical material.

 

Ganora Farm, photograph by Roddy Fox

Ganora Farm, photograph by Roddy Fox

Introduction

This is a vast country with such a mixed and turbulent political and social history – all of which has, necessarily, contributed its own elements to the poetic life of the nation – that it simply cannot be encapsulated in this short space. South Africa boasts eleven official languages, every one with its own rich blend of linguistic heritage, much of it still rooted in oral traditions, so it would take someone of far greater erudition and scholarship than I to begin any real analysis.

Instead, perhaps the very personal view of a latecomer to this wonderfully diverse country will suffice. Having visited SA for the first time in July 2007 and lived here since January 2008, I can feel truly confident only in the accuracy of that epithet: latecomer.

But I don’t say “outsider”, although maybe I should. To the great credit of the many, many poets and other writers I have met here, no one has ever made me feel like that. The welcome has been immense, both on a personal and a professional level. Two of the first South African poets I met (neither of whom, to my shame, I had come across before) were Don Maclennan and James Matthews.

Matthews was a courageous and persistent voice of opposition to the horrors of apartheid, recording from personal experience the realities of that miserable time. His is a heartfelt and persistent poetry of anger and resentment that accurately chronicles a period too soon and too readily forgotten. When I met him in Cape Town, where he still lives, he was determined that his major work, Cry Rage: Odyssey of a Dissident Poet, should live as a testament to the truth of what happened.

The late Don Maclennan, on the other hand, wrote more reflective, introspective poetry that nonetheless is a penetrating commentary on the period both during and after the apartheid years. A much-loved university teacher in Grahamstown and a deeply thoughtful interrogator of life in all its complexities, Maclennan’s work is described – accurately, in my opinion – in the blurb of his Collected Poems thus:

No poetry in the nation reveals greater passion for the mere fact of being alive…few can match its uncompromising honesty and courage in the face of physical collapse and impending death.

So that was my beginning. Since then I have become more and more aware of a vast array of poetries that permeate every corner of this country, ranging from traditional praise poetry to contemporary rap and hip-hop; from the provocatively outspoken Lesego Rampolokeng to the sagacity of Keorapetse Kgositsile; from poetry in performance to poetry on the page.

The five poets represented here, all writing in English, live within this world, part of a discernible shift away from the pervasive ‘struggle poetry’ of the late 20th century. Writers such as these comprise just one small part of something new sprouting from vigorous roots and proving enormously vibrant: the living arena that is South African poetry in the 21st century.

 

Author of seven collections of poetry, Gail Dendy was first published by Harold Pinter and has shared a poetry collection with Oscar Nominee Norman Corwin. A ballet-trained (and acclaimed) contemporary dancer, her passion for the non-verbal is evident in the rhythms which pervade her writing. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband and three cats, and is a researcher in an international law firm.

 

At just 22 years of age, Mishka Hoosen has already lived a full and sometimes arduous international life, the complexity of which results in a startlingly mature and richly textured poetry of pain, love, loss and transcendent joy that belies her youth. Expect to hear much more of this resourceful and empathetic new voice.

Sonwabo Meyi, who lives with his wife and young daughter in Port Elizabeth, is a gifted poet who creatively manipulates the English language to echo the ways it is used by young people. As an admirer of Steve Biko’s heritage of Black Consciousness, he speaks uncomfortable truths – social and political – with inventive courage.

Author of six collections of poetry, Harry Owen was brought up in Liverpool (UK) but now lives in Grahamstown. He is especially concerned with environmental threats to the natural world, a problem highlighted by violent poaching, especially of rhinos and elephants. The international poetry anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World (The Poets Printery, 2013), which he edited, is a response to this grave issue.

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, the 2014 Commonwealth Poet, is an award-winning South African writer and performance artist based in Johannesburg. Her celebrated one-woman show, Original Skin, explores her sense of identity as a mixed-race woman in South Africa and has been performed to wide acclaim in numerous countries around the world. Her latest poetry collection is The Everyday Wife (Modjaji Books, 2011).

