Scarlet Blood and Yellow Bile

09-27 Barkova
Anna Barkova
Russian
1901 – 1976

 

Scarlet blood and yellow bile
Feed our life, and all we do;
Malignant fate has given us
Hearts insatiable as wolves,

Teeth and claws we use to maul
And tear our mothers and our fathers;
No, we do not stone our neighbors,
Our bullets rip their hearts in two.

Oh! Better not to think like this?
Very well, then – as you wish.
Then hand me universal joy,
Like bread and salt upon a dish.

Outside Times Ten and One Within

09-23 Castellon
Blanca Castellón
Nicaraguan
b. 1958

 

I
Outside

is desert
keen to be river

there’s laughter I don’t listen to

folk walk around
whose hearing is blind

outside no hugs are given
there’s haste and abysses

bridges have gone missing

II
Outside

there are no dogs in the street
no tiny red turtles

not one lizard
basking in rooftop sun

III
Outside

is the moon whose breast
gapes with wounds

a plague of poets
fouls the silence

the tree says goodbye to its roots
and no one feels sad

art like crime
leaves its trail of clues

IV
Outside

there’s dirty linen
shamelessly displayed

trash is deep
outside it’s sickening

deep is the past
deep the future

there’s dried-up vomit
in the volcano’s crater

field on field
of lamentation

there’s Washington
Iraq
Somalia
Haiti

V
Outside

it’s dangerous
to break the spell

there are black verses
forever on everyone’s lips

outside I panic
the sweet names
are exhausted

VI
Outside

there’s no cosy bed
no sheet without stains

no eye pure in its seeing
no easy distances

no mother
no father

outside is a landscape
of forgotten letters

VII
Outside

a child
bursts waiting into tears

there are ulcers in the shadows

traffic in caprice
and other narcotics

books no one will read
outside is absence

VIII
Outside there’s reliable evidence
of angels who rain down coffee

there are tricksters
old photographs

clever flowers
that fade on cue

outside dreams hurt
and drums rumble with evil

cracks in the earth
are spreading

IX
Outside

the poor come back
to die in traps

there’s hunger and a
closed horizon

outside is long

narrow
dry

there’s dust
bones

and a welter of bodies
in a common sky

X
Outside

another outside
is under construction.

XI
Within

joy is here within
deep within

dig
and water gushes

within is Nicaragua.

Iron Wine

09-15 Ridge
Lola Ridge
Irish
1873 – 1941

 

The ore in the crucible is pungent, smelling like acrid wine,
It is dusky red, like the ebb of poppies,
And purple, like the blood of elderberries.
Surely it is a strong wine – juice distilled of the fierce iron.
I am drunk of its fumes.
I feel its fiery flux
Diffusing, permeating,
Working some strange alchemy…
So that I turn aside from the goodly board,
So that I look askance upon the common cup,

And from the mouths of crucibles
Suck forth the acrid sap.

The Dead of September 11

We present this work in honor of 9/11.

09-11 Morrison
Toni Morrison
American
1931 – 2019

 

Some have God’s words; others have songs of comfort
for the bereaved. If I can pluck courage here, I would
like to speak directly to the dead—the September dead.
Those children of ancestors born in every continent
on the planet: Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas…;
born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, geles,
wide straw hats, yarmulkes, goatskin, wooden shoes,
feathers and cloths to cover their hair. But I would not say
a word until I could set aside all I know or believe about
nations, wars, leaders, the governed and ungovernable;
all I suspect about armor and entrails. First I would freshen
my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil—wanton
or studied; explosive or quietly sinister; whether born of
a sated appetite or hunger; of vengeance or the simple
compulsion to stand up before falling down. I would purge
my language of hyperbole; of its eagerness to analyze
the levels of wickedness; ranking them; calculating their
higher or lower status among others of its kind.
Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for
a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts.
Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be
seduced by blitz.
To speak to you, the dead of September 11, I must not claim
false intimacy or summon an overheated heart glazed
just in time for a camera. I must be steady and I must be clear,
knowing all the time that I have nothing to say—no words
stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture
older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you
have become.
And I have nothing to give either—except this gesture,
this thread thrown between your humanity and mine:
I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot of its box of flesh to understand, as you have done, the wit
of eternity: its gift of unhinged release tearing through
the darkness of its knell.

The New Year

We present this work in honor of Rosh Hashanah.

