BRAMBU DREZI, Book III

by Jack Foley

                        “Am I speaking to anyone but myself?”

 

heaven is near
I spent a few hours last night
re-reading Brambu Drezie Book III
(the Book I know least well)
heaven is near
how is it possible
that something I do NOT understand
should appear to be so abundantly clear
I think
the beauty of the language has
something to do with this—
the many stories, the images (strange,
disturbing), the rambling, “subjective” passages—
all have the feeling
of a vast piece of music
heaven is near
It is no more to be understood
than music
and no less—
“Nietzsche, like Saint John of the Cross, knew that night too is a sun”
“I hear animal shapes in the song”
“I’m tore open raw and clean”
If the poem is like anything
it is like Eliot’s Waste Land
except that Eliot’s Waste Land
has spawned an industry of “explication”
an industry of “understanding”
which I don’t think can be done with
Berry’s great work
The poem is no more to be understood
than life is to be understood
though it is
heaven is near
(like life)
to be experienced
“I came here,” Jake writes,
“to speak to the dead
and found them alive
and possessed by a green fire—
branches and leaves
grew from their shoulders”
that green
heaven is near
is Whitman’s color
and the color of life
“I fold my hands on my lap and study
the raw nerve trees burning
I move in their fever”
the lines
move in my heart

Protest

by Stephen Gibson

                         Italy

1.
It was a sperm whale in the center
of the piazza being hauled up by a boy
pulling a rope over his shoulder,

a kid in shorts and polo, and nearby
hung three narwhales from a gallows
erected just for them. The hanging narwhales

and the boy in blue shorts and striped polo,
and the huge, black whale behind him
that was tethered to him by a thick cable

of hemp, were only illusions—
life-size figures made out of fiberglass
by some artist in Pietrasanta, where I’d gone

to see a decommissioned church
I’d heard about, which had been converted
into a meeting space for social protests,
but I hadn’t heard about this.

2.
But that’s what I saw turning the corner;
no hint of anything earlier at the train station
I’d just walked from, not even a poster,

which, for a public art exhibition
like this, you would have expected
some flyer or brochure, some mention

of it somewhere, to attract tourists; instead,
nothing. When I got out at the train station
a girl was lying on the hill, arm behind her head,

sunning herself on the grass, as a dozen
men, like me, looked up her skirt (not hard
since one leg formed a T over the other one

with her sandal foot tapping). An ear bud
was held in place by an orange-polished
fingernail.  She was listening to her iPod

as men filed past looking up her dress.

3.
I found out some protest was going on,
some Earth-Day-Global-Warming-Climate-
Change event, all about extinction

and doing something before it’s too late.
That sort of thing—boy hauling a sperm whale,
narwhales hanging from gallows—while people ate

pizza and drank Peroni at the outside tables.
The restaurants were packed. I ate at one later,
and by then the narwhales’ shadows, like a sun-dial’s,

had moved across to the other side of the piazza.

4.
I followed the corpse of the sperm whale
up the piazza, staring at its massiveness
as if the thing were real, as if the brown cable

tied around its bulk was nothing less
than real hemp and that the kid bent ahead of me
was really straining to haul that corpse

up to where the church was.  Why he
wanted to haul that corpse to the other end
of the piazza to the church was a mystery

to me, like my first seeing that grandstand
of narwhales after seeing that girl as she
was listening to her iPod, her hand

holding the ear bud in place, showing everyone her panties.

5.
Everything must be protected—it is a duty—
even though nothing lasts
that’s the translation an Italian woman gave me

when I looked at the banner over the church’s
entrance and asked her. The woman was feeding
her toddler some yogurt and fruit mix

on the steps, but she didn’t miss a thing,
wiping the excess off of her kid’s lip,
looking back at the banner hanging

over the church entrance, holding the cup
under the kid’s chin, and answering
some stranger who stood at the bottom step

and who had asked her something
while her kid tried to get out of the stroller
to retrieve a set of plastic key rings

that he dropped. I thanked her.   

6.
Inside, all of the murals were defaced—
methodically—like you’d score adhesive
on the back of a tile to stick it to a surface;

every human figure was vandalized; beehives
of chisel marks sat on human shoulders; no faces—
no more graphic novels of saints’ lives

for the medieval illiterate;  no altar, just space—
but space that clearly left evidence
of something removed not to be replaced—

like the pews: all over the marble floor were dents.

7.
That’s what the decommissioned church
looked like; it was also dark and smelly like a stable;
at least, this church was, and my hunch is

that was intentional because of the exhibit: multiple
environmental concerns symbolically addressed
through papier-mâché gorillas, elephants and other animals

with future extinction dates—and a petition to sign in protest.

8.  Coda
For the girl on the hillside showing
her panties, listening to her iPod;
for the waiter who went back to bring

me my check; for the courtyard
I passed where this old man sat at a table
by himself; for the god

who no longer exists in the receptacle
built for him eight centuries ago;
for the fiberglass boy and whale

and especially the artist; for the faces in the windows
of the gift shops, and the faces of those waiting in line
at the restaurants; for the woman feeding her kid yogurt—

for all of our extinctions—this protest is mine.

6pm Vinyasa flow

by Nathalie Goykhman

Before the yoga class begins,
I greet the students at the door.
The trappings of their daily lives

get tucked away in cubby shelves:
bicycle helmets and high heels,
construction boots and briefcases.

