Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Winter Ritual: Breaking Bread
Cold concrete darkness
Pine tree groaning overhead.
Something swinging in the wind.
Wild whipping of the tips
Of the limbs, but not the limbs
Themselves, frozen and creaking.
One came down—CRACK!
Landed on the cradled loaf
She was carrying before her
On the front stone porch beneath.
Crashed on its covered crust
In the icy brittle chill of evening.
Sourdough it was
Fresh baked, warm and ready
For finger to break from its cozy nest.
But as I have said,
It was the limb, the limb it was
That broke the bread
Beneath the rocking boughs.
Oh, the Baker? She was shaken,
Shocked, as though disarmed,
Battered and patted with fronds of pine,
Frosted, but otherwise unmarked.
November Lawn Crew
They cut the lawn today.
They were cutting the frost today.
They were nipping at Jack Frost
Not vice versa.
Nipping: “nipping” is right—
Not the scythe-arch swipe,
A good John Barleycorn snap,
The harvest hack at back of the knees,
Just after the best of Indian summer.
Theirs today was but a tender shave
To take away some green,
To preserve some green,
To force up some green,
To make for themselves some green,
By nipping, nipping, nipping at the blades
Stuck up above the velvet moss,
As they cut through the frost,
Cutting the lawn early today.
Friday, November 12, 2021
I SEE YOU
To my brother who passed away at age 25 in 1996
by Lakshman Bulusu
I. THE BEGINNING OF THE END
It was a sunny Tuesday morning on July 2nd
with the usual rush hour traffic.
Your day began with a cup of Assam tea and a crispy toast.
You put on your business casual work attire,
a black Raymond trouser and a checked Arrow shirt;
but there was a change of plan that day.
You had to see father in hospital for fracturing his hand
when he fell from his bed the night before.
You prepared filter coffee, our father’s favorite,
thinking fresh coffee would cheer him up.
You placed the lower steel decoction container on the countertop,
positioned the steel mesh separater on top of it,
placed the top steel container over it,
put ground coffee powder into it followed by boiling water,
and let it settle for twenty minutes.
To finish it all, you added boiled milk and sugar to the decoction
and mixed it for a frothy coffee.
You filled the insulated mug with filter coffee
and started off on your motorbike taking Cantonment Road
hoping that everything would turn out right for father to return home.
II. THE MOMENT OF THE END
Twenty minutes into your ride--halfway--
in the din and bustle of traffic,
a white Maruti van collided with you head on.
You were thrown to the corner of the road;
your motorbike tilted sideways
with its wheels whirring one last time;
your office backpack lying a couple of feet away from you.
Our father’s favorite coffee dripped from the mug
as your heartbeats faded into silence.
No wails, no groans from anyone,
not even from the lady who drove the van.
She got down, saw you unresponsive, got back in, and drove away.
Moments later, police in a van passing by noticed you
and took you to the hospital emergency room.
The doctor in charge there pronounced you dead.
The police located your school badge,
contacted the administrator who gave our home address.
They informed our mother by phone who rushed to the hospital
in a state of shock and took your body home.
Our father still waited for your arrival.
III. MY REMINISCENCES OF YOU
I still see you through the lens of tears
that wet my eyes as I remember you.
I remember the many rides
you took me on your motorbike without saying ‘no’ even once.
Your whistle rendered a lilt to the breeze as we rode along.
I see you in triumph as you made it
through the interview for a graduate teacher.
You shine in the highlight as I reflect on our past:
the jokes we shared at teatime;
the rules of play you stressed,
no matter who won or lost;
the ideas you put forth as we discussed poetry;
the encouragement you gave
to turn Sundays into leisure days and take it easy.
The last smile of yours
twenty-five years ago as you waved goodbye,
still floats in my memory.
The flame of your life continues to glow,
its warmth comforting my heart;
reminding me, you are as near to me as you were,
twenty-five years ago—
your image apparent as a metaphor.
My grief of your sudden end no longer stands out.
IV. YOUR END IS NO PRIDE FOR DEATH
You have done your part and made your mark,
as a teacher in a Christian middle school,
fair and good in your profession,
though for a short-and-not-too-short three years.
Your effort rewarded through the words
of the Bishop who later visited our house,
He was good, honest, and well respected.
And it was God who gave the wound,
So He Himself would heal the wound.
To me it seems like the role of death
is like darkness chased by day.
Footprints of many generations outlive it.
Its very identity turns into a dimming light.
Dear brother, from a tombstone,
you rise like a tower in pride
epitomized by your meteoric talent.
And then there is afterlife
that welcomes you into a new world—
who knows what wonders it holds.
A reality that opens gates to the infinite?
I no longer question, “Where did you go?”
For, ever you live on—
And I still see you!
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Not with the light itself
lifting this page closer
though the breeze already left
–you need glasses, the kind
and for centuries would weep
to birds that go on living
against your forehead
by wings and distances
–in the end the book too
will lose its slack, approach
with the window in front
closed and even its shadow
had no chance to escape.
You have so many arms
holding fast the way all cradles
are lowered side to side
still listening for the breeze
that comes from one whisper more
–what you calm here
are lullabies lifting you ashore
as campfires, heating your lips
with salt and kisses
that never let go –here
everyone sleeps on the ground
though there’s never enough brushwood
to cover you song after song
draining your heart into its arms
filling with ashes and autumn.