Harry Owen
Grahamstown, South Africa
18 October 2014

 

 

The Prayer Everywhere
—Mishka Hoosen

 

The day is a snare

Last night I imagined lying with you in Maine

telling you about everything. The wells in the eyes

of the psych ward in East London. The Bangladeshi woman

with the bleeding ankles holding my face in her hands,

How my hands have always come

unprepared, quick but too small,

clumsy, they’ve never

been able to hold enough, love, I was going to say.

I don’t know how I’d wake up, there, beside you

as if we weren’t a world away from each other.

I don’t know how I’d face a day with no beggars

or fruit sellers wailing at the gates. I was going to say,

love yesterday Joy comes and tells me

her baby was raped

and her shack burnt down. Can’t she have

some more money. Her sister’s just died

like she did last month. The tik

makes her eyes wander down the alleys.

 

Love do you even

know this country, it might be true – what do I do

with my hands?

 

Susannah told me during one of our fights

You don’t have to fucking account for everything.

I was listing the names of the shot miners

and the Palestinian high schoolers,

and the murdered eight year old

with her clitoris cut out in Joburg.

The little boy in Sao Paolo whose father pushed 50 needles into his body.

 

Damn it, not everything needs to be accounted for, she said to me

and left next day. I told her what do I do for this child

raped since four

by all the men of her family, who combed my hair,

shrieked laughing when I picked her up and spun her  across the room.

 

What are all the things I meant to tell you?

I lit each smoke end to end that night when we skyped till four

telling you love my hands are too empty, my hands are so empty they ache. Can’t hold enough. Jack shit.

I was ten and he was ten, that child I was given to feed

at the hospital. He was ten, shriveled with hunger

to the size of a two year old. I was feeding him

drip by drip of cheap baby food

saying eat. Eat and grow. What is this

I said love what is this place where this happens. What do I do

in this place how do I live.

You said I love you, like that solved anything.

 

I said how am I going to wake up when I can’t hear

the wailing at the gates.

At a protest I hoist the banner with the man from

Joza, he says look, comrade, one of us

from the poor, one from the rich.

What am I holding in my hands that will not

be given? How do I give it?

In Mecca a bundle of rags turned out to be an old woman

with birdseed in her fist, sleeping

behind the barriers of the woman’s section.

I took tasbih from my bag, cut jade,

tucked them beside her and prayed God

let her sell them for food, or a blanket.

 

At Jabul Rahman the Mount of Mercy

someone was playing Fairouz on a car stereo

and all the beggars were lying under the sky, open mouthed, crying

Sadaqah, Sadaqah. I walked up burning rocks

with dry fingers brushing the hem of my robe

while Fairouz sang, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

 

In Saigon they sell dog tags engraved with names like Bob or Joe

and none of the women in the paintings has a face.

In Paris a Palestinian cab driver said

now I will tell you

what happened to us.

I wait year after year for my children to come here

from Gaza, but these things are not easy.

how do you leave your home? I watched my neighbor’s brains

soak into the dirt like honey into bread.

 

We are not without reverence here.

Even now, see beloved

how this child throws her head back,

grins, reaching her arms to the pigeons on the tin shack haram,

laugh burning like branches

with the voice of God.

It’s this love that keeps us hostage. Between my hands

the baby of the Somali woman at the Kaaba

rocked undisturbed by the crowd as we walked.

 

Once, back home in Newclare

under the jacarandas and the rain, I grabbed handfuls of earth,

ran my lips over them, so much dirt,

so much shit, so many trampled things.

Mine, mine, I was thinking. We are of each other.

I am kissing the ground at the crossroads.

I am feverish in every old hotel room

praying to the last God — Let me be ripped open.

Let the world in. Fill my belly

with the stones of this place.

Fill my throat with a language

enough.

