Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Tuesday Poem: "An Instance of an Island" by Patrick Rosal

One way to erase an island is to invent
a second island absolved of all the sounds

the first one ever made. We don’t know

who concocted this one, where the triggerfish

and clowns fade to inky neon dashes under

a fisherman’s skiff. A few plastic pontoons

knock around makeshift slips. Dusk coaxes

from the shore the small, dull chime

of a spoon against a pot. And TV voices

flash slow across a cliff where two pink lovers

in matching swimwear kiss their glasses

at the edge of a blue pool built just low enough

into the hill so the couple can gaze into the sea

and think of infinity. Many, many years ago,

a great emperor wiggled his finger

and commanded his army to corral all the lepers

in his domain then pack them into a sailing ship

to be delivered to the missions on this cluster

of verdant volcanic rock. The emperor’s orders

to his captain were clear: if the monks refused

the ship’s freight, the skipper was to simply

dump the whole sick cargo far from any shore.

Other incurables followed in lots over time,

or trickled in, hiding from nearby tribes,

or banished from other lands to live among these

lush slopes of mahogany, papaya, and weeds.

Two women, Filomena and Josefa, arrived

within days of one another. By then, each had lost

most their toes, though they had ten

full fingers between them, each woman

with one hand still intact. No one is sure

how it began, but once a week the pair

would knock on the door of the scowling

Madre Clementina to borrow the hospital’s

only guitar, carved from jackfruit and cracked

pretty bad along the back. To these women —

no big deal, for Filomena once transcribed

the early moonlight serenades of the horny friars

in the Royal South for the brats of an Andalusian

duke. Josefa was the daughter of a carpenter,

a maker of tables to be exact. She learned

to play a harana’s tremulous melodies

on her mother’s bandurria at the age of three.

The pair of outcasts would stifle laughs, thrilled

to earn the crusty nun’s grudging Yes, then

amble out to low tide and find a flat rock to share

so they could prop the old guitar on both

their laps, the one bad wrist of each woman

unwrapped to their stumps, pulled for now

behind their backs as they looked past the bay

toward the violent waters that first carried them

here. And they jammed. Filomena with the five

deft hammers of her left and Josefa with her right,

thick-muscled — both blue-veined and furious,

scrubbing from the instrument all those wicked

rhythms from Castile to Nowhere on a fragile

scrap of furniture that could barely hold its tune.

They sat shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh,

their good hands brushing from time to time.

What they couldn’t remember, they made up,

and everything they made up disappeared

over the lagoon and over the ocean, every note

in every run, every lie and desire, every nick

and crack in the jackfruit, the fat harmonics

plucked from the old nun’s grunts, six taut strands

of gut whose chords skimmed the water

like night locusts in bursts of low clouds

and which bore everything in front of them and behind,

the brine of the women’s necks mixed with the salt

of the lagoon, the cliffs, the spoons, the bright

nimbus of the West dipping like a noose,

the future of pontoons and fake tits, the history

of nifty crowns pried loose of their jewels,

the jiggle of a little finger gone still.

One way to erase an island is to invent the waters

that surround it. You can name the waters

that will turn all the sounds the island makes into salt.

It will teach you to listen to everything you love

disappear    ...    or you can invent a song so big

it will hold the entire ocean.

                             Josefa and Filomena

rocked in the dark, hip to hip, joined by that third

body of wood, which made sure there was

nothing left in the unbroken world

to possibly make them whole.

by Patrick Rosal

For more information about poet, Patrick Rosal, see:


Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Tuesday Poem: "Early December in Croton-on-Hudson" by Louise Glück

Spiked sun. The Hudson’s
Whittled down by ice.

I hear the bone dice

Of blown gravel clicking. Bone-

pale, the recent snow

Fastens like fur to the river.

Standstill. We were leaving to deliver

Christmas presents when the tire blew

Last year. Above the dead valves pines pared

Down by a storm stood, limbs bared . . .

I want you.

by Louise Glück 

For more information on poet,  Louise Glück, see:

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Tuesday Poem: "Below Freezing" by Tomas Tranströmer


We are at a party which doesn't love us. Finally the party lets the mask fall and shows what it is: a shunting station for freight cars. In the fog cold giants stand on their tracks. A scribble of chalk on the car doors.
     One can't say it aloud, but there is a lot of repressed violence
here. That is why the furnishings seem so heavy. And why it is so
difficult to see the other thing present: a spot of sun that moves
over the house walls and slips over the unaware forest of flickering faces, a biblical saying never set down: "Come unto me, for I am as full of contradictions as you."
      I work the next morning in a different town. I drive there in a hum through the dawning hour which resembles a dark blue cylinder. Orion hangs over the frost. Children stand in a silent clump, waiting for the school bus, the children no one prays for. The light grows as gradually as our hair.

by Tomas Tranströmer

For more information on poet, Tomas Tranströmer, see: