Thursday, January 31, 2013

Truck's new driver for February

Many thanks go to Alan Britt for a marvelous trip through January. Tomorrow the keys go to Mark Weiss, who'll be our driver/editor during February.

Thanks again, Alan.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Carrington MacDuffie




The father was attenuated and as impenetrably delicate as ever.

The mother’s hair was the path of the uncertainty

principle.  Her eyes are like emeralds,

then they are like eyes again.

Her smile hitches us up into the summer

night, where crickets call out in satisfaction.

Little days.

We’ve all had to travel.

The child will emerge glossy with questions, new hair slick

with the passage, into this art



If society is a work the performance

or collage artist might

destoy at any moment, then the long moment

we look into each other’s eyes is what moves

beneath the little days like an unexpected


The child will arise from it, wet.


The new mother and father are dancing to the band

and then we all lay ourselves down

in deference to the power

of our own desires, and to how far

we had to travel just to feel them all over, all over again.

Simon says Call out a fragment of the whole,

Simon says Lie down,

and in our horizontal imitation

a new child will arise from us,

and we’ll be bowing

to the unimaginable.  


Carrington MacDuffie’s poetry was most recently collected in Many Things Invisible, an award-winning audiobook of music, found sound, and spoken word, available on iTunes. She served as poetry editor of the journal Square Lake out of Seattle, and her book of poetry, On the Dreaming Earth, was published by Subaqueous Press. She makes her living as a voice actor, and most enjoys bringing poetry into her music, and music into her poetry.

Roberta Crawford Morency (2095)

Excerpt from Roberta Crawford Morency's scifi, 2095:

An international audience is viewing life in the past. The highly evolved population is scanning us, the UNevolved.

     "Many lost their lives in transportation accidents in the air, on the rails, on the ground, on the water," continued the narrator. The scene changed to a marching army of uniformed soldiers. "One of the most egregious causes of death occurred when an entire nation would spend its resources and its young people to find excuses to battle another nation. They understood how to use deception to persuade the young that killing other humans was a brave and worthwhile way of life."

     "Killing people was worthwhile?" said George's mother. She shook her head. "No."

     The entire audience shook heads in non comprehension. The scene merged into a veterans hospital. Some of the men and women were attempting to walk with crutches. Some sat in wheel chairs. Some were missing body parts or had seriously suffered severe affliction that left them blind or mentally ill.

     Isabelle turned to George. "Isn't it unbelievable? The injured beings you see there are those people's children. They sent their children out to kill. At the same time many of the youngsters themselves were killed." Those scenes were the most difficult of all for the watchers to understand. How hard had it been to persuade young people to go to another country and start killing?

     Marty turned to Todd. "If a leader came to you and said, 'You have to go out and kill some people,' what would you say?"

     Todd laughed. "I'd say if you have to have people killed, you go kill them yourself."

     Marty sat in a swing in his yard, trying to decide what to do. Hw swung and pondered what might be a good job, following up his servicing of the feeding stations. Something a little more interesting, something no one else was doing. He watched Calvin, his robot, putting the finishing touches to the siding of his house. Those cute robots are a little bit like people. He yelled, "Hi, Calvin."

     The robot turned and said in a tinny voice, "How are you?"

      "Good, thanks." Marty laughed. "Gee. Couldn't he have a better voice? I'd give him a good voice." A light flashed on in Marty's brain. Hey. There's no robot to take care of feeding stations. Program a robot. What I could do I could learn programming. Marty's brain began whirling. He went inside for paper and pencil. My own robot. He was in his element working on an idea that was his own. He decided on a girl robot, Teresa. He saw no reason why Teresa could not be pretty, even beautiful. Who did he know who was good at programming? Pete. Marty knew everything that had to be done at a feeding station. Now to design Teresa. That he could do. And then to teach her. All right. Marty was on a roll. At his desk he began sketching the figure and the face. Plenty of dark luxurious curls. Wait. No good getting a hank caught in the machinery. He tapped his pencil on the desk. So, I'll give her a hat, tie up the hair. No floating scarfs. Teresa must be a neat buttoned up girl. All right. I can do this. He lost track of time.

     Pierre received a communication from Julien d'Amours requesting an interview. Was this the fortunate Julien asking for help? It was hard to believe. An affirmative answer was immediate. How in the world could Julien have a problem. The most fortunate of men in every way. He laid aside the book he had been reading. Pierre sat at his piano and played the tunes he had played with Isabelle. Then he told himself he should not be indulging like this.

