Seedtime

January 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

Seed.

 

Lovely night at the Cathedral with passionate gardeners talking about seeds: old seeds, heirloom seeds, seeds as inspiration, freedom, art; as child you watch over and as parent that feeds you. They spoke of colleagues whose grandparents started saving seeds in the 1930s, freezing them in baby food bottles. They told stories of rare plants, plant diseases, the taste of okra, the Black labor that picked the cotton and the prisoners who pick it now. They asked people’s opinions of what the phrase “keeping seeds” connotes versus the more prosaic “saving seeds.”

“Protection” “Cherish” “Caring,” said audience members.  Keepsake, I thought. For keeps. Stronghold.

They spoke as part of The Value of Food art exhibition (through April 3rd in all the bays and chapels of the Cathedral) to an audience of seventy or so people who want to grow food in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Philadelphia, New Jersey, upstate. The veteran city gardener Karen Washington, who successfully faced off against Giuliani in the 90s, organized the event with panelists Owen Taylor, Ken Greene, Onika Abraham, Chris Bolden Newsome, and Kirtrina Baxter. These are the people who are rescuing what’s left of America’s once-amazing diversity of fruits and vegetables, squandered by industry in the last seventy-five years. “When I teach, I ask people: do you come from a farm family?” said the African American Chris Bolden Newsome. “If they say no, I say, ‘go back a little further.’ That’s what all our families were doing a hundred years ago.” And further than that—“All of us. That’s what most people do in the world.”

I thought about the house in the country I used to have, where we planted mostly flowers, but also herbs. Where the laden apple and pear trees were treasures for the squirrels and deer, who must have passed their seeds on, though I don’t know if any offspring grew wild in the woods that went up the flank of the mountain. I remembered the smell of dirt in the sun, the resistance of weeds, the persistence of mint, the hardy thyme and insect-laced basil. I ran the numbers: should we buy another house in the county? Abandon Manhattan? Spend more time with plants?

I’d like to. I’d also like to stay here, with the theaters, museums and cathedrals. With the people who enliven me (though plants enliven me too, especially trees). I decided to apply to a few country writers’ colonies for the summer and bought a pack of catnip seeds to plant in a pot in the window. Charles is doubtful they will thrive. With all that we have to do and don’t get done—our messy, on the edge of uncontrollable lives—he’s not sure growing catnip is a necessary endeavor. Our beasts like the stuff we buy at Whiskers just fine. But he wasn’t there. He didn’t hear all the people raising their hands, wanting to know how they can get started growing their own food, saving seeds, avoiding “the seed industrial complex.” Saving the world, one fragile stalk at a time.

Here’s a poem of mine from my chapbook, it all stayed open, Red Glass Press, 2011.

Where I Left Her

 

Under my lilac

white and grainy as cement dust

two pounds of woman.

I mixed her into the earth

kneeling in light rain.

 

She loved this tree

would leave me on the porch to walk around it.

When I could glimpse her

only through the slender

 

supple branches

much more was visible.

*

May again, bloom time.

I’m busy writing love poems.

But on the bus home

to the city there are women

carrying the harvest, armfuls

 

and the whole packed crew of us

ride in fragrance.

 

My lover makes me radiant

friends say—I tremble

like a purple cone of tiny flowers—

and makes me suffer. What I most desire

besides happiness

 

is to hide my heart

where it can never be recovered.

 

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Loving Dave Brubeck

May 12, 2013 § 2 Comments

Eugene Wright

Eugene Wright

Yesterday, the Cathedral hosted a memorial service for Dave Brubeck, the great jazz pianist and composer—and in Bill Clinton’s words (via letter read aloud) “world-class human being”— who died last December. What a thrilling occasion! Brubeck’s widow, Iola, asked us to take joy in the music and it wasn’t possible not to. Silly Charles thought there would be too much talking and he’d fall asleep. Nope. Two hours passed like a few minutes.

The Brubeck brothers, Brubeck bass player Eugene Wright, and many great musicians, including Chick Corea, Paquito D’Rivera, Roy Hargrove, Branford Marsalis, Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes, Randy Brecker and Jon Faddis played, as well as the Cathedral’s own Artist in Residence Paul Winter. Tony Bennett made a surprise appearance, talking to the crowd after we listened to a recording of him singing (spontaneously) with Brubeck at a White House concert in 1962. This “lost” recording will be issued later this month.

