Monday, September 20, 2021

& Company By Moira Linehan Dos Madres Press

 

& Company

By Moira Linehan

Dos Madres Press

www.dosmadres.com

Loveland, Ohio

ISBN: 978-1-953252-14-2

76 Pages


Review by Dennis Daly


Elegant beyond elegance. Moira Linehan stitches together a palimpsest biography of her mother’s mother, Marie Louise Raimbault Wacha, a nonpareil seamstress and dress designer. Based on very little hard information, Linehan conjures up backdrops, insights, and probable artistic techniques used by her grandmother. She does this by incorporating period art in an ekphrastic approach that uncovers the extraordinary will and likely contours of a magnificent lady. Wacha’s life spanned the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. The urban textile centers of Paris and Boston nurtured her.


In her well-wrought and telling sonnet, Ars Poetica, Linehan wonderfully describes the raw labor and hidden subtleties necessary in constructing a dress and, metaphorically, any serious artwork. Here she lists some of the basics,


The planning

beforehand. Washing washable textiles


to shrink them before they’re sewn. Laying out

the pattern so the design flows, the plaid lines

match, the dress drapes. Shears sharp so the seams

won’t pucker, twist, ravel. The seamstress’s stress


Then the fitting, the pinning and re-pinning

those seams. Right shade of thread? The sewing,

seemingly magic, not one stitch visible.

Each seam, steam-pressed flat till at last the sewn


carries material and a dressmaker’s vision

out into the world…


In the first of three stage-setting poems entitled Addressing the History Linehan interweaves economic history and art history. For instance, she details the domino effect of new fashion trends and how they took her grandmother’s world by storm,


under it all, the corset. At first, just working

to narrow the waist, set off by jackets with wide

shoulders, with bodice seams, darts, braiding, rows

of buttons, maybe striped textiles, all verging in a V

at the waist. Not how tiny. Then corsets lengthened


to an hourglass. As that century’s second half starts,

ten thousand workers in Paris produce those corsets.

The year the American Civil War begins, over

one million are sold there. Dressmakers are talking

to salesmen, salesmen to weavers. Soon bolts of cloth

come with borders woven in for hemlines, for cuffs.

Soon the new fashion journals, then department stores


carry patterns, instructions for assembling skirts

and dresses…


Mary Cassatt captures the subtle art of dressmaking in her brilliant drypoint and aquatint painting The Fitting (circa 1891). Linehan mines this piece for its historic value in relation to her grandmother. The image portrayed contrasts a graceful and stylish standing woman with her attentive, sitting (almost kneeling) seamstress, who is wearing a simple brown garb. The standing woman is doubled by a full-length mirror. In her poem of the same name Linehan draws out, not only some of her grandmother’s essence, but also a temperament and social position. Here’s part of her description,


She’s sitting on a low stool,

her back to the viewer, seams of her back

bodice on display. The center seam: pattern placed

so two strips of those four black lines get stitched

together at the neckband, leaving three lines

each side. But not just stitched. Fitted, so narrowing

to only three lines total at her waist. Likewise,

from left shoulder and right, strips of black lines,

taken in by darts. Each side of that center seam,

mirror of the other.


Another painting Linehan uses to great effect is Edmund Tarbell’s Girl, Crocheting (1904). The girl pictured seems content in her work, work that exists only in shadow. The artist even vanishes the girl’s face into shadow. A large portrait on the wall, however, leaves no doubt as to Pope Innocent’s identification and imposing figure. Linehan employs the grand pope as a figure of contrast with the contentedness of the crocheter, and both of them as a contrast to a new century and the impending revolution centering on the modern woman. The poet’s consideration of Tarbell’s portrait (copied from Velazquez) of Pope Innocent leads directly to a consideration of the breakout,


His waist-length cape, signature vermillion satin,

drapes in a V over a long surplice, its wide hem

of fine lace. Some claim it’s the greatest portrait

painter’s greatest portrait, this pope by Velazquez,

more or less a contemporary of Vermeer. Tarbell,


suggesting he has a foot in both those schools.

Tarbell, of the Boston school. Yet within the world

Of this art: all the unnamed. Nuns working bobbins

By window light, making lace for bishops’ vestments.

Women of Vermeer’s Delft about their daily lives.

This Girl in a long dark skirt, seemingly content

to crochet in shadow. She, a weir for Tarbell,

holding back the new century, those women marching.


