Another Ghazal

Monday, and here’s another poem I found in the book of Ghazals: Ravishing Disunities

Summer Whites

I want old-fashioned metaphor; I dress in black.
My son was murdered. I bear witness in black.

The graveyard shocks with rampant green.
In a rusted chair sits grief, enormous in black.

Died July 16, 1983.
Navy’s white headstone, christcross in black.

A cadnal falmes—sudden visitation.
Loy spirit? Surcease from black?

Grackles keen in mad falsetto.
Treeful of banshees. Fracas in black.

It should be told, of course, in small details
and with restraint (artfulness in black).

He was a sailor in summer whites in a port city.
He was walking, streets dangerous in black.

The bullet entered right shoulder, ricocheted.
In the ground his dress blues decompose to black.

I am Isabel. He was Jerry John. The dead
are listening for their names, soundless in black.

Isabel Nathaniel


Ghazal for Monday

I have been reading about and playing with the poetic form called a Ghazal. The rules of the Ghazal are that it is an unspecified number of couplets. The first couplet sets out a repeating word or phrase in first line, and repeats that word or phrase at the end of every couplet. The word before the repeated words should rhyme in every couplet. And in the final couplet, the author should use their own name. The couplets should each stand alone. This form comes to us from the Arabic, and according to Agha Shahid Ali’s book, Ravishing Disunities, at poetry readings the audience participates in the form by calling out the repeated phrase as it occurs in each couplet.  Here’s one by Lisa Rappoport:

When I Was a Boyimages-3

I was afraid of the girls: their cliques and all
that gossiping made me sick for them all.

Their willingness to wear dresses
showed they bought into the rhetoric and all.

Worthwhile activities like climbing trees or
were severely hampered by such icky folderol. Continue reading “Ghazal for Monday”

No there there, a short rant

I am taking a class on prosody, and yesterday, Gertrude Stein and her work came up in conjunction with form.  It led me to reflect on her and my reaction against words separated from meaning.

490px-GertrudeSteinFrom 1940-1944, while other Jews in France were being systematically ferreted out and deported to camps, Gertrude Stein lived in cosseted comfort. She was an apologist and translator for Marshal Pétain and his Vichy government, and had publicly supported Franco in the 30’s. No amount of revisiting of Stein and her views can change that fact that during her years in France during World War II she never distressed or disturbed herself in any way about the horrors around her. Stein was an extraordinarily privileged woman with large influence; she never raised a dime or a word in defense of the persecuted. Continue reading “No there there, a short rant”

Another breakfast from the garden

Right now the garden is giving up its end-of-summer bounty.  This breakfast was potato, onion, garlic, and spinach from the garden, with eggs from the chickens. Only the mushrooms and baby fennel were from the farmers’ market:


eggs_optThe plate below is Larry’s plate.  For some reason, his food always looks better than mine!

Poetry Monday: Erotica

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know about my passion for libraries, how I like to have a card for any library I pass so I can go in and get a book.

stacksThe only card I pay for is my UC Berkeley library card, and going there is a bit of an expedition, involving finding a parking space, at least a 10-minute walk, and usually a specific quest for a book I can’t get elsewhere. So it’s a disappointment when the book I’ve carefully looked up online and gone to get isn’t available, which happened a few weeks ago when the main library stacks were closed due to a power failure, which was itself due to an explosion caused by the theft of copper wire from a University power plant, a whole other story–one for someone else to write.

All of which is a preamble to explain why I wandered the undergraduate library for consolation, and came home with a book called The Best American Erotic Poems from 1800 to the Present, edited by David Lehman. The poems are arranged by the poets’ year of birth, and I find it depressing that people very much younger than I can write so well. In some moods, of course, I find it encouraging, but rarely. Continue reading “Poetry Monday: Erotica”

Living with Larry

Larry battingOne of the things I really like about living with Larry is that he often reads to me. When we were first together he did this a lot. I must have heard a good third of Ellman’s biography of Joyce the first summer we were together, Larry reading while I cooked.

Yesterday, over a breakfast of potatoes, zucchini, onion, garlic, and kale from the garden, fried and topped with poached eggs, he read an excerpt from an interview with Malcolm Gladwell, who was asked what literary character he would like to meet:

Continue reading “Living with Larry”

Poetry Monday–From the Frontier of Writing

images-2Somehow, it always seems to be Tuesday these days when I set out to post a Monday poem. Two weeks ago, Seamus Heaney died, and there were many of his poems posted here and there. This is one of my favorites, the way it compares moving through the armed surveillance of Northern Ireland to the act of writing…or at least, that’s how I read it.

From the Frontier of Writing

The tightness and the nilness round that space
when the car stops in the road, the troops inspect
its make and number and, as one bends his face

towards your window, you catch sight of more Continue reading “Poetry Monday–From the Frontier of Writing”