Get it.

The sons were all excellent (appropriately featured on “Cathy’s Waltz” written for their sister Cathy, “In Your Own Sweet Way” for Iola, and “For Iola”), as were the young musicians, New York-based alumnae of the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific. They played “Blue Rondo a La Turk” and I do love that song.

Chick Corea played “Strange Meadowlark,” perfectly evoking the feeling of being 17, spending all of a June day by a river in Amesbury, Massachusetts, while LSD focused and elaborated on the ever-changing sound of the water, the sun filtering through leaves, the volume and mood of the air, and the intersecting patterns all these made—an effortless unfolding of delight, layers and ribbons of delight, time without end. I’m not 17 anymore, so luckily there’s music.

Paquito D’Rivera lived up to Mark Ruffin’s description of him as “the best clarinetist in the world,” though admittedly I haven’t heard all that many (I’m very partial to Lee Konitz). Jon Faddis ended the concert with verve and passion, and Hilary Kole, a young singer who recorded with Dave in 2010, has a voice of surpassing strength and sweetness.

And of course there were stories. My favorite was about how Dave and his wife, Iola, met. They were both in college; he was in his senior year. His mother told him he had to attend at least one college dance before graduating. He asked his roommate who the smartest girl in the school was, and when told it was Iola Whitlock, he said, “That’s who I’m taking to the dance.” By the end of the evening, they’d decided to get married, promptly did so, and celebrated 70 years together before he died. Iola, one of four people to receive a standing ovation (Tony Bennett, Eugene Wright and George Wein were the others) talked about their first visit to the Cathedral—on Duke Ellington’s birthday in 1976, two years after Ellington’s Cathedral memorial service.

Though I would like all the jazz greats to live forever, if it should happen that they don’t, I hope their families hold memorials in the Cathedral. It was a great privilege to share the love, the history, the music. The music, especially.

Chick Corea (left)

Chick Corea (left)

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

Iola Brubeck and George Wein

Iola Brubeck and George Wein

Strange Meadowlark

What a strange meadow lark
to be singing oh so sweetly in the park
tonight.
All alone meadow lark
are you dreaming of the moons that burned so bright
and of love in flight?
Can’t you sleep meadow lark?
Is there nothing left but whistling in the dark
so sad?
Was it love meadow lark?
Were the songs you sang last summer crazy mad?
Think of all you had.
A quiet nest up in the clouds where the soft winds blow.
Far from all the noisy crowds where the earthbound go.
Your wings have pressed against a star —
boundless were the skies.
You may have flown too high too far —
love is seldom wise.
Don’t you see meadow lark
though you try your call won’t turn another lark
in flight?
He has gone meadow lark.
You can sing your song until the dawn brings light —
sing with all your might. . . .
Don’t you see meadow lark
though you try your call won’t turn another lark
in flight?
He has gone meadow lark.
You can sing your song until the dawn brings light.
Sing with all your might.
Sing away the dark . . . little meadow lark, meadow lark, meadow lark.

lyrics by Iola Brubeck

Feeling Christmassy

December 13, 2011 § 2 Comments


Christmas 2010

I’ve been in a remarkably good mood in the last week or so. Is it recent events, and going out more, looking forward to going out, or Christmas? Christmas is something I dread in October and November, then start to feel as a sparkle in my fingers once December comes around. However imperfect the holiday is now, it was always magical when I was a child, and that’s what sticks.

It certainly wasn’t religious. My father was a Catholic-turned-atheist who would drive his visiting mother to church in his undershirt so she wouldn’t try to entice him inside. My mother taught her children “God is love,” and didn’t elaborate on that. She also taught us that on Christmas we would wake to hand-sewn red velvet stockings on our bed and a plenitude of gifts around an enormous tree. She imbued the house, in the weeks around the holiday, with a happy, serene spirit I have rarely seen, as an adult, in mothers of four small children.

When I was a little older I chafed at the vagueness of “God is love.” What did it say about the important questions: is God paying attention? Is the soul immortal? Now I realize that what it says is about experience, and mine hasn’t been so different from my mother’s. I’ve been loved deeply and have loved in return. Not much else matters. Of course some of the things I love are not human.