Clues here and there suggest that Linehan’s grandmother, Maria, did quite well financially. Her poem, Getting My Grandmother to Boston notes that Maria’s tailor-husband was offered and accepted a managerial job with Boston’s largest manufacturing plant of woman’s fashions. Three years later he opened Jules Wacha & Company on Boylston Street. With these bare facts the poet’s (now well-schooled) imagination fills in the blanks,


So I decide to give her, as the “& Company,” part

of Jules Wacha & Company, the task

of overseeing its books as she oversaw

the finances of their home at 4 Zamora Street

in Jamaica Plain, my mother having told me

she grew up with servants—maids, housekeepers, cooks,

and gardeners—my grandmother keeping

from her husband (as my mother would) such

bothersome details…


This lovely book of artistic investigation concludes, not only with the reversal of her grandmother’s erasure, but also, revelations of the poet’s own craft and the intense, unforgotten influence of a mother’s love.

Newton Free Library Poetry Series Sept. 2021

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Seamus Heaney Memorial Reading Wednesday 22 Sep 2021 @7pm




The Seamus Heaney Memorial Reading

Wednesday

22 Sep 2021 @7pm

First Church Congregationalist

11 Garden Street near Harvard Square





The Hastings Room Series is back, presenting

And the name, a lost potent musk,

Recalled the river’s long swerve,

A kingfisher’s blue bolt at dusk…

“A New Song,” 1972

G u e s t r e a d e r s —

Fred Marchant is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Said Not Said (Graywolf Press), recognized as an "Honored Book" for 2017 by the Massachusetts Book Awards. Earlier books include Full Moon Boat, House on Water, House in Air, and The Looking House. His first book, Tipping Point, won the 1993 Washington Prize, from The Word Works, and was reissued in a 20th anniversary second edition.

Hilary Sallick is the author of Asking the Form (Cervena Barva Press, 2020) and Winter Roses (Finishing Line Press, 2017). She teaches reading and writing to adult learners in Somerville, and she is vice-president of the New England Poetry Club.

Steven Ratiner has published three poetry chapbooks, and is completing work on two full-length collections. His work has appeared in journals, including Parnassus, Agni, Poet Lore, Salamander, and Poetry Australia. Giving Their Word – Conversations with Contemporary Poets was re-issued in a paperback edition (University of Massachusetts Press) and features interviews with many of contemporary poetry’s most important figures. In 2019 he was appointed Poet Laureate of Arlington, Massachusetts.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Somerville Composer Reynaliz Herrera : Using Bikes as Percussion Instruments







I caught up with Somerville composer Reynaliz Herrera--who uses very unconventional objects as instruments.



You are originally from Mexico. How has Somerville been for your life
as an artist?

I've lived in Boston for 11 years now, and lived specifically in Somerville on and off for the past years. I love how Somerville is so mindful and supportive of its artists, I feel like there are a lot of opportunities for artists in this area (festivals, events, grants, etc) and I like that the scene here is also very supportive of "quirky art", and art that doesn't necessarily fit a particular genre. We need that!



Your project at the Growing Center in Somerville explores 'music for bikes.'  I can recall that Gershwin used taxi horns for his composition " Rhapsody in Blue." There is a symphony of sounds in the urban environs. Are you going along a similar track?

In a way! I wasn't particularly inspired by Gershwin, but yeah I would say that especially at the beginning of my exploration with bicycles as instruments and when I started writing music for bicycles (9 years ago) I was inspired by the sounds of the city. I also was inspired by John Cage and his philosophies about music.  I was inspired by the idea of using anything as an instrument and exploring that instrument to the max. I want to treat these types of instruments (unconventional percussion and bicycles) as seriously as you would treat a violin.



The Bike will be an actual percussion instrument, right?

Yes!... In my new piece/program "BIKEncerto: a concerto for solo bicycle and orchestra" I feature the bicycle as a percussion instrument. In this new piece I aimed to push myself to explore the bike to even more detailed, nuanced heigths. I feature the bike in different ways: the full bicycle, a "Tires Keyboard" that I created, and melodic spokes where I wrote and play actual melodic music!.

Why do you explore such unconventional instrument possibilities? Do
you think the drum conveys more than a bike?

Because it's fun! Traditional instruments are great, but I like to explore new possibilities. Between the more traditional drum (let's say a snare drum) and the bicycle I would say they just offer different possibilities and opportunities.

