Brave

This poem is so good that I can’t help but read it over and over, even though it rips out my guts every single time.

SLHARPERPOETRY

towering pine

Some things leave no room for misunderstanding,
like your climbs to the tops of towering pines,
and your belief that you can never cry.

At age five, you dream of a woman
with wings like a bat dressed all in black.
She swoops down, grabs you, pins you in her lap,
and while hitting you over and over, she’s whispering
that it will end when you stop struggling;
so you pretend to relax until her grip loosens
and then you fight to escape, but each time
her strength overwhelms you. It takes
several beatings before you realize
she is trying to help you, she is teaching you
how to be brave—
how to be so still
that you can let yourself have no feeling
when the scratchy hands are pressing into you,
like the night lets itself be swallowed by darkness.

An eight-year-old now, you’re standing
outside their locked bedroom door…

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Track (after Tranströmer)

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Track (after Tranströmer)

2 p.m.: Sunlight. The subway flows
beneath us. Flecks of darkness
shimmer madly on the wall.

As when a man cracks a window into a dream,
remembering everything, even
what never occurred.

Or after skimming the surface of good health,
all his nights become ash, billowing clouds,
strong and warm, suffocating him.

The subway never stops.
2 o’clock. Filtered sunlight, smoke.

* * *

I’ve been dipping into Friends, You Drank Some Darkness, Robert Bly’s 1975 translations of Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf and Tomas Tranströmer, and I couldn’t resist playing with one of my favorite poems. A different darkness, a separate space, another landscape…

This first appeared here in April 2015.

Senate (Tritina)

 

Senate (Tritina)

Not imposition, but welcome.  The way
cooperation welcomes coercion, turning the
tenor of the intended phrase, opening

the statement to interpretation, opening
a point without dissension, in the way
of politics, agreeing which fact will shape the

morning, which truth will determine the
next word and the subsequent, as if opening
the issue, claiming to have found the way,

one way, the only, but never actually opening.

* * *

A Tritina might best be described as the lazy poet’s Sestina, consisting of ten rather than 39 lines, with the end words of the first stanza repeating in a specific pattern in the subsequent two stanzas. The last line includes all three end words.

The patterns:
abc
cab
bca
The last line uses the end words in sequence following the pattern of the first stanza.

 

 

Publications: Wind Intervals

Jeff Schwaner writes poems I wish I’d written, and lines I drool over, which is bad for both books and keyboards. Combine Jeff’s poetry with Emily Hancock’s printing, and you have two works of art in one. A rare treat!

Translations from the English

closeupwindintervals

I’m excited to announce that St Brigid Press will be publishing a beautiful letterpress edition of a selection of my poems, Wind Intervals, in late April — just in time for National Poetry Month.

The book will be hand-set in Bembo type, printed on a beautiful and rugged 1909 Golding Pearl treadle press on the other side of Afton Mountain at St Brigid’s not-entirely-top-secret headquarters, guarded by trees, a gregarious dog and stunning mountain views.

There will be a Standard Edition, hand-bound at the Press and limited to 150 numbered copies ($24), and a Special Edition, limited to 35 numbered and signed copies, printed on Revere Book mouldmade text paper and hand-bound with St Armand handmade covers ($35).

You can hear me read two of the poems from the book here on the St Brigid Press site.

The book’s publication date is April 28, 2017. We’ll gather at…

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Overnight in a Mountain Temple by Li Bai (translation)

Mary Tang’s translations are addictive. Read them at your own risk. 🙂

Life is But This 命

Overnight in a Mountain Temple by Li Bai (701 – 762) 

This derelict edifice towers so high

I can pluck the stars from the sky

I dare not speak in a shouting pitch

Fearing of startling the immortals

(c) Mary Tang 鄧許文蘭 2017

夜宿山寺。李白

危樓高百尺,手可摘星辰。

不敢高聲語,恐驚天上人。

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Memorial Day


Memorial Day

Arriving at this point
without knowledge of the journey,

the slow collapse and internal
dampening – the shutting down, the closing in – lost

in the shadowed veil, my eyes flutter open to find
everything in its place, yet

altered, as if viewed from a single step
closer at a different height, offering a disturbing

clarity. Looking up, I wonder that she wakes me
from a dream of dogs on this, of all days,

only to detect under me linoleum in place of the bed,
my glasses skewed from the impact,

the floor and left side of my head wet. You looked
like you were reaching for something, she says,

and perhaps I was, though with hand outstretched
I found nothing to hold but the darkness.

 

“Memorial Day” was first published in Eclectica in July 2014, and was, much to my delight, subsequently included in Eclectica Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Best Poetry Anthology.

Recording of “Scarecrow Pretends” at Words and Feathers

I’m participating in the Open Mic at Words and Feathers. My contribution is “Scarecrow Pretends,” and can be read here, at The Slag Review. Kudos to Crow for hosting this virtual reading!