One of my colleagues at the Cathedral of St John the Divine said to me twice recently, “Isn’t it amazing that we have this cathedral?” Each time it was as we were leaving, walking through to check on something related to the current art exhibit. She was the one doing the checking; I was merely accompanying her, but I knew what she meant. It was the pleasure I used to feel putting my house to sleep at night. Caring for a building that cares for you is a special kind of love. Caring for a cathedral that cares for so many, that holds their gifts, their art, and the marks of their passage is a blessing that cannot easily be put in words. There’s nothing of ownership about it, though it contains the effect of responsibility that is rarely mentioned: the sense of inner order that follows when you have done what is needed. In addition, there’s what’s often lacking when you spend too much time in a cramped apartment, office or subway car: the feeling that it’s right and proper for mind and heart to stretch and open, for the body to remember its love of motion at the same time as your whole being delights in the knowledge of belonging.

I love the Cathedral when it is empty, or nearly so—the great pillars, the shadowy stone and the immense space providing me with an experience of sacredness I find most reliably in wild places. Much of this has to do with stone and air, but it’s also true that the sacred wildness of the Cathedral is the wildness of the relationship between people: the freedom to grow. When I speak to another person in the nave, in front of the altar, or in one of the chapels, our conversation is nourished by the building around us. Catty remarks are not unheard of but a certain depth of sourness is hard to reach. The Cathedral contains us.

Christmas intensifies this awareness of connection. It’s a cliché that the holiday has become too much about gifts. Events like the Black Friday pepper-spraying at Walmart make the case without need for elaboration. There is no doubt that finding presents for many people can be a chore, yet I’ve found that this demand sparks my imagination in a way that looking for a wedding or birthday gift doesn’t. It’s the feeling of loving everyone at once that makes each particular act of love, each choice of gift, so satisfying. It’s like the feeling of being in a packed cathedral.

The Value of Water

September 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lisa Schubert, St. Francis Day, 2010

I’ve written so much about The Value of Water exhibition at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in my capacity as Cathedral writer-at-large, that I wonder what I can say about it that’s new, that’s all my own?

First of all, the opening was spectacular, 1500 people wandering through the bays and chapels, looking at the Kiki Smith, the William Kentridge, the April Gornik, and on and on. All the work depicted water, was about water, or used water (Nobuho Nagasawa’s magical ‘electric’ chair used the recorded sound of the Pacific ocean and her heartbeat), and you know what? Water is a very appealing subject. There’s a reason why most people prefer their art to have a bit of water in it.

The art related to the architecture and existing ornament of the cavernous Gothic cathedral the way those last sentences and paragraphs Proust scribbled on the galleys of Remembrance of Things Lost did not stand out or get lost in the clutter but rather added layers of depth and nuance, extending and perfecting the original meaning. (If you haven’t read Proust, which I hear is common, though inexplicable, substitute your favorite densely textured novel, poem, or piece of music.)

Of course, some of the art stands out, and some gets lost. But as a whole, I felt that everything was where it should be, at home, and though this was odd at first—at most art exhibits, the work is displayed boldly against a white or neutral background and challenges you mano a mano—it was quickly extraordinarily pleasing. It was as if the art had been there for ages, and I only now noticed; there was no dazzle, but a quiet “Oh.” And then, “It’s so beautiful…look, look at this one…”

Thanks is due to Fredericka Foster, for her superb curating job, and to Lisa Schubert, for doing the impossible putting it all together.

The purpose of this exhibition is to explore how water is seen by artists, and to assert that the way artists see—and the way we see when we give ourselves to art—is a great power that can and must be used in the current water and climate crisis. Imagination is denigrated in this society to the extent that even artists feel more than a little embarrassed saying that art can change the world. W. H. Auden wrote, in his elegy for W.B. Yeats,

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

Yet the poem ends,

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountains start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

That’s where this exhibition wants to do, or begin to do, or make us think about doing. Before anything changes, people have to want change very badly. They have to see the desert encroaching on their rich farmland; they have to recognize the desert in the heart that prevents them (us) from taking action.

The exhibition and the symposium on Saturday made me feel very strongly the need to take more action myself; I’ll begin by focusing more of this blog on water. News? Science? Poetry? My own watery musings on rain, tears, rivers and oceans? Probably a little of each of these. As one apparently bound to her bed and laptop by invisible chains, I’m not sure the physical action I take will be noticeable to anyone. But the challenge of thinking about how imagination can be kindled in people of disparate mindsets; and the greater challenge of trusting and respecting this force not only in my work and for myself, but for the loud, crude, two-fisted world… well, I can either attempt this or give in to despair, my faithful hound.