Was there a musician or school of music that inspired you?

Yes, especially in my school years I felt really inspired by John Cage and his ideas about music and art, also Evelyn Glennie (percussionist) inspired me to find my own path and my own voice as an artist. My parents (who are also artists) and my former teachers (Ian Bernard, Bob Becker, Noel Savon, Jose Garza, Sam Solomon and Keith Aleo) have also inspired me.

You have a full play that consists of your bike music. It is titled "
Ideas, not Theories". Intriguing title, please explain...

Yes, through "Ideas, Not Theories"  is my theatrical percussion company, I perform several original programs featuring the bicycle as an instrument in different ways, one of them is "Ideas, Not Theories- Full Staged Show" which is the theatrical play. In regards to the title: At the time that I started "Ideas, Not Theories" and wrote my first program, I wanted to convey a sense of playfulness and creative liberty, opposed to tradition and strictness. I was tired of the strictness I felt playing mostly classical percussion, and wanted to feel a sense of liberty and freshness. "Ideas" (in this case) mean "openness to possibility" and "Theories" mean something more fixed and strict.
 
What other unconventional instruments do you hope to explore in the future?

So far I've explored bicycles, water, sprayers, tap and body percussion, brushes, bridges, a boat, etc. I usually like to get obsessed with one unconventional instrument and explore it to the max (Like the bicycle, which I've already written 4 different programs for this instrument!). I guess after I get tired of the bikes I would like to explore my water music even further. During the COVID lockdown I wrote and recorded an "impromptu" piece for snow that I haven't shown anyone yet, I plan to upload that online sometime soon, and I'm definitely curious about exploring ice/snow more...

For more information:

WHAT: premiere of "BIKEncerto: a concerto for solo bicycle and orchestra" by Reynaliz Herrera.
(For the performances, Reynaliz Herrera will be joined by the "Ideas, Not Theories Orchestra" partly comprised of Somerville-based performers, and conductor Amelia Hollander Ames.)
WHERE: The Somerville Community Growing Center

(22 Vinal Ave, Somerville, MA 02143)
WHEN: September 18th (3pm & 6pm), and September 19th (3pm).

*Rain date: September 26th (2pm & 5pm).
FORMAT: LIVE- IN PERSON.
TICKETS: FREE!



Friday, September 10, 2021

Red Letter Poem 76

I’ll be taking a one-week hiatus to attend a writing retreat and will return with a new Red Letter on September 24th. In the meantime, why not seek out your own clear-eyed passage, composing your own Red Letter day.

 

 

The Red Letter Poem Project

 

The Red Letters 3.0: A New Beginning (Perhaps)   

At the outset of the Covid pandemic, when fear was at its highest, the Red Letter Project was intended to remind us of community: that, even isolated in our separate homes, we could still face this challenge together.  As Arlington’s Poet Laureate, I began sending out a poem of comfort each Friday, featuring the fine talents from our town and its neighbors.  Because I enlisted the partnership of seven local arts and community organizations, distribution of the poems spread quickly – and, with subscribers sharing and re-posting the installments, soon we had readers, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but across the country.  And I delighted in the weekly e-mails I’d receive with praise for the poets; as one reader recently commented: “You give me the gift of a quiet, contemplative break—with something to take away and reflect on.”

 

Then our circumstance changed dramatically again: following the murder of George Floyd, the massive social and political unrest, and the national economic catastrophe, the distress of the pandemic was magnified.  Red Letter 2.0 announced that I would seek out as diverse a set of voices as I could find – from Massachusetts and beyond – so that their poems might inspire, challenge, deepen the conversation we were, by necessity, engaged in.

 

Now, with widespread vaccination, an economic rebound, and a shift in the political landscape, I intend to help this forum continue to evolve – Red Letter 3.0.  For the last 15 months, I’ve heard one question again and again: when will we get back our old lives?  It may pain us to admit it, but that is little more than a fantasy.  Our lives have been altered irrevocably – not only our understanding of how thoroughly interdependent we are, both locally and globally, but how fragile and utterly precious is all that we love.  Weren’t you bowled over recently by how good it felt just to hug a friend or family member?  Or to walk unmasked through a grocery, noticing all the faces?  So I think the question we must wrestle with is this: knowing what we know, how will we begin shaping our new life?  Will we quickly forget how grateful we felt that strangers put themselves at risk, every day, so that we might purchase milk and bread, ride the bus to work, or be cared for by a doctor or nurse?  Will we slip back into our old drowse and look away from the pain so many are forced to endure – in this, the wealthiest nation on the planet?  Will we stop noticing those simple beauties all around us?  The poet Mary Oliver said it plainly: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  I will continue to offer RLP readers the work of poets who are engaged in these questions, hoping their voices will fortify all of ours.

