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Showing posts from July, 2012

Ziggurat of Shinar

Ziggurat (and Helix)
by Amy Chai

It was never the fruit that mattered. Sweet flesh
of apricot only hid a stone
smelling of bitter almond.
We split that fruit without tasting;
now bursting seed will divide hardened earth, baked brick;
eastward, on the plains of Shinar.

Dry plains in the ancient places remember
fired clay and tar-jointed steps.
Our tower is pitched in spiral links; this stair
will ascend right-handed to God’s heaven.
Twist life’s coil taut in the hidden place;
it will fall back on itself 
like a serpent, ready to strike.

O Mighty Hunter! We have reached for your shadow:
Now translate for us in a tongue
no longer ours or your own.
Before you fly to Assyria, tell us:
Did you touch the sky?

Sin's Solvent

A High Demand
I looked and saw a Light so true,   That covered blushes to my face, And made me cower in the shadow with shame,   Yea, shame for my sinful race.
It was no maiden blush-indeed!   My heart quickened it was true, But it was because the righteous Man I loved,   His footsteps mockingly saying, “they come not for you.”
I cowered in the doorway,   Yet snatched His face, and locked it in my heart. For though how could He love a worm as I?   My heart so pierced with worldly dart.
But as I lay, in misery,   My Love did not pass me by,
But drew me up, and smiling said,   “Maiden, why do you sigh?”
But I sprang from His touch, so gentle and pure,   Yet burning as if from flame. For that very reason; His righteousness,   Kept me from even speaking His Name!
So I whispered, not daring to up look,   And see His shining face, But said, in sadness, oh how deep?   “Oh, sir, I cannot accept Your grace.
For how high a demand, oh yes, how true!   To offer up my heart so ill, So scarred, s…

Spirituality-lite a Hot Commodity

Bronwyn Lea

At first glance the phrase ‘best-selling poetry book’ looks oxymoronic. Anyone with a vague sense of book publishing is acquainted with the orthodoxy that poetry doesn’t sell: readers don’t want to read it.

Commercial publishers have used this pearl to justify curtailing or, more dramatically, cancelling their poetry lists. Booksellers have relied on it as a way of explaining away – to the few who might enquire – their thin and often uninspired poetry stock. And who can blame them? Publishers and booksellers are not in the business of charity.

But all this bellyaching conceals an interesting fact: some poetry books actually do sell. Some sell very well indeed. Some poetry books are even bestsellers.

Immediately Shakespeare struts upon the stage. And in fact Shakespeare is the best-selling poet in English of all time. The author of – at least as we are able to count his works today – 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and a handful of others, Shakespeare has b…

Temptation in the Wilderness

Temptation in the Wired Wilderness
by Holly Ordway

Our Lord spent forty days and forty nights
Resisting Satan in the wilderness.
We picture barren rocks and sand; we might
Add in a scrubby tree or two. I guess
That’s where temptation ought to come, so we
Can see it from at least a mile away,
And be prepared, with Bibles, church retreats,
And exhortations to stand firm.

Instead it wounds with cuts too small to see,
In this our wired wilderness. We play
And work in deserts of the digital:
Abuzz with locust-noise of clicks and tweets
And filled with lonely crowds. Our enemy
Is faced and fought right here, or not at all.

Poem about a Wounded Healer

Missa Solemnis  by Eugene E. Lemcio

Each Sunday morning,
the Chief of Staff
at Horeb State Hospital
dons safe-green vestments
and waits for sounds of gurney wheels.
Gravely, an acolyte
delivers an internee
whose dwarf-like form
is one-third head.

The ritual begins on time.
Tremulous arms are crossed
upon the heaving chest
by firm, expected hands.
Next, the priest proceeds
with practiced, tender strokes:
tracing familiar lobes and cranial gullies,
and then cradling the great ellipse
until the quaking stops.

And, fathoms within,
imaged on synaptic screens
ten billion neurons squared,
a monstrous pterodactyl
soars high above defiant waves--
then, plunge-plummeting
dives, hovers and
with blue-veined, leathery wings
caresses and soothes
her watery globe
to roost and rest.

1984 (rev. 2009, 2010)

*In honor of Dr. Leon McCleery, a healer wounded by hydrocephalus as an infant

Originally published in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine [University of Chicago Press], 28.3 (Spring 1985): 361

On Vain and Shallow Women

There are dainty woman who exhibit strength of character and depth and there are others who, though ladylike, are weak, shallow, vain and often manipulative. Here are two poems about the latter.

Epitaph for a Darling Lady

All her hours were yellow sands,
Blown in foolish whorls and tassels;
Slipping warmly through her hands;
Patted into little castles.

Shiny day on shiny day
Tumbled in a rainbow clutter,
As she flipped them all away,
Sent them spinning down the gutter.

Leave for her a red young rose,
Go your way, and save your pity;
She is happy, for she knows
That her dust is very pretty.

--Dorothy Parker

Hard to Love

Her world is tightly laced,
her house, a flawless nest,
her god, packed neatly on display
among the dusted china cups.
Nothing jagged,
nothing marred,
no ambiguities distress
her tea time pleasantries.
She smiles at my reply,
holding back a spearmint yawn
with her tissued hand.
I sip the fragile porcelain edge
and ask for grace to love my perfect neighbor.

--Alice C. L…