An Ode of the Lost
to Adam Mickiewicz and all Polish exiles
Tired exiles in rainy Paris listen to Mickiewicz
reciting praises of woodsy hills, green meadows
distant Lithuania, their home painted in Polish verse,
each word thickly spread with meaning,
like a slice of rye bread with buckwheat honey.
“Litwo! Ojczyzno moja! ty jesteś jak zdrowie.
Ile cię trzeba cenić, ten tylko się dowie,
Kto cię stracił” * --he says, and we, homeless Poles
without ground under our feet, concur,
sharing the blame for our departure.
There’s no return.
Are not all journeys one way? Forward,
forward, go on, call that going, call that on. **
The speed of light, merciless angel with a flaming sword,
moves the arrow forward. Seconds, minutes
stretch into years. Onwards. Go.
The time-space cone limits the realm of possibility.
If you stay, you can go on. If you leave---
Can you find blessing in the blur of a moment?
In a glimpse of soft, grassy slopes shining
like burnished gold before the sun turns purple?
Can you learn to love the sweet-fluted songs
of the mockingbird, forget the nightingale?
How far is too far for the lost country
to become but a dream of ancient kings
where children never cry, wildflowers bloom,
and autumn flutter of brown, drying leaves
whispers of the comforts of winter?
Sleep, sleep, eternal sleep,
in the spring you will awaken
* from Adam Mickiewicz’s Invocation to Pan Tadeusz, or the Last Foray in Lithuania (My country! You are as good health: /How much one should prize you, he only can tell who has /lost you), ** from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable.
Published in The Cosmopolitan Review, vol. 2 no. 1, February 2010.
Someone nailed gold-plated clouds
to the hard, polished turquoise of the sky.
Striated, like the stripes of a tiger
I did not know I had for a pet
until he bared his teeth
at the dogs flowing through the air
to corner him in my backyard.
The blond fur glistened in shadows.
Three golden labs growled
at the cat the size of a calf.
He turned. His stripes shone
with danger. I woke up afraid.
Now I watch the gold of the clouds
change into orange, scarlet and amaranth
in a quickly darkening cupola
that rests on the hills
above the Hollywood Bowl.
Smooth tones of Joshua Bell’s violin
glow in the air, escaping
the relentless chase of the brass.
Wind snatches notes from the bow,
plays with their glossy sheen.
Stars blossom on cloud-stems
in bouquets, wild as tiger lilies
you gave me that night.
Danger lurks in your smile
as you caress my ear
with a whisper: Remember?
Published in the Epiphany Magazine, February 2010
I place you in the heart
of my rose, dark red one
with dew drops on its leaves.
Like a tricked-up baby
from Ann Geddes’ postcard
you rest, snugly wrapped
in the comfort of my love.
That too shall pass, they say,
That too shall pass.
The rose will wither,
love will fade away.
Respectfully, I disagree.
I know the symmetry
of velvet petals
is but an opening
into a different universe,
a cosmic window,
I see it in the shyness
of your smile. Yes.
You are that lucky.
In the morning
when the curtains of mist
open above silver hills
carved from time
like a Japanese woodcut,
you taste freedom.
You found your true self
under the detritus
of disordered life.
Isn’t it strange
that you’ve been saved
by the perfection
of just one rose?