     At last Julien arrived at Pierre's dwelling. He regarded the beautiful little house. Charming. Pierre waited at the gate. "Come in, my friend. Julien entered. "How would you prefer that we speak, here in the garden or would you rather go inside?"

     "So beautiful.  Your garden is delightful. I could tell you my sorrow here."

     Sorrow!  Is it possible? "Then let's sit here on the bench." 

     "Thank you for seeing me on short notice, Pierre. It's very kind of you." He paused. "Pierre, you heard my new song?"

     The one about Isabelle. "Yes, it's charming." A song hard to forget. Impossible for me.

     "I wrote it for my love. I have attempted to court this adorable girl. Well, she kept rejecting me. Then I wrote the song and I sang it to her - in public - I really thought she liked it."

     Pierre was shocked. His heart started thudding. "You have spoken to this woman?" Isabelle!

     "Yes. I went to London."


     Julien choked. "She told me she loves someone else."

     Pierre's heart  began racing. "Who did she say?"

     "I don't know." Julien's head drooped.

     Pierre put his hand on Julien's shoulder. "My friend, this is very hard. Love cannot be understood." He pressed Julien's shoulder. "But Julien, as you know there's no need for you to be without love. You know that, don't you?" It's my job to provide comfort for this man as much as I can. No matter how Julien's words impact on myself, the man has come to me for help.

     Julien nodded glumly. The sat in silence and listened to the gurgling water, the music of the beads. Pierre's mind was racing. Yes, that girl was certainly in love. Pierre felt his heart beating fast. It could be me. I must forget my own excitement and give comfort to this troubled man. Forget myself now and do this work.

     "Well, Julien, I must say this is a surprising problem you have brought to me." He gave Julien a kind look. "the world's women seem to be waiting for you to select one of them, and now you find yourself with an incredible no from one of them. Do you suppose that happens to be it, my friend? Could it be that you want her only because she's unatainable?" He observed Julien, looking for a clue.

     Julien tried to smile. "I don't know, Pierre. I was first struck by her beautiful eyes."

     God, yes, those superb eyes. "Eyes, yes." Pierre attempted to concentrate on Julien's problem. "Well, mon ami, you know we Frenchmen are aware that love cannot be explained. The French are famous for understanding the ways of love. Sometimes we suffer, but in the end there will be the right woman for us." They sat together quietly for some moments. "I wish I had more to offer." Pierre's words were sincere.

     He took her hand. "So tell me how is it going with you?"

     Isabelle remembered the emotional confusion of the past few days. She knew she was struggling with a problem. Everybody asked Pierre. How could she word it? "Well, Pierre, since you are right here, I suppose I could ask your advice, if it would not be imposing." Pierre helps everybody, and if anyone needs help at this moment, I believe it is myself.

     "Not at all. Ask away." Yes, I'll do anything to help this woman.

     "Well, you see, I have this friend. She has an emotional problem."

     "What is the problem?" This is going to one of those famous problems of a friend.

     "She's in love with a man."

     My poor Isabel. Can I just sit here, the guilty reason for her trouble? I swear I'm going to resolve this whole romance. Within a week. I promise myself. "Yes, I see. It usually involves romance. It's a love problem."

     "I suppose you get lots of those."

     "A fair number. Go ahead." One week. I promise.

     "Well, she's in love with this man, really in love, but he's not available to her. Then there's another man who loves her. She keeps wondering would it harm this other man if she accepts him."

     It hurt Pierre to know that he himself was the problem this time. His heart was pounding. What he had almost surely guessed was here being confirmed. It's my responsibility to do more than just give advice. I now must solve my own problem to be fair to this wonderful woman.

     Isabelle continued. "She wonders if it would be fair to the man who loves her and wonders if she could possibly learn to love him."

     "Look, Isabelle, the man would not be seriously harmed."

     "Oh," she said sadly.

     "It's not the man I'd worry about. It's, uh, your friend. It's her happiness that's at risk."

     Pierre stood. He looked at her a moment. I'll come again to her in one week. Then he murmured, "I'd better go. Au revoir."

Roberta Crawford Morency's career was in radio, television and newspapers. Doctors had mistreated her anemia by prescribing iron, which almost led to her death. Her life was saved by a new doctor, who diagnosed iron overload. She recovered health by donating a full unit of blood at the blood bank weekly for three years. Even though anemic, giving blood got rid of the excess iron. In 1980 she founded Iron Overload Diseases Assn, Inc, after researching the condition. She discovered that millions of American’s lives are shortened by iron oxidizing in storage sites, causing any and every deadly, expensive disease. Her other two books, praised as life-saving information, are The Iron Elephant, a nonfiction, and a novel, tick, tick, tick, which is also written as a screenplay. Her latest novel, the scifi, 2095, is currently available from Off the Bookshelf, 118-21 Queens Blvd., Suite 311, Forest Hills, NY 11375.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Daisy Jopling – Magic Violin!