 

Two of our partner sites will continue re-posting each Red Letter weekly: the YourArlington news blog (https://www.yourarlington.com/easyblog/entry/28-poetry/3035-redletter-072921), and the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene (http://dougholder.blogspot.com).  If you would like to receive these poems every Friday in your own in-box – or would like to write in with comments or submissions – send correspondence to: steven.arlingtonlaureate@gmail.com.

 

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

 

                                                                                              – Steven Ratiner

 

 

Red Letter Poem #76

 

 

 

Gyre.  Anemone.  Colonnade.  Crevasse.  It’s a little like following footsteps in the sand: reading words.  They lead us back to all the people whose minds once savored their meanings, all those in whose mouths these syllables once rested.  For a moment, mid-sentence, you might have a sense of yourself on the long human caravan where, during the lonely nights, you can take your bearings by all those stellar words spoken before you even existed.  And if you are of the inclination to put words to paper, you may even have an intimation of the linguistic markers you yourself are setting down which some other traveler may come across, sometime in the future.

 

When words are used especially well, they become imbued with personality, resonance, mystery – not only those rare beauties (what my high school English teacher referred to as “five dollar words”) but even those blunt and serviceable nouns we use to convey apple to waiting hand.  Poets often leave their mark on words in an especially indelible way that survives long after their mortal existence.  Most readers of poetry cannot come across a word like gyre without the uneasy feeling of chaos erupting while the shadow of Yeats’ falcon falls across our path.   Anemone, and I’m standing in Dr. Williams’ white field.   Colonnade, and I’m waking in April, Eliot’s cruelest of months.  And when I hear crevasse, I can’t help but find myself searching along with Lucille Clifton for the garden of delight, “certain only of the syllables.  After reading today’s Red Letter, I suspect Deborah Melone’s psithurism will always have a bit of her voice attached (to say nothing of apricity.)  Her poem is reminding us of that elemental joy when we discover that there are, in fact, words for that desire just taking shape inside us – ones that can make us feel we do, in fact, belong in this world. 

 

In her earlier Red Letter appearances, I’ve praised Deborah’s collection Farmers’ Market and her lovely chapbook The Wheel of the Year (Every Other Thursday Press) – but today’s installment is a brand new poem that charmed me the moment I heard it, and I hope it will work the same magic on you.  It prompted me to recall a conversation I had many years back with the great poet William Stafford for my interview collection.  Speaking of language, Stafford declared: “The words that occur to me come out of my relation to the language which is developing even as I am using it. . .I am not learning definitions as established in even the latest dictionary.  I'm not a dictionary-maker.  I'm a person a dictionary-maker has to contend with. . .”.  Ms. Melone as well.

 

 

 

Psithurism

 

Psithurism, the sound of the wind in the trees.

Who would think there’s a word for that?  But there is.

From the ancient Greek, psithuros—whispering, slanderous,

a little like susurrus, a rustling sound.

To me it suggests a murmuring of bees

as they search through leaves for sources of honey.

 

The words for things we never knew the words for:

apricity—the warmth of the winter sun;

petrichor—the earthy smell after rain.

Blending together, rising into song

Like hakòmè grass, a graceful, cascading mound

of leaves that ripple in the slightest breeze,

cloaking us in odor, texture, savor,

drawing us into the world, where we belong.

 

             

                                          — Deborah Melone

 

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Somerville Artist Alexandra Rozenman: Looks at the world Above-Inside-Outside-Under


Somerville Artist Alexandra Rozenman: Looks at the world Above-Inside-Outside-Under


Article by Doug Holder


I met Somerville artist Alexandria Rozenman, under the thick, tangle of vines, in the courtyard of the Neighborhood Restaurant in Union Square, Somerville. Trying to make small talk, I told her that I was of Russian Jewish heritage--like her. She looked at my bagel, dripping with onions and smoked fish, and said, " Yes, I can smell it."



