Interiors

In honor of the Argentine holiday, National Flag Day, we present this work by one of the country’s most representative poets.

06-20 Bignozzi
Juana Bignozzi
Argentine
1937 – 2015

 

lost the first sense of solidarity
lost horizontal solidarity
neighbor friend corner grocer
in private no one recounts his life story these days
where now are those Renaissance kitchens
the houses of the Carpathians
there will be no museum for our interiors
like a fundamentalist veil some women have salvaged
a universe conquered by my grandmothers
children flora men in permanent distraction or
literary fantasies
while grand women
water patio plants

Like Flitting Philomel Who Flies So Proudly Free

06-18 Tullia
Tullia d’Aragona
Italian
1510 – 1556

 

Like flitting Philomel, who flies so proudly free
having escaped the prison of her hated cage,
who goes among the wooded groves and greens
returning to her former happy life in liberty,

so had I escaped from love’s handcuffs,
scorning all suffering and the special bitter pain
of the sorrow beyond belief, reserved for the one
who has lost her soul through excess, loving love.

As the Cyprian knows well (oh, merciless star!)
I had gathered up my spoils from her temple
and for their proud price I had gone elsewhere;

when to me, Love said: I will alter
(to renew my pangs) your perverse will.

And made me your virtue’s prisoner.

Student Protest

We present this work in honor of the South African holiday, Youth Day.

06-16 Thomas
Gladys Thomas
South African
b. 1934

 

They stood there
on the steps of the cathedral
a valiant band of youth
who had no need of standing there
and I safe on the other side

I stood watching
their banners screamed our protest
making our cause their own
their voices clear of fear
and I did not utter a word.

They were lashed
their fair faces stained crimson
man nor maid was spared
as authority showed its might
and I watched and wept my shame

from The Distaff

06-15 Erinna
Erinna
Greek
c. 500 B.C.

 

…From white horses with madcap bound into the deep wave you leapt: “I catch you,” I shouted, “my friend!” And you, when you were Tortoise, ran leaping through the yard of the great court.

Thus I lament, unhappy Baucis, and make deep moan for you. These traces of you, dear maid, lie still glowing in my heart: all that we once enjoyed, is embers now.

We clung to our dolls in our chambers when we were girls, playing Young Wives, without a care. And towards dawn your Mother, who allotted wool to her attendant workwomen, came and called you to help with the salted meat. Oh, what a trembling the Bogy brought us then, when we were little ones! – On its head were huge ears, and it walked on all fours, and changed from one face to another!

But when you went to a man’s bed, you forgot all that you heard from your Mother, dear Baucis, in babyhood: Aphrodite set oblivion in your heart. So I lament you, yet neglect your obsequies — my feet are not so profane as to leave the house, my eyes may not behold a body dead, nor may I moan with hair unbound, yet a blush of shame distracts me…

Unexpectations

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

06-06 Dimoula
Kiki Dimoula
Greek
1931 – 2020

 

Lord what’s still not in store for us.

I’m sitting here and sitting.
It’s raining without raining
just as when a shadow
returns to us a body.

I’m sitting here and sitting.
Me here, my heart opposite
and still further away
my weary relationship with it.
So we might seem many
whenever emptiness counts us.

Empty room blowing.
I hold tight to the way
I have of being swept off.

I’ve no news of you.
Your photo stationary.
You stare as if coming
you smile as if not.
Dried flowers at one side
incessantly repeating for you
their unadulterated name semprevives
semprevives—eternal, eternal
in case you forget what you’re not.

I’m asked by time
how I want it to pass
exactly how I pronounce myself
as edging or ageing.
Foolishness.
No end is ever articulate.

I’ve no news of you.
Your photo stationary.
Just as it rains without raining.

Just as a shadow returns to me a body.
And just as we’ll meet one day
up there.
In some lush sparseness
with shady unexpectations
and evergreen rotations.
As interpreter of the intense
silence that we’ll feel
—developed form of the intense
intoxication caused by a meeting
down here—will come a void.

And we’ll be enraptured then
by a passionate unrecognition
—developed form of the embrace
employed by a meeting down here.
Yes we’ll meet. Breathing fine, concealed
form attraction. In a downpour
of heavy lack of gravity. Perhaps on one
of infinity’s trips to ad infinitum;
at the ceremony for loss awards to the known
for its great contribution to the unknown;
guests at destination’s starlight,
at cessation’s galas on behalf of dissolving
causes and the skies’ farewell
importances once great.
Expect that this company of distances
will be somewhat downcast, cheerless
even if non-existence finds cheer from nothing.
Perhaps because the soul of the party will be absent.
The flesh.