 

 

Exist-stance
—Sonwabo Meyi

 

this music takes me out of here

i hear the beats & screams of my ancestors

the feet of running elephants

bloodstained umbilical chords of afrikans

women grounding grinding creating food

rules & mules recording blues for the grass

mass movement of heads bobbing

heart-beats sobbing & robbing the soul

 

piano chords give birth to mon/stars

politicians create red-card fouls

you cannot try to sell ice to bushmen

rather sell fire to Eskimos

& supply condoms to moffies

give free make-up to widows

don’t forget to clean the windows

eyes wide shut hard looking at the tar

the grotesque image is painted with blood

 

when you listen closely

you can hear the slaves breathing

& the whiteman shouting

you can smell the gunpowder

your tongue craves the blood sweat & tears

your fingers itch & they are horny

look at them making love with hand-grenades

while the earth gives birth to civil wars

& cowards fly to mars

holding tight onto the wings of paper jets

& along the road

exist web magnets

 

 

Gossip
— Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

 

Luis wouldn’t kiss me when I gave him that blow job

said he couldn’t do that to his wife,

kisses were only for the woman he loves

says Bella.

 

That guy, hoots Gloria, he gave me a STD

my thing was so sore I could hardly walk,

he doesn’t even know that she gave it to him.

What?

Ja, she’s doing Fernando.

 

Luis’s wife walks in at the door

hello ladies, the usual please.

Sure, Madam, says Gloria, the basin is free

would you like to take a seat? Bella,

make the Madam a cup of tea.

 

Luis’s wife lies back on the sink

her neck all open

like she’s on the guillotine

 

 

Proposal of Marriage
—Gail Dendy

 

by a filthy rumpus of dike which glued

together two sides of the same field,

 

and out of which ricocheted a rat.

It slipstreamed up the shallow bank

 

and caused a zithering of grass

which parted and closed like a breath

 

long after the thought it intended

has ended. On the following day we saw it again,

 

its grey body the length of a child’s ballet shoe,

its death-grin already covered

 

by a congregation of ants, which, with the sun

on their backs, glittered like crystals.

 

You turned away, but not before

taking my hand and laying it as an invitation

 

quite close to your heart which I could feel beating.

And so I knew what you wanted to say

 

even though the time for saying it was already past

and you were booked to fly out later that afternoon.

 

 

Story of a Zimbabwean Farm
— Gail Dendy

 

You would search for the old place

only hesitantly, driving the 4X4

onwards down the potholed road

 

then, with a grind of gears, idle the engine

while you looked and looked

 

past the newly installed electric gates, down the tracks,

past the side of the tractor shed (now enlarged,

but the roof in need of repair),

 

and, finally, if you craned your neck enough,

through the soft coldness of the stone verandah.

I always wondered why you never stopped

dead, removed the keys from the ignition

 

and walked those last fifty paces. The new owners

would surely have let you in, shown you around.

You weren’t a threat any more.

 

All I know is that for forty years you’ve stood

in your bedroom, twelve years old, your mother leaning

to kiss your feverish face, your father not yet back

 

from the Bush War. Wherever the vultures had circled

that day, no one would tell.

You’d had a premonition, but nothing more.

 

Yesterday, with the help of a tracker, (unemployed,

he said, since Mugabe’s second term, his village burnt),

we found the spot, or something close enough –

 

a cross on rusted tin. And nothing else but knobthorns,

a duiker’s shattered bone, the crackling chant of bulbul.

 

Those last fifty paces would be the end of the story.

But there’s another one, too,

 

the one in which you’ve just turned eight

and your mother, knotting her apron behind her waist,

asks for help with slaughtering chickens.

 

You refuse, leave the house, slam all the doors

on your way out.

 

 

Thirteen
—Gail Dendy

 

I was thirteen, and The Beatles

had just been unbanned.[1] The airwaves

were thick with it, the new

 

sounds, like dead people

being brought back to life.

 

But Vorster[2] was there, too,

a man perfect for radio

since he never smiled. But with

 

one twist of the dial, we’d erase him

with an off-station static

that was like a spell.