Sylvia, we hardly knew ye

November 7, 2010 § 1 Comment


Arthur Rackham, illustration from The Tempest (Ariel)

As I walked around the Cathedral during the sound check for the Celebration of Sylvia Plath, I realized again how much I love this building when it’s nearly empty: the huge columns like ancient trees escaping Zeus’s attentions by becoming stone, the vaulted ceiling far above, and mostly the delicious space, something my indoor life is sorely short of.

The past doesn’t seize my imagination here, as in European Cathedrals, but the gothic ribs and stone rosettes, the burnished wood of the choir far behind me and the great bronze doors coming closer usher me into that state of calm happiness I most desire. I was walking to the front to get a copy of the brochure (about the American Poets’ Corner) that I’d written, but mostly just to walk. After a morning of depression, an afternoon at the gynecologist—a new one, and I somehow managed to get locked in a vestibule for a few moments—then dinner with Deborah and meeting a few of the evening’s participants, it was nice to gather all the threads of the day together, to feel my depression fled and my body eagerly eating up distance. (Not much distance, true, but I’d been sitting a lot.)

The Dean opened the program, talking about how he’d had to overcome the feeling shared by many young men of his generation—a feeling he didn’t quite specify but we can guess—and learn to hear her voice. It reminded me of college; I studied many contemporary poets in class, but not Plath. The male teachers either didn’t appreciate her work or didn’t know how to teach her. Things have changed. It was very satisfying.

Karen Kukil, the archivist of the Plath papers at Smith, spoke about Plath’s life and work. Her talk was titled, The Hot, Steamy Drench of the Day—a phrase from Plath’s journals. She reminded us that though Plath was admittedly obsessed with death, she also ”lived every moment with her pores wide open.” That struck a nerve. I can tell the difference, reading her journals, between how she threw herself at life in her early 20’s and my own retreat from it. Perhaps I saved myself by hiding. I don’t know.

After Kukil, the louderArts poets (Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Lynne Procope, Corrina Bain, Elana Bell and Sean Patrick Conlon) took turns reading the poems. It took me awhile to settle into the spell, but then it was mesmerizing. The only time I ever heard Plath read was in a scratchy recording of her on the radio, and that was not her late, best work. Spoken in different voices and dramatic styles (sometimes duets) by a group of young poets, the poems seemed much airier and colorful, more exuberant than I had imagined they would. I’ve read—and written—about the dependence of poetry on the body and breath, but in fact I’ve communed with it mostly in silence.

The poet/scholar Annie Finch spoke about Plath’s meter and music. She got into a little technical talk about anapests and dactyls and I felt like a baby bird opening its beak wide demanding more food. Later I mentioned to someone that people never talk about the technical side of Plath’s work and she disagreed. Of course, I haven’t kept up. I was embarrassed but mostly just wanted to hear more. It makes me angry that there’s not a more mainstream place for poetry in our society—not as mainstream as, say, nude mud wrestling, but at least a place in the intellectual mainstream. Instead it feels like a poor relation, an old crone given lip service to as the 10,000-year-old mother of all literature, but shunted off the pages of any publication not solely devoted to poetry and short fiction.

Toward the end of the program, when special guest Paul Muldoon was reading “Daddy” in a very quiet manner that at first I thought wrong, and then immensely right, as he unlocked all the wit and tenderness in that poem (much more than you think), I felt that Plath’s spirit was somehow at rest, that she was complete. I didn’t feel my usual tantalizing…if only… I was talking to Plath’s brother afterward and I tried to explain this, because he was being so open, telling stories of their childhood, how Sylvia used to make her own paper dolls and all their dresses. I said; “There will never be enough of her, but after tonight it’s a little bit more enough. “Yes,” he said slowly. “A little bit more.” I wanted to say that I knew what it’s like to lose a sibling too young, but didn’t presume.

Sylvia is honored, as she should be, for her work. But I miss my brother, who would also have been great. Was great. He’s famous to me.

Untitled

It struck me every day
The lightning was as new
As if the cloud that instant slit
And let the fire through.

It burned me in the night,
It blistered in my dream;
It sickened fresh upon my sight
With every morning’s beam.