Daisy Jopling has performed with many of the world’s leading artists, including Bobby McFerrin in Mexico City 2005, on tour with solo violinist Julian Rachlin, on tour and record with jazz guitarist Wolfgang  Muthspiel, European Jazz Musician of the Year and she performed in May 2008 at the Royal Albert Hall in London with Boris Grebenshikov, the legendary Russian song-writer. She has also toured with Joe Zawinul and the Absolute Ensemble, plus Shubha Mudgal and Ensemble Modern in Germany. She was founding member of Trilogy where she arranged & played the Hans Zimmer film score for the Dreamworks film El Dorado and Jim Brook's film Spanglish in Hollywood.  In Vienna with Triology she composed the film music for 3 Georg Riha films, Schönbrunn, Die Wachau and Salzburg. Daisy now performs with The Daisy Jopling Band and  recorded her highly acclaimed first solo album Key to the Classics in 2008.  Her new album The Healer Within was released September 2012.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

John Taylor – 3 Translations of Veroniki Dalakoura

The Second Death of Ang. D.

             Hold me tight. I am born again.

This is not wordplay. I come back into the world powerful and joyful, with all the capabilities of chemistry.

I am on a ship deck. I gaze at the sea, gulp down the foam of the waves, enjoying a similar route. Daddy. The dance of the angels lulls us to sleep. A mother dances, leaving behind her simple desires, exhausted in a great ballroom, as white as her rippling breasts. The violin accompanies the lovelorn daughter’s melody. Someone shoves her up against the wall and it collapses under the weight of doubt. She met a strange lover in the castle of a miserable province (that was also in fact odorless, for several times she chanced upon her telltale mark in that vast, wide-open garden). I was told a series of nightmares somewhere in that place, a little above the roofs of the houses, thus at a height where all risks of colliding with the jutting peaks of haughty apartment buildings could be avoided. Time ran backwards. The sound of her steps—when she was still vivacious and pleasant—could be heard with a special sensitivity, fortifying her tender need for attention. Her eyes were the protagonists in the comedy of Gender, contriving games so innocent—such was her natural talent—that even her father, like all sentimental Daddies, would touch her red lips with dignity at first, then be offended when she, discreetly biting his extended lower lip, would respond: “Not here, Daddy. I told you, No-oo.”

             I listen to her in silence. I yearn for an excursion to the end of the sea that closes off the lake of the extraterrestrial beings—an unimaginably erotic lake, a window and a river, and simultaneously the water of my dreams. At the end of the same ballroom the dance continued, the divine orchestra joining the bodies, Hail O glorious Victor, King Herakles. Mama, how I have aged. My hands have wrinkled, my cuticles yellowed. Yet I can still make a decision, still perform a courageous deed. I can even eat shit, aware of the aesthetic finality of such an act. I have been taught to exaggerate. I have imagined the truth. A mantic capability forewarns my sensations. I stand before the waves of this Mediterranean Sea. I whip the sea. Disasters, shipwrecks, and floating corpses write the preface to a story that will make many weep. Voyage to the surface of the earth. The outer crust protects us from the dangers of self-contradiction. An ancient father strolls in search of the narrowest, most picturesque little streets. He covers the distance to his destiny. He touches me, making promises, because he is not aware that I, like a clinical case, have no memories.

             Fear silenced me. I met him beyond the limits of the old city, and he was like a country that had surrendered. In the quarter where I found him he did not know his way around and, hardly unique in this respect, was all by himself. He was wearing green velvet pants. His belt was nearly a disaster. He slept in my arms and the next morning, when he noticed my fright, did what he could to overcome the Supersubstantial Fear.

We traveled for eight whole days. On the ninth, I met his Irish friend. His difficulté d’être, which indicated a life more intense than melancholy, had been the cause of several passions and idylls. His senses nourished an infinite respect for the soil. Thus, whenever he fell like a godsend from the heavens, covering the distance to the earth in a split second, he would touch the ground with awe.

After a few days, my interest in the two boys began to wane. They disappeared for several days. I saw them again, by chance, at a student party. “Let’s go to Matelles,” they suggested. “When are you leaving?” I asked. When I returned to my room (since I was supposed to wait for them there), I fell asleep. Later the two friends woke me, and while I was walking to the village and still feeling fast asleep, I told them a dream.

