August 2016 Poetry Feature

The Sleep of Reason: New Poems from our Contributors.

JAMES BYRNE, from Caprices

 

The sleep of reason produces monsters

                                                    Sleep overcomes them

Perchance happiness hooded in
sleep. A ventilated tunnel hutch
where I shy from the vexed orison
of consciousness. Pallid thought
cast in the red dye of remembrance
then swarmed as a gossip’s hive.
Age wretches. Calamity scorns
the life alive that is born to live.

 

                                                   Thou who canst not

As if the weight that we carried
were love, not a pocket of silver.
Bloodshadow rivers in white sand,
is whispered at the buccaneer’s ear
by King Ferdinand. Eighty Maravedis
for the price of a cavalry, a peninsula.
On their backs, the sign of the beast,
the profiteer that relies on war.

 

                                                   The sleep of reason produces monsters

Now that the state legitimises hate,
a wakeful trump of doom thunders
valley deep (where are the Blakes
and Miltons now?). Crisis of mirrors
where my neighbour reasons only
with himself: a hissing face, chained
to sleep in a star’s coda. A fantasy,
that whatever is pure is england.

 

Sleep overcomes them 

Perchance happiness hooded in
sleep. A ventilated tunnel hutch
where I shy from the vexed orison
of consciousness. Pallid thought
cast in the red dye of remembrance
then swarmed as a gossip’s hive.
Age wretches. Calamity scorns
the life alive that is born to live.

 

Thou who canst not 

As if the weight that we carried
were love, not a pocket of silver.
Bloodshadow rivers in white sand,
is whispered at the buccaneer’s ear
by King Ferdinand. Eighty Maravedis
for the price of a cavalry, a peninsula.
On their backs, the sign of the beast,
the profiteer that relies on war.

 

 

James Byrne’s most recent poetry collections are Everything Broken Up Dances and White Coins

 

JUDITH BAUMEL

 

Passeggiata and Memory in Palermo 

Festa di Santa Rosalia

I’m on the Maqueda, ice cream sandwich
in hand, to read the three alphabets of via Calderai
—Italian, Hebrew, Arabic—on the same plaque.
“The Street of The Tinsmiths.”
Here words are banged into shape, i.e. synagogue =
moschita from mosque. Verbs turn
in the open forges and hang with iron pans,
copper pots and candlesticks.
Nouns borrow neighborly traits.
Here common words become communal ones.

Here Roger’s Charta Delle Judeche
gave rights to Jewish tinkers, joiners, silkers—
to the mulberry growers, to the dyers, weavers,
stitchers, sellers, bankers.

Here Ferdinand revoked everything.
But let’s not think of that Grenada edict.

Today is the day of weddings and before
us all the churches spill parties,
black and white knots bursting from the porches
like rows of cotton bolls popping their fruit,
like frozen cassata peeking from bread wrapping.
And why not? Tomorrow is the city’s patron saint day,
today the churches are doing brisk turnstile
business— the Catalda, the Martorana,
even, especially, San Nicolo da Tolentino.

After thirty elders ceded the synagogue
to settle debts, the property passed
through the Poor Clares and then.
Then the nearby gardens of the converted Jews
were razed, eminent domain, for San Nicolo,
for this particular intersection — a cross roads
of cross words where you can turn from pieta
to intolerance, from the narratives
of Benjamin of Tudela and Ibn Hawqal of Bagdad
to a cross imposed over ritual baths, charity rooms,
and hospitals all reconsecrated and rededicated.

Here it’s hard not to remember New York’s golden
age of purpose-driven mid-century streets.
Orchard and Delancy Streets, the Flower District,
the Perfume, the Photo, the Garment, the Book
districts all hanging on now by a strand.
The Diamond District where Bummie Baumel walked
as a boy, under the “Wise Men Fish Here” sign,
hands in pockets, aiming his sidelong
indirect gaze to the gutters and sidewalk cracks,
following the command of his father,
until he found the diamond the boss had dropped.

Though no one commanded us to go
the world of my father is almost entirely gone.

 

Judith Baumel’s  books of poetry are The Weight of Numbers, for which she won The Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, Now, and The Kangaroo Girl.

 

MARIA TERRONE

 

 

Under the El 

Sun slanted down through the slats
of the elevated train onto
my fat baby hand that held
a shadow-tarnished toy, light & dark
poured out in equal measure.
From my carriage I saw

its tracks across my skin
and everywhere my gaze fell—
lamp post, cracked pavement,
the faces of strangers. I saw how light & dark
could shift into a new pattern and then
how that pattern could lift away.

I saw, without knowledge, the flux
we’re born to. My mother’s face
stayed hidden as she pushed me
through the East Harlem market,
my fist holding, then releasing,
its fleeting tattoo.

 

Under the Hawthorn

“Weeping Cherub,” Durer’s woodcut,
has appeared in the tree’s warts
to pierce my heart, soon replaced by beasts

that cling up and down the gnarled trunk,
a fierce demon-watch over me.

I sit here to try to make sense
of some conundrum in my life,
feeling kinship with this tree, the confusion

of its history. Would-be lovers danced
around its May pole, and in ancient Greece,

brides wore crowns of white Hawthorn blooms
that Celts and Brits would later banish
from their homes, fearing doom—

the sweet, insidious enemy within.
I sit beneath this thorny tree sacred

to Druids, haven of fairies, guardian
of the spirit world, whose spiny branches
made witches’ brooms, and some avow,

Christ’s crown of thorns.
Tree that leans away from the weight

of its contradictions, at home
with my restless presence and dissonance
of the cognitive kind:

I hold this truth/untruth to be
self-evident/ hidden.

A centenarian, modern tree
steeped in conflicting mythologies,
daring me to touch a leaf.

 

Maria Terrone is the author of three poetry collections including Eye to Eye and a chapbook. Her work has appeared in 25 anthologies. 

 

U. S. Dhuga

 

Dacryostenosis

“Did I tell you I was born without tear ducts?”
she begins. No, you didn’t. She corrects
herself: “I mean I was born with my tear ducts

closed, and the doctor asked my mama if she
wanted them opened.” These canaliculi
lacrimae, they open up now audibly

late at night tears that retreat down the phone cord
and every time her tears fall I think, Lord,
thank you that her tired tears aren’t stored

away, thank you that such information
as she only sheds at night isn’t hidden
away from me. Keep falling. I’ll listen.

 

But the Rattle

He bowled a bouncer. I recall
but the rattle of the cricket ball
in my helmet, then unorigined calls
of ‘medic!’ echoing round Edgbaston.
When I woke up, my nose was Roman,
my left eye squinting like a hustler’s—beady,
chalking-up some cue with feigned indignity.

 

 

 U. S. Dhuga is the Founder, Publisher, and Managing Editor of The Battersea Review.

 

 

Julia PikeAugust 2016 Poetry Feature

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