I thought that storm was brief,–
The maddest, quickest by;
But Nature lost the date of this,
And left it in the sky.

Emily Dickinson

St. Francis Day at the Cathedral

October 4, 2010 § 3 Comments


We sat behind a goat named Doni and next to a brown-haired dog, listening to the Dean of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine talk about the need to respect animals and the earth.

Oh, I do. I wonder what I’m doing here in the city when I could be tending goats on a lonely hillside, munching my bread and cheese and dreaming of faraway places. 20 years ago, I saw a goat-sired mountain sheep in Ireland that I remember vividly and often—and believe is still standing in the same fog, behind the beehive tomb.

I would have taken my cats to be blessed—just for the experience, they aren’t believers—but cats don’t care for cathedrals, unless they’re empty. And even empty would be too much for my apartment felines, whose brains have been shaped by small spaces and lots of clutter. They like to lick plastic bags, sleep on dirty clothes and chase fruit flies.

The camel was majestic, stately and a little bored, like an old actor doing his signature role for an adoring audience. The yak needed a clean up crew. The sheep baa-ed, the donkeys trudged, the tortoise was wheeled in on a cart, and the snake was draped like a priestly vestment around the neck of one of the vergers.

The Cathedral choir, school choirs, and the Paul Winter consort provided music accompanied by the song of the humpbacked whale, and the howl of a wolf; The Omega Dance Company and the Forces of Nature Dance Theater danced down the aisle and to the altar, past row upon row of people with their dogs on their laps or at their feet, and in cages hamsters, rabbits, geese, a few ferrets…

The Dean said, “How we treat animals reflects how we will treat each other,” but that isn’t it at all. I just think that you don’t believe a camel belongs in a cathedral, how can you appreciate poetry? The goat enjoyed himself the most of all the animals, and more than the young children. He chewed on the program and found it good. The dark-haired llama, on the other hand, sneered at the Dean who’d grown confident in his animal-whispering skills after soothing a frightened ostrich. The young girls clutched their bunnies and geese. And the spotted pigs frisked about the altar with gay abandon.

Outside, at one of the animal non-profit tables, a woman intoned, “People are animals too. People are animals, too.”

St. Francis, as you know, preached to the birds; he also tried to convert Muslims to Christianity, which was just as effective. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes him in his youth, “No one loved pleasure more than Francis; he had a ready wit, sang merrily, delighted in fine clothes and showy display. Handsome, gay, gallant, and courteous, he soon became the prime favourite among the young nobles of Assissi, the foremost in every feat of arms, the leader of the civil revels, the very king of frolic.”

Then he gave his father’s money to the church (without consent), was disowned and became a saint.

The Adventures of a Turtle

The turtle carries his house on his back. He is both the house and the person of that house.

But actually, under the shell is a little room where the true turtle, wearing long underwear, sits at a little table. At one end of the room a series of levers sticks out of slots in the floor, like the controls of a steam shovel. It is with these that the turtle controls the legs of his house.

Most of the time the turtle sits under the sloping ceiling of his turtle room reading catalogues at the little table where a candle burns. He leans on one elbow, and then the other. He crosses one leg, and then the other. Finally he yawns and buries his head in his arms and sleeps.

If he feels a child picking up his house he quickly douses the candle and runs to the control levers and activates the legs of his house and tries to escape.

If he cannot escape he retracts the legs and withdraws the so-called head and waits. He knows that children are careless, and that there will come a time when he will be free to move his house to some secluded place, where he will relight his candle, take out his catalogues and read until at last he yawns. Then he’ll bury his head in his arms and sleep….That is, until another child picks up his house….

Russell Edson

A Thousand Doglike Faces, Purple from the Cold

April 2, 2010 § 2 Comments

The Last Supper, Tintoretto

Last night was Maundy Thursday: the night of The Last Supper, which instituted the Eucharist, and of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as demonstration of humility. My Internet sources (I have never been a Christian) explain that it’s also a time for the reconciliation of penitents and of giving alms to the poor.

At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where I’m working part-time, Maundy Thursday is celebrated by special masses, foot-washing, and a 9 p.m. to midnight reading of Dante’s Inferno. I made it to the last half of the latter.

