Sunday, 16 January 2011
Death is circling in on me
with cold, dread wings.
I am standing in an open field
where the wheat has been razed
seeing only bare trees in winter.
There are the open fields of Bergen-Belsen
where the past lingers.
My shaved head a razed stubble---
I can feel the strange fear
of watching death, a quiet bird fly
into my hand.
I know the numbness that feels the
pulse of the trigger----
and the easy smell of death.
Still I wander the open fields,
my hand caressing the stubble of my hair.
I gaze at the many images of myself--
Death is still heavy upon me -- dark bird---
oppressive cream -- it mauls me
halfway to stasis already, its rousing breath
crushing life away.
And the dark stubble of my hair
like the field in Belsen
and the sadness, deep and lasting
of finding only empty spaces there.
Rita Cummings (1989)
high on the Riviera,
I am surrounded by fragrance;
the garden is intense, disordered;
birds of paradise
violet and orange flames,
the Santa Ynez mountains
hazy in the distance.
The day is shimmering with
the purple jacaranda,
the blue and white of the harbour,
abalone boats and idle sailors on the dock,
discussing fishing laws and propositions
that measure out the boundaries of their lives;
a parasailor is pulled out to sea --
the yellow chute hovering in the distance.
Suddenly, I am in a different landscape--
the cobalt blue of the Spanish tile in the plaza,
the colours of Matisse surround me;
my emotions are becoming like the green line
that runs down the face
of the painter's wife.
How she sulks this twin
Her hair matted, dull—
Her thin legs twisted.
She will not cooperate,
She is not to be trusted—
This failing other.
She is prone to cut and chop
At a whim.
How she bleeds – when will it end?
Her fingertips are dark morels,
Rooted in the dark, loamy soil of the forest floor.
They are mysterious shapes, aren’t they?
I cannot touch her.
The other is radiant—how she dips and swells—
Elusive fire at her core—
She holds an unknown nomenclature—
Eternal words I can only guess at,
Stragglers---they will not come easy or whole.
A simulacrum of the other, her hair is long and fibrous—
She is a being of light,
Her hands are ponds into which I gaze.
She is biting into a strawberry—freshly picked
And seeing the soft, white flesh puckered, tart
Full of possibilities.
The tiny seeds glistening—
Like looking at someone in the mirror
And not knowing what she would become.
With eyes at the back of our heads
we see a mountain
not obstructed with woods but laced
here and there with feathery groves.
The doors before us a facade
that perhaps has no house in back of it
are too narrow, and one is set high
with no doorsill. The architect sees
the imperfect proposition and
turns eagerly to the knitter.
Set it to rights!
The knitter begins to knit.
For we want
to enter the house, if there is a house,
to pass through the doors at least
into whatever lies beyond them,
we want to enter the arms
of the knitted garment. As one
is re-formed, so the other,
When the doors widen
when the sleeves admit us
the way to the mountain will clear,
the mountain we see with
eyes at the back of our heads, mountain
cut of limestone, echoing
with hidden rivers, mountain
of short grass and subtle shadows.
I want to give you
something I've made
some words on a page --- as if
to say, 'Here are some blue beads?'
Or, 'Here's a bright read leaf I found on
the sidewalk' (because
to find is to choose, and choice
is made). But it's difficult
so far I've found
nothing but the wish to give. Or
copies of old words? Cheap
and cruel; also senseless:
this instead, perhaps -- a half-
I ever write
a poem of a certain temper.