Rozenman, 50, is a resident of the Brickbottom Galleries in the hinterlands of Union Square. Originally from Moscow in Russia, she is the child of dissident parents and trained with dissident artists, some of whom became prominent in the West, like the noted Grisha Bruskin. She explained that creating art under a totalitarian regime, can be much more vital-- than when the artist is in a comfortable, uncensored environment.



Rozenman had a long journey before she landed at the Brickbottom Gallery in Somerville. She taught and worked in places like Minneapolis, the Lower East Side of New York City, and locally in Allston, MA. She told me she is related to the first wife of the artist Marc Chagall--who often appeared in flight in the master's paintings. And indeed her own work is influenced by Chagall. This is quite a lineage for an artist, me thinks. 



 Rozenman showed me some collages she has been working on. The works are full of enigmatic landscapes, personified animals, mysterious lovers, etc... She told me they were created from scrap paper she gathered from other artists. These will be part of  a series she is working on, that in someways is influenced by her own life story.



I asked Rozenman, " How should I look at art? She took a pepper shaker on the table and said, " Look above it, look inside of it, look outside of it, and look under it." She continued, " I don't want people to think we look just at solitary objects--we have to take it all in." Being a poet, I could certainly agree with this take it all in philosophy. 



And Rozenman teaches all this to her students at her Art School 99 on Joy St. in Somerville. There she has a cadre of loyal students, who helped her secure this space, and pursue her mission.



Like many artists in our city, Rozenman has to deal with the black dogs of gentrification. Fortunately for her she found a space at the Brickbottom, which houses a community of artists and other folks. Rozenman told me she found the residents warm and inviting, and seemed please to have a younger artist living with and working with them.



Rozenman doesn't identify with any particular school of painting, but a description from the Fountain Street Gallery in Boston gives us insight:

"Alexandra Rozenman’s paintings and drawings blend the styles and symbols of folk art, Russian Underground Conceptualism, illustration, and Jewish Art. She embraces and plays with Russian, European and American folk tales and myths, giving them utopian and funny dimensions in her work. She combines a universal story with a personal one, absorbing and expressing the psychology of otherness as a fundamental part of her identity and of the contemporary world in which we live. Her current series of paintings, TRANSPLANTED, touches upon issues of artistic influence and dialogue, emulation and creativity. Her work can be viewed as a metaphor for immigration and the cathartic journey of re-inventing a new personal and artistic identity."


Rozenman will have a showing of her work at the Fountain Street Gallery on Oct. 22. To find out more about her go to:


 http://www.alexandrarozenman.com

http://artschool99somerville.com




Friday, September 03, 2021

The Red Letter Poem Project #75

 NOW ONLINE!  I was asked to write an essay for Askold Melnyczuk’s Arrowsmith Journal about what I learned from the first year of the Red Letter Project.  It also became a meditation about the relationship between poet and reader.  If you’d like to take a look, here is a link –

https://www.arrowsmithpress.com/community-of-voices

-- and you’ll also be able to check out the variety of marvelous literary projects that appear under Askold’s Arrowsmith imprint.  Enjoy!

 

The Red Letter Poem Project

 

The Red Letters 3.0: A New Beginning (Perhaps)   

At the outset of the Covid pandemic, when fear was at its highest, the Red Letter Project was intended to remind us of community: that, even isolated in our separate homes, we could still face this challenge together.  As Arlington’s Poet Laureate, I began sending out a poem of comfort each Friday, featuring the fine talents from our town and its neighbors.  Because I enlisted the partnership of seven local arts and community organizations, distribution of the poems spread quickly – and, with subscribers sharing and re-posting the installments, soon we had readers, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but across the country.  And I delighted in the weekly e-mails I’d receive with praise for the poets; as one reader recently commented: “You give me the gift of a quiet, contemplative break—with something to take away and reflect on.”

 

Then our circumstance changed dramatically again: following the murder of George Floyd, the massive social and political unrest, and the national economic catastrophe, the distress of the pandemic was magnified.  Red Letter 2.0 announced that I would seek out as diverse a set of voices as I could find – from Massachusetts and beyond – so that their poems might inspire, challenge, deepen the conversation we were, by necessity, engaged in.