When I had finished, we had already arrived. My friend was calm. I initiated a halfhearted conversation that quickly fizzled out all by itself because it was obviously pointless. I had tired of discussing and defending surrealism, precisely because the two boys were bored and even more essentially exhausted: they passed over whatever I brought up or alluded to with exaggerated speed.

The Irish fellow grew silent. The other boy had begun to get drunk.

I did not know what the consequences of his drunkenness would be.

Because, approaching me, he drew back at just that instant when I was ready to attain the unattainable. I looked at him and, as he guessed what my intentions were, he grabbed me by the nape of my neck, pushing me down so hard that I vomited and nearly hit the ground. Then, mopping off a bead of sweat off his forehead with his left thumb, he asked me whether I would be able to bear the revelation of utter solitude.

“I do not know,” I replied. “That would depend on the number of senses that I had. In truth, how many senses do we have?”

“For eight days you were so gentle to me,” answered my friend, “that I forgot your true self and wondered where you belonged. This is the first basic rule. You belong everywhere and this definition implies a wholeness that fulfills—in the same way that it, too, is fulfilled. Today, if I were asked who you were, I could not answer specifically. I will say nothing more. However, I remind you that goodness, which rarely surpasses tolerance in quality, offers you compensation that, in my terms at least, is a right. One of your wishes will come true. My power is human. I am simply drunk on a heavenly wine. And since the heavens have no ability, by their very nature, to distinguish good from evil, my power is a product of your own mind, which took me in. So what do you wish?”

           With a firm voice I asked him to use his power in such a way that, bewitched, I would never be allowed to love again.

*    *    *

One of the Two

            I met Thierry last February. I was walking through dark streets and trying to think of something that would give special significance to my nocturnal rambling, when I suddenly saw him heading my way. He was strangely silent. When I began by asking why he was out so late, he answered that it was not unusual for him: he could leave his house whenever and as often as he wished. Finding his story rather bewitching, I took him along with me. We spent the rest of the night wandering around. The next morning, famished and exhausted, we separated.

            Two days later I ran into him in front of the entrance to V. Park. He was drowsy and on his white pants I detected some peculiar stains: he had drunk wine, he had wept, he had spit all over his body from the ankles up.

            “But don’t you go to school?” I asked him.

            He replied that it bored him. And then: “Inventors of the world unite before it is too late!”

Three months later on a Sunday morning, I made him out standing across from St. Philip’s Church. He was filthy and his long, straight blond hair fell down nearly across his eyes.

“What can I do for you?”

“Give me something to eat. I don’t want any money.”

That night, I could not get to sleep. His worn-out shoes, his socks, tossed into a corner of the toilet, began to metamorphose into a clean but peculiar garment; only after I had put it on could I fall asleep.

The next morning, it was foggy. We went out and then came back up, but before we reached the upper floors, “I don’t remember your place,” he said. “Let’s stay in the courtyard, cook on the stairs, shit in the corridors—like this.” He took off his clothes and, as I watched him, I tried to foretell whether there would be a next time. That same afternoon, I convinced him. We entered the house and, just before turning on the lights, “Good God,” he said, “this here is ugly and beautiful at the same time.”

I was serious and stubborn. His mother, he said, was beautiful, his friends played poker, his father had died. Nothing remained, in other words, but the pestilence in his Blood. I believed him. He had actually become a friend of his illness, and all the hardship of his former comfortable life was a mere comedy, badly acted, magical. . .

“I hear strange music,” he whispered. “I’ll stop speaking, stick my tongue to your ear, because I’d like to repeat those high notes now. We hear what we have loved, and you are deaf.”

We spoke for hours in the darkness. He recovered his stamina, took care of the evolution of material affairs. One afternoon I saw him hurriedly trying his shoes. Much later, I ran into him on a deserted, very remote, beach. He was covered with sand; he had grown a little. He did not recognize me and I thought that if I went into the water alongside him I would be able to distance myself from him, calculating at last a real distance, eliminating the mental straight line of all our past meetings.

He was there, upright within the grandeur of an infinity that was equally relative. Would the School of the Renaissance lend him Sabina’s movement? Would he forsake me at the limit of his colored world?

*    *    *


            A letter from Haris with that music of the plains, a letter from Haris with those ribbons of his fantasy waving, symbols of the mythical knight. I thus exist, Haris, through the knowledge of senses. What meaning do sounds have today, how shall we recognize the little that remains, that reposes in our poetic wombs?