I can’t tell you what the Inferno has to do with the Last Supper or the reconciliation of penitents, since to my ear, Dante seems quite pleased at the fact that the sinners he encounters will suffer eternal torment. He names as many sinners he has personal knowledge of (as we might name Bush, Cheney, et al) and describes their individually tailored punishments. I resisted Dante for a long time, because though his images are fanstastic in the best sense and his language precise and thrilling, the emotional arc of the story did not move me. Yes, the following volumes give us Purgatory, and Paradise, angels and Beatrice and all that, but as far as I can tell nobody ever gets that far. Everyone likes hell.

A hell that is not especially terrifying, I might add, having read my share of novels written about psycho-killers, where the inventive tortures will actually make you despair, if only for the writer who dreams them up. In Dante, after a “wretch” has been submerged in boiling tar for some long period, and is fished out by demons and rent by their wicked talons, he’s able to carry on a coherent and quite civilized conversation with Virgil and Dante, telling his own story and reminding the latter poet to take note of all the other sinners, his old enemies who deserve to have society and posterity know their torment.

Poetic license, to be sure, but how can one really feel the agony of Hell when its ministrations don’t even flay the tongues of the damned? The tortures depicted in Greek myths, where the afflicted rarely spoke for themselves, were more convincing. Imagine Prometheus explaining in measured cadences the circumstances of his punishment, and the liver-eating eagle diminishes in fearsomeness. Less bloodthirsty Christians like to say Hell is the absence of God: eternal loneliness. It seems to me that, whether or not one desires vivid pain in the mix, loneliness is essential to a true Hell, whether it be the solitude of a desolate cliff or Sartre’s confinement among the unloving rasp of other people’s souls.

Dante’s sinners do suffer loneliness, strictly speaking, but I don’t feel it. It all seems quite cozy there in Hell. Only Satan seems left out, stuck fast in ice, unable to rule his subjects with the suave and wicked glee one has come to expect from the Prince of Darkness.

In any case, I enjoyed the reading, especially the half-canto read in Italian, the sonorous words breaking over me like the ocean, sparking fantasies of  a high-chambered room, oil-lamps burning, yellow silk wallpaper with faint sigils etched on it and a bed like a bier (covered in furs) where one could lie for a night hearing poetry in unknown languages read masterfully by a dozen disembodied voices.The voices might read different poems, but all in the same language at any given hour.

I also enjoyed the excellent food afterwards, and the conversation I overheard on the way there, among three young, non-religious people headed for a bar. They were discussing the theory that since Christ died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, on Saturday there is no God and all is allowed. The speaker of this theory modestly admitted she’d heard it from another.

Even a non-Christian like me knows Christ isn’t the only player, and his Dad is still minding the store on Saturday. But it did make me think of how this Saturday has been neglected in Christian mythology: what stories one could tell of Christ’s sojourn among the dead: the whisperings of corpses, the questions. If souls aren’t dispatched to their fate until the Last Judgment (opinions differ), and if the presence of the Son of God in their midst stirred a flicker of consciousness, wouldn’t they crowd around him like moths, confused and hapless, wondering?

Since today is my friend Deborah’s birthday, I’m offering you a poem from her new book of translations, The Dragonfly, by the Italian poet Amelia Rosselli. Deborah’s own poems can be found here. http://www.deborahwoodard.com/poetry.shtml

From Martial Variations

After God’s death came the rebirth.

After the endurance/

of the senses all days fell.

After the ink/

of China, an elephant was reborn: joy.

After joy/

hell set in after paradise

the wolf in its den. After/

the infinite came the joust.

But the tapers fell and the beasts/

sated themselves, and wool was

prepared and the wolf devoured./

After hunger the child was born,

after boredom the lover/

wrote his lines. After the infinite

fell the joust/

after the head was pummeled

the ink swelled. Warmly encased/

the Virgin wrote her lines:

moribund Christ replied to her/

don’t touch me!  After his lines Christ

devoured the suffering/

afflicting him.  After the night fell

the entire buttress/

of the world. After hell was born

the son hungry for/

success. After boredom broke the

silence the shrill/

whistle of the peasant woman

who sought water in the well/

too deep for her own arms. After the air that/

descended delicately around her immense

body, was born/

the daughter with a devastated heart,

was born the

suffering of birds,/

was born desire and the infinite

which once lost can never/

be found. Hopeful we totter

till in the end the ending fishes/

up a servile soul.

Amelia Rosselli, trans Deborah Woodard

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