Gifts

‘love is the voice under all silence’ ee cummings

she gave me poetry books and on those unnecessary blank pages that always precede the title page, she wrote, ‘read more poetry, it’s good for you’. she was a poet, i wrote short stories. i was in love with her, but she wasn’t with me. with this came all the typical pain and frustration. despite all my agony i was able to grow as a writer during this era in my short life. the small books she gave me, collections by ee cummings, octavio paz, gallway kinnell and mary oliver helped me realize that a good poet could express in a handful of words an entire world of emotion and story. in the stories i was writing at the time, i let my stream of consciousness and absurd dialog run wild, until the stories were twice as long as they needed to be. Falling helplessly in love (infatuation in hindsight) with a poet and in steeping my life in her favorite poets I learned an important lesson in the economy of words which I find myself returning to whenever life and in turn my work, gets too complicated. I’ve since become a lover of Eastern poetry forms, haiku, tanka and waka. I begin most mornings with green tea and Han Shan or Ryokan and watch the clouds and fog wrap their eerie veils over this coast.

So for this week’s writers island prompt i’m sharing work i have written over the years inspired by my unrequited love for a poet who in essence must have bitten me and turned me into a poet too.

The two of us were in Kathmandu, sitting in the sun, trying to get warm in a courtyard in February. I can’t remember what I was reading at the time, probably Shakespeare’s complete plays, she was reading an ee cummings collection and she shared a poem (‘i carry your heart with me/i carry it in’)with me that ee which she interpreted had been written for his wife (he had 3, not sure which one). She said to me, “if someone wrote a poem like that for me, i’d love him forever.” i took this for a challenge and here’s my desperate attempt, notice my efforts to play with syntax as cummings masterfully does in his work.
____

forever night sky

together we could glimpse forever
balancing on iris cliffs,
toes dangling over
bottomless eye whites

in one eye mine yours
run wild worlds
fueled by word fires
and inseparable smilelaughs

down your dark throat
glimpsed in instant of unselfish joyspreading
i see your heart and hear it
laughing and crying
the child you once were
are
we two children?
mud covered
smile dressed
sliding otherwise naked down
cloud
s l i d e s

at the bottom we are reborn
in your eyes in mine eyes
DO YOU SEE ME?
will you ride with me the sunset
until rises again the new moon?
we could be moon ghosts
riding the sun’s wake
trailing legends made constellations
in the forever night sky.

___

once I read ee

language I found disordered
singsong felt not right
unless it was terse and tight
___

Another Letter

It arrived just before I went to work at the Catholic Church. I was no saint, but they had salvation in mind. From the beginning we always wrapped our words to each other in preciously folded and taped photographs, images carefully torn from magazines. There were mountains on this little envelope, the Olympics, I think, and you folded it up so that the mountaintops and the sky behind met up with the sea . I waited until lunch and then took it outside to read on the sunny steps of the church. I remember the guilt of Catholicism following me and your letter out the door.

Deciphering the Code

Your jagged script unfolded across the many torn from a notebook and folded pages. I read the last page first because you always included new poems and I was in love with your words before I loved you. This because your poems spoke to me, into me. Full as they were of yous. The mistake was mine, reading too much into your voice, writing myself into the blanks of your verse. After reading the poems, I scanned the letter, searching through the code for three words in combination, I, love, you, but found all individually but never grouped together. The church bells rang and I stepped out of your letter, out of the narrative written in inpatient anticipation. Leaped back into the work-church-world, my body at least, my mind scanned maps, tracing countries, oceans, rivers along the way to that place where we conspired to go. Together.
__

remember our pact?
when we spilled our inkblood
onto pressed pulp
lashed our lives together
with black inky tongues

but today it is only
a letter
you once sent me
and my reply
written also in black ink
but with a hand
which leans counter to yours
our worlds
coming close together

i never sent back the letter
this pact of inky promise
tucked into my notebook

__

4 thoughts on “Gifts

  1. Hi Jonas! Your writing is incredible — your words have a really cool flow and you pair words together in a wonderful way. I really enjoyed reading this!
    🙂

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