 

Now, with widespread vaccination, an economic rebound, and a shift in the political landscape, I intend to help this forum continue to evolve – Red Letter 3.0.  For the last 15 months, I’ve heard one question again and again: when will we get back our old lives?  It may pain us to admit it, but that is little more than a fantasy.  Our lives have been altered irrevocably – not only our understanding of how thoroughly interdependent we are, both locally and globally, but how fragile and utterly precious is all that we love.  Weren’t you bowled over recently by how good it felt just to hug a friend or family member?  Or to walk unmasked through a grocery, noticing all the faces?  So I think the question we must wrestle with is this: knowing what we know, how will we begin shaping our new life?  Will we quickly forget how grateful we felt that strangers put themselves at risk, every day, so that we might purchase milk and bread, ride the bus to work, or be cared for by a doctor or nurse?  Will we slip back into our old drowse and look away from the pain so many are forced to endure – in this, the wealthiest nation on the planet?  Will we stop noticing those simple beauties all around us?  The poet Mary Oliver said it plainly: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  I will continue to offer RLP readers the work of poets who are engaged in these questions, hoping their voices will fortify all of ours.

 

Two of our partner sites will continue re-posting each Red Letter weekly: the YourArlington news blog (https://www.yourarlington.com/easyblog/entry/28-poetry/3035-redletter-072921), and the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene (http://dougholder.blogspot.com).  If you would like to receive these poems every Friday in your own in-box – or would like to write in with comments or submissions – send correspondence to: steven.arlingtonlaureate@gmail.com.

 

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

 

                                                                                              – Steven Ratiner

 

 

Red Letter Poem #75

 

 

One could argue that central to Frank Bidart’s body of work is the notion of syntax – though I don’t mean the grammarian’s preoccupation with the rules of well-turned sentences.  Since it’s believed that language is innate in our species, then this poet’s work can be seen as a series of portraits revealing the intimate thought-structures that come to light in minds working their way into self-consciousness – in the author’s mind as well as a host of personas.  We find the bold assertions and sly deflections, the feints and false starts, eviscerating despair and the resurgent hope that holds our days together.  And each has its effect on how words interact.  Frank’s is the rich and complex music of our inner voices tangling and untangling what we believe is happening to us.  And within us.  And all around us.   

 

I’d just moved to California in 1973 and was working in a bookstore when I came across a debut poetry collection entitled Golden State.  How could a newcomer not pick it up?  But the poems within those covers were nothing like what I’d expected – nothing, in fact, like the work my college teachers had lectured about.  These voices were unusual but wholly mesmerizing; they possessed a musical charge that was akin to touching an uninsulated wire.  I’ve been following Frank’s poetry ever since.  Across a half-century of writing, he is perhaps most famous for a number of extended (and wildly inventive) dramatic monologues featuring such disparate voices as “Ellen West” (who suffered from anorexia and body dysmorphia); “Herbert White” (a psychopathic killer); and the great Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.  But even in the shorter and more personal lyrics, his poems feel to me like the recitativo of a sprawling opera in which the singer is simultaneously hidden away in his inner sanctum and also spotlighted on the dark stage before a vast audience.  In other words: the predicament of human consciousness.

 

It would be impossible to overstate how highly regarded this poet’s work is, especially among other poets.  An exhaustive list of his awards and honors would require more space than I have, but some of the highlights include: the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize, the National Book Award, and the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry.  Today’s poem comes from Frank’s eleventh collection, Against Silence (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which will be published next month.  Here too, we are presented with a monologue, seemingly intended for one certain listener – the sort that occupies that singular place which love alone carves out inside us and which nothing else, across the long decades, can hope to fill.  He borrows the Persian phrase to marks that bittersweet absence.   And encroaching silence is pushed back yet again.      

 

 

 

On My Seventy-Eighth

 

 

There will be just two at

table tonight,

though to accommodate all those who have

so mattered

and still so matter in my life, the table will be

very long:

though empty. I say to you, Jaya

shoma khalee!

Your place is empty! Your place at my table

is saved

for you. I tried to construct in my soul

your necessary

grave (because you were dead/because you were

flawed/preoccupied,

concentrated on your soul, too often you were

cruel—) but

as I shoveled dirt onto your body, the dirt refused,

soon, to

cling.  Those who torment because you know you

loved them

refuse to remain buried. Is anything ever forgotten,

actually forgiven?

Shovel in hand, I saw how little I had

known you.

Tonight, I abjure the wisdom, the illusion of

forgetting. Come,

give up silence. Intolerable the fiction

the rest

is silence. To the dead, to the living:

your place

is empty.

 

 

                                    –– Frank Bidart