            More specifically, I form the image of a man who, rich from his countless voyages, spoke to me about the people of the Alps, the placidity of plains dwellers, the whispering of those who live near the sea. That evening I heard the grass growing with a sound that I qualified as “splendid” from the onset—the very sound of a love that we are trying to forget. A few years earlier, I had been incapable of understanding what the end of the world means according to Christian theories. The world was not merely the earth. Back then the world was an infinite beauty which, beyond logical forms, could not come into the slightest contact with harmony. Good God, why did I already start failing to see back then, beyond sentiments wrought by my adolescent doubt, This or That, which in a distant future would be nothing else than solitude? Had I fathomed how the saintly suffering would evolve, the foreordained future of the withered fig tree, and the meaning, above all, of the music that I composed?

            Everything wavered while sleeping. Deep is my gratefulness for lies, adulteries, and debaucheries. I thank the brandished chastisements of the angels whom I distressed by following the dictates of my rotten will, without the slightest intention to repent. I am grateful—what else can I say?—for the whole Passion story, for its wise development over the centuries, for that particular end of a just and silent path.

            You were silent, Christ, as you watched the gale flooding the streets with the water of a fruitful communion. However, the gifts of that nightmarish truth were destined to remain in my conscience and only there—seeds, simply, of my long enduring guilt.


[—Veroniki Dalakoura, from O Hypnos (Sleep), Athens: Nefeli, 1982. Translated from the Greek by John Taylor.]

Born in 1952, Veroniki Dalakoura is a Greek poet whose work shows the influence of surrealism. She published her first book, Poiisi ’67-’72 (Poetry 1967-1972), at the age of twenty, then a second volume, I parakmi tou erota (The Decline of Eros) at twenty-four. Her books often combine poems, prose poems, and longer narratives in provocative ways. These volumes include O hypnos (Sleep, 1982), To paihnidi tou telous (The Game of the End, 1988), Meres idonis (Days of Lust, 1990), Agria angeliki photia (Wild Seraphic Fire, 1997), and O pinakas tou Hodler (Hodler’s Painting, 2001). Her most recent collections of verse are 26 Poiimata (26 Poems, 2004) and Karnavalistis (Reveler, 2011). Dalakoura’s work often develops themes related to eroticism and spirituality. She is also a noted translator of French literature. John Taylor’s essay about Dalakoura, “Eros and Other Spiritual Adventures,” is comprised in his book Into the Heart of European Poetry (Transaction, 2008). John Taylor’s translations of her poems have appeared in several magazines and anthologies.

John Taylor has recently translated major selections of work by the French poets Philippe Jaccottet, Pierre-Albert Jourdan, and Jacques Dupin. Among the modern Greek authors whom he has translated are Elias Petropoulos, Elias Papadimitrakopoulos, and Manolis Xexakis. His latest books of personal writings are If Night is Falling (Bitter Oleander Press, 2012) and Now the Summer Came to Pass (Xenos, 2012). He is also the author of the three-volume essay collection, Paths to Contemporary French Literature (Transaction, 2004, 2007, 2011), as well as Into the Heart of European Poetry (Transaction, 2009).


Friday, January 11, 2013

Lilvia Soto - 6 Poems & a Painting

Ana Edith Lopez

Homo labyrintheus

Homo labyrintheus spins
the magic thread that guides and saves
the fateful thread that leads the killer to his prey
then guides him out to freedom
lets him escape after he carries out his deed.

Double-edged thread spun by the dead man’s sister
who provides the clue to find the marked man
imprisoned in the center of his multicursal maze
the sword to slay him
and the thread to guide the killer to the exit.

She gives him a ball of fleece thread
to unwind from the entrance
through the twisted, convoluted, passageways
to the center of the prison
where he finds her brother sleeping
an easy target for his murderous intent
then, after slaying him
rewinds the red thread back to the exit
and to the sister’s waiting arms.

In exchange for clue and thread
he had promised to wed the princess wench
but, as it is not hard to betray a betrayer
he abandons her while she sleeps
on the Isle of Naxos
and goes back to his land a hero
for having rescued
the young Athenian men and maidens
who had in the labyrinth awaited
to be devoured by Ariadne’s half-man
half-bull hybrid brother.

They were the yearly war tribute her father
King of Crete, had exacted from the Athenians. 
Theseus had volunteered to slay the monster
and rescue his countrymen, and, succeeding
becomes an Ionian founding hero.

But what happens to faithless Ariadne
when the object of her lust abandons her
while she sleeps alone in Naxos?