As if these sleeves are cooled
and that slow roll
you’re still not used to
left one arm in the open
struggling, almost holds on –the tattoo
helps, smells from flowers
kept cold though it’s an old shirt
given your bare skin
for its years, months, minutes
and the exact place held close
licking the ice from your shoulders
your breasts and the flowers.
From under this pathway the sun
brings your shadow back
the only way it knows
though what it pulls up
is just as weak, hardly pebbles
and on a plate left outside
as if this grave is still vicious
caged the way the dead
are fed with your mouth
calling out from the dark corners
for stones, more stones –step by step
you remember things, better times
careful not to come too close
not raise your hand
or one false move.
On the way up this darkness
must sense it’s more wax
letting the varnish take forever
though you count how high
a second time –these shelves
aren’t restless enough, here
for the fire all wood is sent for
–in every room! caskets
stacked as if from behind
the wall would reach around
smelling from bark, roots
and the uncontrollable embrace
heating your cheek the way rain
returns to lower its face on the dirt
that never moves :these boards
kept open for a dry rag
all night rubbing your forehead
darker and darker, almost there.
Thursday, October 7, 2021
David Gilmour is the host of Sound Poetry on 101.9 Radio Tacoma
The days of acorns, walnuts and horse-chestnuts--
The husks, shells, and cups we bored for use, then,
Eight of us, if memory serves, we smoked as pipes,
As clear as yesterday in an old and beautiful world.
The fields, we walked through the fields to woods,
The countryside spread out for miles, far out
Beyond construction sites and smoking factories,
Leaving behind slag dumps and rock hills
Bulldozed and ready for new roads out of town.
Out by the shire farms where trees still stood wild,
A bull watched a tribe of boys tramping through
Its grasses. There was a house, a dark gamekeeper
And his dangerous dogs--so long ago, folk tale time.
The trees, those ancient oaks we spiked to climb
When tawny autumn gave its sign the nuts were ripe.
Old gaffer and his dogs just couldn't grasp the why.
We would risk to climb the oaks, to join the birds
And squirrels in their nests. He'd scratch his head and
Hang his bent pipe in his jaw and keep the dogs at bay.
‘Twas pipes and the sheer beauty of filching golden acorns.
Conkers he could suss the need, the game was all the rage.
Stiff straw was pierced into an acorn cup, old fag-end crumbs
We’d stuff into the bowl, and puff in awe till black like gold
Cut from a stub of Uncle’s choicest briar-pipe Turkish plug.
Oh, the heavens so filled with aromatic spice, gods laughed.
At home I'd raid the trays about the house for longish ends,
Even stole the odd one or two, Senior Service navy cut,
Or beauteous packs with names like Passing Cloud,
Familiar Players with the Jack Tar pictured on the face.
They smelled so sweet before the smoking and then came
The choking horror of the smoke. Dead hard to get used to.
But there was nothing, nothing sweeter than the camaraderie
Of two or three bosom pals with stolen tobacco having a choke,
Pretending to smoke, cupping the lit end in the palm
Or flailing the hand sideways from the lips, longing to savor the smoke in throats,
In their lungs, through their noses, casually releasing it in streams
As we had seen our brothers, our parents blowing plumes
Into the blue foggy night air. How important to start young.
To start the silent drawing of breath in acknowledged secret,
Forbidden togetherness in which talk was all you had,
Big talk, things that needed to be said together
While the air was thick with awful breath and the face changed
To its new mask and stopped the clock.
A Significant Thud
At present the ink is not flowing true.
The blue ran out two days ago
And the red cartridge I loaded
Has yet to come through in its own flow.
I am sitting at the round table on the deck
As I used to years ago; in those days
The table was yellow; now a faded green,
The very same table we sat at, you and I,
When you just knew us in Seattle, the times
When we dined on simple fare, drank cheap wines.
The same table we recently sat around
For breakfast, coffees, and smokes
And at dinner for laughter, with the Pinch
And paté and the crude rolled doobies
Pushing our humors to ludicrous limits.
These days are bogged down with quandaries.
The wedding is past; the nest is --- oops!
--Out back there in the deep shady green,
Under the trees, a significant thud --
The pears and the apples are dropping ripe. Out there
Out in the grass, I see another golden lump
Has been added to the mass. --Where was I?
--The table—on the table before me—yes,
I return to the original theme.—On it
Stand two golden pears on end,
Next to them, the 400 milliliter beaker
That held the three top heavy flowers -
Blue hydrangea blossoms.
The candles we burned were obliterated
By a night’s catastrophic wind and rain,
Sunday or maybe Saturday night.
I’ll light one - there!—They’re both lit now.
At my right elbow rests a book,
Against The Grain - wouldn’t you guess it?
Mmm! The pears gleam in the candlelight—gilded almost...
Shit! The hurricane glass just shattered.
Well, after all, what’s glass for?—but breaking.
The monotony: it’s a void, a blank, emphasized
By the intermittent thuds of falling fruit.
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
In Grace Notes: A Memoir in Poetry and Prose, Mary Anna Scenga Kruch creates a hybrid coming-of-age memoir that gives her readers indelible glimpses and insights into a life truly lived. With popular songs as scaffolding, Scenga Kruch ties the stages of her life to the history of her day, most notably the growth of suburbs and the VietNam war. While she pulls no punches in recounting trauma and the forces that can pull families apart, her carefully rendered memories and graceful meditations—suffused with the strength of a loving marriage and immersed in the natural world—let us know that “What Lingers” is ultimately “Benevolence.”
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
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