09-07 Lazarus
Emma Lazarus
American
1849 – 1887

 

Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled,
And naked branches point to frozen skies.—
When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,
The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn
A sea of beauty and abundance lies,
Then the new year is born.
Look where the mother of the months uplifts
In the green clearness of the unsunned West,
Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts,
Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light;
Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest
Profusely to requite.
Blow, Israel, the sacred cornet! Call
Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb
With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all.
The red, dark year is dead, the year just born
Leads on from anguish wrought by priest and mob,
what undreamed-of morn?
For never yet, since on the holy height,
The Temple’s marble walls of white and green
Carved like the sea-waves, fell, and the world’s light
Went out in darkness,—never was the year
Greater with portent and with promise seen,
Than this eve now and here.
Even as the Prophet promised, so your tent
Hath been enlarged unto earth’s farthest rim.
To snow-capped Sierras from vast steppes ye went,
Through fire and blood and tempest-tossing wave,
For freedom to proclaim and worship Him,
Mighty to slay and save.
High above flood and fire ye held the scroll,
Out of the depths ye published still the Word.
No bodily pang had power to swerve your soul:
Ye, in a cynic age of crumbling faiths,
Lived to bear witness to the living Lord,
Or died a thousand deaths.
In two divided streams the exiles part,
One rolling homeward to its ancient source,
One rushing sunward with fresh will, new heart.
By each the truth is spread, the law unfurled,
Each separate soul contains the nation’s force,
And both embrace the world.
Kindle the silver candle’s seven rays,
Offer the first fruits of the clustered bowers,
The garnered spoil of bees. With prayer and praise
Rejoice that once more tried, once more we prove
How strength of supreme suffering still is ours
For Truth and Law and Love.

Golden anything

09-04 Kalbasi
Sheema Kalbasa
Persian
b. 1972

 

My fragile nights bathed
in Wisteria
Freshened by Eucalyptus
Pools of anything but Sorrow

Thee my love, thee
Angels and wings of dreamy shadows
Kneeling

Waves of desire
Floating essences, flooding rivers

I am trembling, tremble
Oceans of passion, desire
My fragile nights.

Thundering anything
Waking from mirrors
In the corner of my eye
razors flooding to enter.

I ask my heart: Why?
And the pain becomes a rare visitor.

Sent to My Husband

09-03 Huang
Huang E
Chinese
1498 – 1569

 

“Wild geese have never flown as far as Hengyang”;
How then will my embroidered words be carried all the way to Yongchang?
Like the willow’s flowers by the end of spring, I am ill-fated indeed;
In the mists of that alien land, you feel the pangs of despair.
“Oh, to go home, to go home,” you mourn to the year’s bitter end.
“Oh, if it would rain, if it would rain,” I complain to the bright dawn.
One hears of vain promises that you could be set free;
When will the Golden Cock reach all the way to Yelang?

A Breakfast for Barbarians

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 80th birthday.

09-01 MacEwan
Gwendolyn MacEwen
Canadian
1941 – 1987

 

my friends, my sweet barbarians,
there is that hunger which is not for food —
but an eye at the navel turns the appetite
round
with visions of some fabulous sandwich,
the brain’s golden breakfast
eaten with beasts
with books on plates

let us make an anthology of recipes,
let us edit for breakfast
our most unspeakable appetites —
let us pool spoons, knives
and all cutlery in a cosmic cuisine,
let us answer hunger
with boiled chimera
and apocalyptic tea,
an arcane salad of spiced bibles,
tossed dictionaries —
(O my barbarians
we will consume our mysteries)

and can we, can we slake the gaping eye of our desires?
we will sit around our hewn wood table
until our hair is long and our eyes are feeble,
eating, my people, O my insatiates,
eating until we are no more able
to jack up the jaws any longer —

to no more complain of the soul’s vulgar cavities,
to gaze at each other over the rust-heap of cutlery,
drinking a coffee that takes an eternity —
till, bursting, bleary,
we laugh, barbarians, and rock the universe —
and exclaim to each other over the table
over the table of bones and scrap metal
over the gigantic junk-heaped table:

by God that was a meal

I See the World Falling

08-27 Terracina
Laura Terracina
Italian
1519 – 1577

 

I see the world falling, I see it beguiled,
I see virtue abandoned,
And the Muses contemptuously held,
So much that nearly is my heart entombed.

I see hate and envy all twisted
about thought of friends, and with false song;
I see the worthy betrayed by the vile,
And all to our loss, the heavens rebel.

None the standard of the common good hold firm,
Instead for private gain all declaim,
While heavy are their hearts with motives dark.

I see and in seeing hold even self hateful,
So that for loathing I would,
See myself sightless or the world entire, blind.