Some say that Dionysus
rescues and marries her.
Others whisper that following the examples
of Arachne, Erigone
and other weaving goddesses
she hangs her wretched spite
from the branches of a tree.

And why does Minos, King of Crete
want to keep his stepson
locked in the prison built by Daedalus?
Could it be he wishes to conceal
the fruit of his wife’s betrayal
the undeniable proof that she cuckolded him
not with a mortal or a god
but with a bull
a snow-white bull of extraordinary beauty
Poseidon sent forth from the sea?

Minos asks Poseidon to send him the sea bull
that will certify him worthy of the Cretan throne
but attempting to deceive the god
he sacrifices in his honor an ordinary bull
instead of the snow-white gift from the sea
he intends to keep as leader of his herd.

Poseidon takes revenge
and causes Minos’s wife Pasiphae
daughter of Helios
to develop an uncontrollable lust
for the handsome bull of the splendid horns.

She begs Daedalus to help her gratify her passion
and he builds for her a hollow wooden heifer
disguised with the pelt of a live one
to deceive the bull into engaging in amorous intercourse
with the lascivious queen who hides inside the timber cow.

When her son Asterion is born
with the body of a man
the head of a bull
the destiny of a star
they call him Minotaurus
and ask the royal architect to build
a winding, convoluted, prison
to contain and hide the hybrid fruit of her betrayal.

The half-man, half-animal monster
imprisoned in the center of the labyrinth
is testament to the queen’s lust
for life’s darker powers
and to her betrayal of the king
but the stud bull that, deceived by the sight of
a healthy heifer grazing in a sunny pasture
fathered the Bull-man
would not have tempted Pasiphae
had Minos sacrificed it to Poseidon and
by honoring his promise to the god
internalized the virile prowess of the bull.

But protecting the honor of the ruler is only
the expedient raison d’état
for the unconfessed motive for ensconcing Asterion
is his very nature
and our fear of the other
the foreigner, the immigrant, the barbarian
who speaks words we do not comprehend 
the mestizo, the mulatto, the half-breed
all those of mixed bloods or uncommon yearnings
in our midst
the poet, the mystic, the visionary, the madman
we dare not look in the eye
for we push back into the deepest recesses
the ctonic force
the unresolved conflict
the formless restlessness
the desire we dare not utter
the fear of coming face to face
with what we sense and long for
but cannot name
the nostalgia for all the darkness we bury
in the bottom of our minds’ oceans
and all the light that would crown us gods
if we dared look in the distant galaxies of our hearts.

With the Minotaurus locked in the sacred mandala
the Bull-man’s pulsing heart rises
as Helios in the firmament
to the realm of spirit
and, except for Ariadne’s fratricide
Minos might have learned to walk
the winding pathways of his labyrinth
to reach its mysterious center
and become the Sol King
with no need of schemes
foreign assassins
winding prisons
snow-white studs
or double-edged red threads.

Autumn Still Life

(After Pablo Neruda)

I bring home three, make plans for a feast
look up recipes
take pleasure in imagining them stuffed with oysters
à la Prudhomme.
Stunned by their fullness
I dream of being Benjamín
painting them over rose petals.

When other activities intervene
the artichokes spend the night in a black clay bowl.
The next evening I prepare garlic and tarragon
and ponder the advantages and disadvantages
of amontillado vinegar over lemon juice
for the steaming basket.

I remember alternative uses for the pale green hearts
that in Seville I ate them fried in olive oil and
reveling in their Spanish name alcachofa
remember it comes from the Arabic al-kharshuf
also that Neruda praises them for their proud martial posture.

I had never seen artichokes like these
with such long stems and large, lustrous globes.
I admire the terseness of their olive skin
their complex, rosaceous structure
the bracts that curl around in circles of succulence
cloister the translucent purple leaves
protect the silky choke.

After a week
I acknowledge they are past their savory prime
but continue to admire their fading beauty
insisting that, surrounded by pink roses
they would still fulfill their vocation
as a theme for Benjamín.

On the underside of the bracts appear creamy tones that
flowing in coppery brown striations
blend into the skin as it loses its terseness.
Their succulence becomes brittle
develops a rich wooden patina
that highlights their rosaceous complexity
their architectural integrity.

After a fortnight, I understand that their tender hearts will forever remain
a mystery
but with the dance of lights and shadows of their decline
the aura of roses persists
perfumes the night.

The third week I take them out of the black clay
discover the blue lavender striations
growing on their undersides
position them in my daughter’s old basket 
over coppery foliage of the smoke bush
cradled in old roses. 