I call to the ash
to disarm me.
I call upon the ash
by its code name: Everything.

You’ll meet regularly I imagine
you and the death of that dream.
The last-born dream.
Of all I had the best-behaved.
Clear-headed, gentle, understanding.
Not of course so dreamy
but neither worthless or mean,
no toady to all and sundry.
A very thrifty dream,
in intensity and errors.
Of the dreams I raised
my most loving: so I’d not
grow old alone.

You’ll meet regularly I imagine
you and its death.
Give it my regards, tell it to come
too without fail when we meet
there, at the loss awards ceremony.

Love me as long as you don’t live.
Yes yes the impossible’s enough for me.
Once I was loved by that.
Love me as long as you don’t live.
For I’ve no news of you.
And heaven forbid that the absurd
should show no signs of life.

The Man Whose Ola Cart Fell Over

06-05 Kaldas
Pauline Kaldas
Egyptian
b. 1958

 

A man pulls his cart piled with clay olas
maneuvers the knotted traffic
olas for sale to contain cool water
quench the sand starched mouth

Futile to unlock this tongue
I’m lost here
mazed into a pattern of textures and rhythms
snatched by the clutches of the tied bird of prey in the zoo
out of tune with the peacock caged in the pet store
stitched into the canvas of human sweat
to divulge the secret of this magnet that draws us near
a reckless gesture stumbles into the ola cart
scatters clay shards
and continue

Listen to My Words

06-04 Buthaina
Buthaina bint al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad
Arab Andalusian
1070 – ?

 

Listen to my words, echoes of noble breeding.
You cannot deny I was snatched as a spoil of war,
I, the daughter of a Banu Abbad king, a great king
whose days were soured by time and chased away.
When Allah willed to break us hypocrisy fed us
grief and ripped us apart.
I escaped but was ambushed and sold as a slave
to a man who saved my innocence
so I could marry his kind and honourable son.
And now, father, would you tell me
if he should be my spouse,
and I hope royal Rumaika would bless our happiness.

Soft

Karen Press
South African
b. 1956

 

Soft on a summer bed in the Languedoc
a man in an Afghan prison sits with me
watching his brother walking through snowdrifts
to a village much like this one
(boucherie, tabac, boulangerie, broken shutters)
where a month’s supply of bullets lies secured
in a box beneath his mother’s wedding carpet.

Turning the pages of Bruce Chatwin’s life
I feel the ashy bodies shift and stutter downward
through steel sticks broken on New York’s southern streets.
Peruvian feathers hang in coloured blocks
across the whiteness of a wall in England,
the man in the snow takes another step forward,
under a sky-blue burqa a woman writes to the man in prison
without pen or paper.

Together we turn the pages, always together now.
Lavender. Ash. Snow on a black beard.

Sacred Are Our Women

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 65th birthday.

05-31 Ertan
Semra Ertan
Turkish
1956 – 1982

 

Waiting for them each quarter
Are neither surgeons nor doctors
They don’t have to travel to Paris or Nice
They don’t follow fashion trends –
Since they can’t find magazines and newspapers

Because the roads to the villages were blocked for months
But even if they could, they couldn’t read them
Because as children they were denied education, because
They were not sent to school

Ma, I’m Coming Home

Toni Stuart
South African
b. 1983

 

Ma,
I’m coming home
that mountain towering
over our city like a blue hue,
beckons
in the molasses folds of midnight
his voice
softens the folds of my ears
and the south-easter
sings in b-flat
as it winds through my empty heart

Ma,
I’m coming home
my heart overflows with yearning
and the tears roll down my cheeks
like rocks
and pull the breath from my lungs
i have walked through the skin
on the soles of my feet
winding through another country’s streets
another people’s pain
I miss
the sea
and the smell of salt
that finds its way to our front door
on summer morning’s
swollen with heat
I miss the voices and words
of my people
and the way their tongues
hold words in their mouths: flat and rough then sometimes flat
and smooth
the blood in my veins
beats to a rhythm
I cannot find in this green land

Ma,
I’m coming home
that mountain towering
over our city like a blue hue,
beckons
in the molasses folds of midnight
his voice
softens the folds of my ears
and the south-easter
sings in b-flat
as it winds through my empty heart
Ma,
I’m coming home
it’s time to leave the world behind
now it’s you who
I want to lay
beside