Sunday, April 19, 2020

Poem During the Plague: 14

Nina R. Alonso

The poems in Riot Wake emerged from a summer traveling Spain and Morocco in 1970 with my late husband Fernando. We wandered for months, starting in Lisbon then north by train to the pilgrimage site, Santiago de Compostela, then to Toledo, Madrid, Granada. We spent weeks in Tangier, then back to Malaga, Nerja and Barcelona.  In Spain signs of complex, violent history were openly visible, but we were out of touch with what was going on in the states. Late August we returned to political chaos, rioting and disruption. Part one, exhausted from the trip is about colliding with dissonant reality. Poems in part to travel inward, dealing with loss of friends to distance and death, trying to find what’s needed to survive.

Nina Alonso is the publisher, founder  and editor of Constellations magazine based in Cambridge, MA.

RIOT WAKE             by Nina Rubinstein Alonso               1

Part one:  SUMMER’S END

Self after self
obsolete miniatures
up and down ramps

on a crooked day
how many ghosts
marching home

carrying summer
in overstuffed string sacks.
the long claw tows us in

time is a hook
with me yanking the end
not to go back

even though I’ve had enough
fountains and cathedrals
and don’t need more courtyard

walls with bullet holes
at the head-heart
firing squad line.

Riot Wake                       2


Sun warm yellow essences
dissolve leaving imperfect
particulars newspapers roll into
whips with photos of Franco in Spain

Nixon and anti-war riots at home
deposed dictators
coup d’etat presidents
fugitive nazis, demon terrorists

would-be emperors, mad politicians
dump them in a dark jungle
throw them on an island
to bully outwit overpower

torment and kill each other
put them in a wax museum
where barbarous heads
shrink in their own poison

nail the skulls together
lying lips sewn shut packaged
in doomed dimension
exhale violation from being.

Riot Wake                   3


We fly home on an elephant
a steel dinosaur I’m awake

too long a thin membrane through
which small suns try to shine.

so many empty seats
and the horrible bread

white squares made
by no human hand.

I don’t want to go back
to machine America.


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