Baskets of Gold or Lemons Are Not Limones

--After Frank Gaspar

(For Kameron Dawson)

El limonero lánguido suspende
una pálida rama polvorienta
sobre el encanto de la fuente limpia,
y allá en el fondo suenan
los frutos de oro...
               - -Antonio Machado, "Soledades, VII"

I have no childhood memory of lemons
for I grew up with limones.
I remember limonada
té de limón
my mother's pastel de limón
and flor de limón fragrance
wafting through Aunt Olga's Cuernavaca home.
On warm summer evenings
looking at her picture
I can smell it still.

The dictionary says "lemon" is English for limón,
but lemons are not limones, and
for the limonada I enjoyed as a child
I need limones, not lemons.
The nieve de limón I made when Tito Nacho
bought me a hand-cranked wooden bucket
for making my very own sorbet called for limones.

That was the only time I asked him to buy me something.
Tito was a general in the Mexican army,
and Father had said only generals could buy neveras.
He was just a captain, and I could not wait.
Aguacates call for limones when they wish to become
guacamole, and so do chiles when they are hot
to be salsa.
Limones are needed to squeeze into broth
sprinkle on fish, summer tomatoes
salads of watercress
to rim margarita glasses, and mingle with
Cuervo añejo and Grand Marnier.
Ceviche is in need of limón
British gin prefers it too,
but Bananas Foster and Spanish sangría
with their international preference
blend the lemon with the limón.

Limón is what I used as a child
to bleach the blue ink that stained my sheets
when I studied in bed,
but lemon might have worked as well.

For a child's stand where Grandfather can quench
his summer thirst, and, for a nickel, make Kameron
feel like a tycoon, lemons are de rigueur.
The lemons that Mom can cut and Kamie can squeeze into
a pitcher of water sweetened and iced
will make of him a young American entrepreneur.

While I think the flavor of the limón is superior
I must admit lemons have the edge in the history of art.
There are more famous paintings of lemons in baskets
next to decanters
cut into slices on platters of fish
than there are of limones.

It may be their fit-in-the-hand voluptuousness
their thick, textured skin
or, as I believe,
their color
for forsythias stirring from their winter slumber
dress themselves in lemon yellow
which can also adorn fragrant freesias
bashful pansies, joyful canaries
a baby's bonnet, the polka dots
on a girl's white cotton dress.

As golden as the lemon are Easter’s dawn
I’ll cherish you forever in a beloved’s ring
a locket with a baby’s first hair
the Virgin's halo 
the heart of the honeysuckle
light on earth
the bees' holy offering.

bone music

(For Nora Nickerson)

now she knows what happened and can bury him next to his father
have a place she can visit
talk to him
say she worried when he didn’t come home
         her face hurt when his was struck
         her back ached when his was kicked
         peed blood for weeks
         felt nauseous when he had to lick his slop off the floor
whisper she yearns for his bones at dawn, even now

she can tell him Muhammad, his little brother
         married and has three daughters
         that his young sister is childless and a widow
together they can talk about the sons he would have given her

the bag in her hand, like all the other bags
         in all the other trembling hands
         some heavier
         some missing a finger, a rib, a toe  

but who found the grave, who identified the bones?

his bones, like thousands in the mass grave
         indistinguishable to the police
         the gravediggers
         the indifferent eye

did she identify him by his faded shirt
         the one she made for his last birthday
         all those years ago?

his skull, not like any other
does she recognize his determined brow
can she see the pain where his lips were?
         the smile in his eyes
                   that disappeared when the beatings began
can she see the smile in the two holes
         with which he saw too much?
and his ears
         with which he listened to the oud
         and her gentle moans
what happened to his ears?
his ears
         with which he heard screams
                   that made him wish he was deaf
                   even if he could never again hear her murmurs

and his mouth, his smiling mouth
         his sweet, playful lips
                   now open like a chasm
                            that splits life

and dug with the bones, the questions:
what does it mean to die all this death?

she had the life of him, the hunger of him
         the play, the questions
         the song of him
                   but for an instant
she had the worry for years
now she will have the death
         all his death
         for the dawns of her life

and her sister-in-law, and her neighbor
and the women from the next village
         the women she just met
                   picking up their bags
they will have all the death of theirs
         all the days of their lives

what does it mean to hold in your hand
the bones that pressed against yours
the virtuoso bones that played the dulcimer with yours?

and who will imagine the cause for his death certificate?
         the eyes that smiled too much?
         the lips that kissed too tender
         the lips that could play soulful tunes on her musical reed?
         the plectrum fingers that could play her like the oud of heaven?

or will it be the loneliness of the dictator
         that he was tone deaf
         could not produce deep, mellow sounds
         liquid tunes

Dragon Heads

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.
- Revelation 12

 Abdul, you are so right
your dictator and mine, everybody’s dictator
they’re all nihilists.
They rape and kill
torture, pillage, imprison, and silence.