 

Each day the Official News was followed

by ‘Commentary’, as though

one box wasn’t enough

for thoughts, there had to be more,

 

more, which the Government provided

free instead of housing.

 

But I was just thirteen,

and my friends

John, Paul, George, and Ringo

were out there waiting.

 

It was a hard day’s night

that would one day end,

like wind-up watches, roneo machines,

trolley buses, one-rand notes,

 

and huge hand-washed sheets

hung up like wings.

 

[1]The Beatles’ records were banned by the SABC from 1966 to 1971.

[2] Prime Minister of South Africa, 1966—1978. His dour demeanour earned him the nickname ‘Jolly John’.

 

 

Decreed
—Harry Owen

 

Washed down from the moor by torrents

into a coarse alluvium of cities and towns,

we settle as dregs at the mouth of the great river.

 

Good at deposits, of course – on houses, cars,

plasma screens, wives – we find our lives weathered,

eroded, reduced from distant heights as

 

in wind, water, vodka, ice we bear before us

a deep scale of deposition in newly-worked

fragmenting ecosystems of the mind.

 

Next, thin precipitate of fluvial histories,

biota sluiced out to lacustrine gels shallow

as a salt-pan, the holy water of ourselves

 

evaporates as we harden into stone.

 

Or do we rather dream within the embrace

of sediment? What sands will scratch the epitaph

of our time: that we were betrothed and married

 

to the soil but proved unfaithful? Such silt

may yet leave grounds for an absolute decree

as frail splinters settle to stone, to earth again,

 

petrified words in the yawning mouths of rivers.

 

 

 

Mishka Hoosen is a South African writer originally from Johannesburg. An alumna of Interlochen Arts Academy in the US, she completed an MA in Creative Writing, focusing on nonfiction and poetry, at Rhodes University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rolling Stone South Africa, New Coin, Chimurenga, Hunger Mountain, and Ons Klyntji. Her book of nonfiction, Hollow the Bones, is forthcoming from Deep South Books in early 2015.

Gail Dendy was first published by Harold Pinter in 1993, with subsequent collections appearing in South Africa, the UK and the USA. Her seventh collection is Closer Than That (Dye Hard, 2011). Gail’s poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Carcanet’s A Field of Large Desires (2010). She was the Winner of the SA Pen Millennium Competition (Playwriting), a Finalist in the Herman Charles Bosman Award, shortlisted for the Thomas Pringle Award 2010 (prose), and for the EU/Sol Plaatje Poetry Prize 2011 and 2012. Gail has recently completed her first novel.

Sonwabo Meyi was born & bred in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. He started writing protest poetry in 2004. He is quick to point out that he is a Black Consciousness activist, & therefore his writing is driven by BC principles. His first book of poetry rage against the beast is the manifestation of his activism. He has been published in a number of anthologies and is currently working on his second full collection, conversations with a mon/star. He lives in Port Elizabeth.

Multi-award winning South African poet, playwright and performance artist, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers is a graduate of the Lecoq International School of Theatre in Paris. Her poetry ranges from the private to the political, exploring matters serious, satirical and sensual. She has published two collections of her work: Taller Than Buildings (Centre for the Book, 2006) and The Everyday Wife (Modjaji Books, 2010).  In 2014 Phillippa was commissioned by the Commonwealth Education Trust to write a poem in celebration of Commonwealth Day, which was performed in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on 10 March as part of the Commonwealth Celebrations. She lives in Johannesburg.

Harry Owen lives in Grahamstown in South Africa’s Eastern Cape where he hosts the popular Reddits Poetry open floor poetry evenings every month. He is the author of six collections, the latest of which is Small Stones for Bromley (Lapwing Publications, Belfast), and has edited two anthologies, I Write Who I Am (2011), an anthology of poetry by young people from disadvantaged township schools, and For Rhino in a Shrinking World - An International Anthology (2013), both published by The Poets Printery, East London, South Africa.