I want to be once more on the land
when April brings a frosty surprise,
where even August can powder with snow.
September smiles indolent and clement, umbrellas are pointless.
Lime trees put on a show as they fall in our hair,
as we hide in their tunnels, as we skip class at school.
I want indigestion with memories both false and true.
I want clothes for all seasons,
and not just babies with fuzz-ripened skin.
Sharp-clawed darkness, the wolves howling from forests
that linger primordial near clean-ploughed fields.
I want you and I to be younger,
not necessarily a happy end.
I am linking this to Open Link Night at the dVerse Poets Pub, where the living is easy, the drinks are plentiful and the poetry is magnificent!
For a brief while during my student days in London I lived at a very desirable address in NW3 – on the Hampstead/Belsize Park borders. Not far from Keats’ beautiful home. Of course my accommodation was a typical student hole with shared facilities, but for a while there I felt I could soar. Here’s another sonnet – I told you I’ve been working hard on poetic form – but some rules are made to be broken…
You called it precarious and spindly, so I stopped
inviting you up dusty stairs,
my isolated bubble-nest at the top
of the world. Forget shared kitchen, bathtub hairs.
I went to London recently and walked through the Barbican Centre on a balmy evening. All of a sudden, I remembered the first time I had come here, when I was still new to England and to Western ways of being.
Was it November or February?
We were down from Cambridge for the day.
Nights fell early, that I do know.
A few lost flakes of snow found us embracing on terraces
as we meandered through endless walkways.
Twenty years and we still haven’t found the play or entrance to the theatre.
How we giggled as yet another dead end loomed,
never thinking that soon
we would face our own
blocked corridors, no-exit wounds.
We practiced our dancing by the lakeside, exulting
in winter dearth of its fountains
no parallels no metaphors
to make our ballroom steps falter.
Twenty years and yet
your hand feels warm
wrapped around mine, safety illusory.
Today the fountains are trumpeting water and sound
to fill hearts with peace, minds with Zen chanting.
There are still summer cadences to this September lull.
My life? Oh, turned out fair to middling,
not as deeply blissful as I once glimpsed
through our entwined limbs on narrow college bed.
So why do I stop to ripple out, retreat,
why allow my heart to drum out aching beats?
You see, I was hoping
that you too might never have felt such joy since,
such lust-laden satiety.
But now I think it likely
you have, and more than once,
it’s just me
who lingers on borders of might have beens
slurping in nostalgia along with daily bread
destined to mourn not be mourned over
remember rather than be memorable.
When they open me after death
and find the wizened heart of walnut size,
they will see your name folded in tightly
source of all the dry rot
killing belief in mumbo-jumbo of twin souls.
Once, when I was twenty, I was not brave enough
to defy conventions
and go out to meet my turquoise-fired lover.
And I’ve been paying ever since.
[This is very much work in progress, only a rough initial draft of the poem. But the impression of the setting was so immediate, so vivid that it made me cry and I felt compelled to share, especially since we were asked to revisit something painful at dVerse Poets today. I’m off to read what others have written about, why don’t you join me?]
One of the pleasures of dedicating myself to writing (once more) is that I am rediscovering old friends whom I haven’t seen in years, and whose creative talents have matured like good wine. Our lives have taken such different paths, we are scattered all over the world, we may struggle with small talk and yet…
Our love of words unites us: in some ways, we are perhaps closer now, sharing the best of of our thoughts, than we were when we were living together side by side.
Let me introduce you to just three of these. First, Paul Doru Mugur, a friend from high school, the only one who kept pushing me (sometimes ruthlessly) to write. Here is a beautiful and rich essay of his about time, published in an online journal which he co-edits. He also translates Romanian poetry into English, has published several volumes of short stories and poetry, and is generally very active in the arts world – all while holding down a demanding job as a physician in New York.
Secondly, I have a niece who used to pull my hair as a baby, but whom I have barely seen since. She is now all grown-up, has just graduated from university, writes searing prose in Romanian and occasionally in English. We barely speak to each other at the big family reunions, but have grown close through our online love of writing. A facet of ourselves well-hidden from the rest of the family. Here is a poem in English, but I think her real talent lies in flash fiction or polemical pieces. Here is a lovely example called Tutus and Cigarettes.
Finally, a friend from university who writes like an angel. Her blog House of Happy has made me just that: profoundly happy. I think she has a direct window into my heart and head at times. Here is one of my favourite recent entries. I wanted to reblog it, but our different platforms means I will cut and paste instead (oddly appropriate for this poem):
Get some paper
Chop it up into small squares (a hundred freckles-wide by exactly four snails)
Retrieve bits of your life and write down trigger-words on the shell-and-freckle paper: trigger words are those words that drag behind them large, live memories, the type you can still see, feel, count, smell (but not always spell…); the kind that roll off the shelf, jump out of the bottle and burn your eyes.
Put them all in a hat, shake well.
Watch them settle inside, now still but still whispering their burnished secrets, a lake of life inside a hat.
Clutch the trigger word you caught tightly inside your fist.
(eat it up if you must – chew well, swallow carefully; this may be helpful but remains entirely optional)
In any case, hold that word, smell it, consume it or, better still, let it consume you.
Then write about it. Write as if your next breath depended on it.
Prose, verse, a picture, anything that would help you understand
why your heart still roars
although your life, bruised burden
and time itself
Oh, allright then, here is a terrible picture from those days, to counteract all these lovely words! And no, I’m not sharing which one of the wild-haired people was me!