Some shuffle in still on their phones,
still whispering instructions while
they juggle coffee cups and keys.

The earlybirds have placed their mats,
strategic spots across the room.
Some try to hide behind a post 

while others claim the front row space.
The yogis shed their daytime skin,  
their furrowed brows and heavy bags.

They set aside this time to flow
in oceanic breath; the tide
that laps away at jagged shells.

Half Lord of the Fishes

by Nathalie Goykhman

She preferred to unroll her mat
rather than unrolling her tongue while on a couch
in a bland office: dull art

and sentimental trinkets with
precautionary tissues perfectly placed by
the armrest. She knew that well.

Prying questions rarely helped her,
she’d rather pry her shoulders open in a
Half Lord of the Fishes pose.

This twist wrings out her swirling thoughts.
Like wild salmon, she battles stormy currents and
sharp, unexpected boulders. 

Blossoming in Padmasana

by Nathalie Goykhman

Discouraged by    her nine-to-five    in class she hopes    to bud.
Padmasana:   that which is born   out of the muck   and mud.

Expansive chest   sitz bones planted   like tuber roots   that grow
into lakebeds.   Sepal fingers    cradle dewdrops   thoughts slow.

Another breath    a departure   whirling incense   a pause–
smoke dissipates   to-do lists slip  beneath the mat.   Her flaws

are less daunting   in Lotus Pose   floating limbs fold    serene
exhalation    disturbances   beneath ripples   unseen.

Sometimes the winds   the pelting rain    tousle her fine   petals.
But debris rolls   off petal tips.   The calm blossom–settles. 

Bakasana: Crow or Crane

by Nathalie Goykhman

The instructor tells me to
“lean into the discomfort.”
I’m not sure what that means but
in Bakasana, my nose

is two inches from the ground.
Sweaty fingers grip the mat,
my forearms quiver. I am
more of the crow, not the crane.

My elbows bent, crouching and
trembling, while graceful cranes float
their arms stretched, legs hovering
and faces dipping forward

as if they are submerging
thin beaks into tranquil pools.
Although I’m not skilled enough
to dive and soar in crane pose,

my toes begin to peel off
the ground. Just for a moment,
I am balancing, flying
two inches high, in crow pose.

Stroll

by Jonathan Hazelton

    For my Mother
    Sept. 29, 1925 – Dec. 17, 2012

We say they pass away as if
Clouds scudded over distant hills
And disappeared beyond the trees,
Or, like flowers on a sultry day,
Petals fell like some scarlet flakes
Till only a naked stem stood,
And the beauty and the wonder is gone.

But she will always be feeding birds,
Or changing suet cakes for squirrels to climb,
Or walking in an open field
With a shotgun in the crook of her arm,
Or leaving dishes undone to walk
Stream side with fishing pole and can
Of worms she dug from the garden soil.
All these images are what prevail
Of the life she called her own
And I recall she went strolling
In lengthening shadows with the dog
When sunset darkened road and hill.
I’d watch her walk upgrade to the curve
And turn and disappear, nothing
Left but the empty road and shade.

Now this she’s gone again,
The house quiet with her leaving.
Glasses lined in neat little rows,
Chairs and sofas gathering their dust,
Though habit says she will be back
I know the road is further than we thought,
Winding toward the zodiac
Where shadows meet the evening sky
If I listen hard enough
I can nearly hear the sound
Of footsteps scuffling dust of the road
And the dogs collar jingling into
Distances of a journey that leads them on
Past the gate at the top of the hill
Which opens on fields and old dirt roads
That seem to roll on forever.

Error

by Strummer Hoffston

Two poets are having dinner
at the end of a long, tedious marriage.

One of them believes in the modern idiom,
“pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional,”

though he never explicitly says so.
His indirectness is the trait his wife

most despises, and throughout the meal
she turns to the dog 

who shakes as he dreams of pleasure
he fears does not exist

in the physical world,
one so comprehensive

he can accept knowing nothing
about how it works or where it comes from.

At this distance from what thrills him
he becomes his most authentic self,

acting on impulse, following the course
of a Galilean moon out the front door

into a quadrant of the galaxy
spare and unfamiliar.

He continues on
through all the hallucinatory matter

that buoys him, rebuilds his sense of self,
his urge to—

“There,” says the husband.
“You can have whatever you want.”

Flying Home From Burma

by Colette Inez

Crash landing into a rice paddy, 
through flames our Buddhist neighbor
pulls his wife from the plane.  

Buddha appears on the tarmac with a stretcher.
Bandages, unguents, grafts.
Their wheel of suffering turns

towards astonishment; oozing of the wound,
blisters disappear, gone with Buddha’s fold-away
cot in the hospital room. The couple journey home

to “Welcome Back” posted on our lobby wall.
Sometimes Buddha appears in their apartment
eating a hot chili. Light filters through his body.

His patience sustains them. He has come with them
all the way from Burma.  

Knotholes

by Colette Inez

The knotholes hear our confession.
We imagine them as priests of vanishing trees,
lords of birds and clouds
giving absolution to creatures of the forest.

Will we flinch when the axe falls,
bow down to devil horns of flames?
We pray, buckle at our knees.
We, too, are vanishing.

Is it the wind that makes the branches creak?
Fleshy tongues mumble through plush moss. 
What are our penances?
We run from these confessionals

toward a door in cracked light.
There all who wronged us are waved away.
Nothing can save them
from the jaws of  fire, the silent stones.