They murder the soul
because they don’t know they have one.
They destroy our civilization
because they are the children of Chaos.
They stomp on our humanity
because they don’t feel human.

Your dictator claimed he was afraid to kill sparrows.
Mine had a fun-filled childhood stuffing frogs with fireworks
blowing them up over proud Texas skies.

Your dictator’s smiling picture is in the coffeehouse
the brothel, the marketplace.
My dictator has a stupid smirk.
Our cartoonists have immortalized him
with huge floppy ears, small beady eyes, a tiny body
and silly cockroach legs stuffed in high-heeled Texas boots
dressed as a twelve-year-old playing Napoleon,
Superman, a monarch with tattered crown,
a pawn on a chess board where his vice-president is king,
the bride of the Religious Right,
a pouting child standing on a pile of books on top of a chair
handing out medals, stuttering
we don’t torture
it’s only enhanced interrogation.

Now, really, Abdul
do you think those pictures could hang over
every bed in the brothel,
especially in The Emperor’s Club
and other Washington establishments that cater to senators,
gobernors, and ambassadors?
The customers would laugh so hard
they would pee in their Fruit of the Looms
and the poor whores would be all out of business.

Your dictator banned the solar calendar
and abolished Neruda, Márquez, Amado.
My dictator doesn’t read, has never heard of Neruda
his wife is a librarian
who in her first year in the president’s house
invited a few poets for culture and tea.
When she heard they were planning to talk about
war and death, torture and freedom
she said, no, no, no, you naughty boys
we won’t have any of that.
It’s true we invaded two countries
but it’s for their own good,
we’re teaching those poor souls
about malls and Sunday shopping
and letting us have all that oil they don’t need.

Your dictator has given his name
to the squares, rivers, and jails of his homeland.
Mine wants his on a library.
He would also like to have it on a Washington monument,
Mount Rushmore, and the silver dollar.

If he’s lucky, they may rename Guantánamo after him,
create the Bushit Institute for Pseudo-Science
and call waterboarding the Bushnique.

Your dictator burned the last soothsayer
who failed to kneel before the idol.
They do that.
They burn, fire, demonize, and do extraordinary renditions.
They abu ghraib. They guantánamo.

Your dictator has doled out death as a gift or a pledge.
Mine doles out destruction to avenge his father’s honor
(in truth, to show his mother he’s more macho than the old man)
and for reassurance that he is “The Commander Guy”.

Your dictator’s watchdogs have stolen the people’s food.
My dictator and his Geppettos
have stolen the fruits without pesticides
the fish without mercury
the beef without additives
the shade of the trees
the sweet waters of the rivers
the fresh breezes of the morning.

Your deposed dictator was executed at home
because mine decided he should.

The hourglass restarts counting the breaths
of the dictators lurking everywhere
in the fund-raising party and the Supreme Court
in the Senate and the brothel
or are they the same?


From the Caribbean to China’s Great Wall
the dictator-dragon is born every day.

its April

 its April and Andalucía
with its tunic violet and blue
which is the color of blue aura and blue flame
and somersault of heart
which is jacaranda in bloom
and spring in paradise
for the tree of paradise
is not the apple
no, the apple is an invention
of scholars and scribes
who want secret and only for themselves
the tree of temptation
the tree that is rib, nerve, marrow
skin, artery
arms that clamor to heaven
and mouths that light up the night
lips and tongues and teeth that whisper
and tremble
and are the thousand mouths of the tree of desire
which is the color of lilac and lavender blue
and all the blues
of the jacaranda of Andalucía.

Lilvia Soto has taught Latin American and Latino literatura at Harvard and other American universities. She was the Resident Director of a Study Abroad Program for students from Cornell, Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania in Sevilla, Spain. She has published poetry, short fiction, literary criticism, and literary translations in journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela. She has published essays and given lectures on Spanish, Spanish-American, and Chicano writers (Leopoldo Alas [Clarín], Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, José Emilio Pacheco, Alejo Carpentier, Fernando del Paso, Salvador Elizondo, Guadalupe Villaseñor, Laura Esquivel, Lucha Corpi. She is a participating poet in the We Are You Project international (