poemimage

Where text meets image. Where the visual intersects the literary. All text copyright authors. Images copyright Steven McCabe. Your visit is appreciated.

Happy Mirror Day

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Alternative ending:

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Or:

911

Poem 111 by Leonard Cohen from ‘The Energy of Slaves’

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Dylan. Dance. Prophetic Trance.

From Satire to Symbol to Where is the Poem in That?

4 in 1 two

Recently in Canada we had a minor brouhaha in Parliament.  A satirical magazine depicted the former Leader of the Opposition wearing a neck brace with his caucus in body casts, wheelchairs, etc…

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I cropped the photo in a circle & added text to make my own satirical statement. No. I decided. Something else. So I began to manipulate the images. Emerging psychedelic shapes with the politician becoming 19th century-like wearing a clerical or clown collar.

4 in one

Shapes emerged as I worked intuitively with Photoshop.

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A symbol began to emerge. Or something that looked like it wanted to be a symbol.

with bordersymbol of om

Recently my investigations have led me (in books & online) to India where the Celtic God Cernunnos is preceded by a similarly depicted figure revealed by artifacts from the Indus Valley.

cultural contrast

The similarities of the visual language are striking. Mythologies are a bit like dreams, arising from the same ‘bedrock’ of consciousness. Or from somewhere beneath the bedrock.

green man in India

Jokes also lead to interesting places. And who might be both psychedelic and from an earlier century while wearing a clerical – clown collar. The depictor. Or the depicted. Or someone else entirely. And where is the poem in that?

where is the poetrywhere is the poetrywhere is the poetry

Original photo credit: The Beaverton

Metamorphoses by Elana Wolff

spoons 1

Some are born human, most have to humanize slowly.

I want to say I’m on my way > at this point: pelican;

in time, perhaps: writer. It seems every act of writing

is compensation for a shortfall of some sort; that to become

a writer one not only has to work hard at the part, but also

be a little less than human. Ideas like these weighed heavily

on Franz K. much of his truncated life. In fact, under their

anvil, he forged one of the few perfect works of poetic

imagination of the 20th century—according to Elias

Read the rest of this entry »

Sun in the Palms: Thirteen Flashes for My Mother by Nancy Kline

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1.

Flash!  One minute to the next.

Short circuit in the brain, struck dumb.

When I get the call, I am eight hours away from her, by car.  It takes me six, foot to the floor.

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2.

In Intensive Care she lies still as a stone, but whiter than stone, on her tall bed.  The walls of her cubicle are curtains, pulled to, on a metal ceiling-track.   A small black crucifix hangs on the wall.  Mother the old Marxist overseen by Jesus.

“I’m here, mommy,” I say, and take her hand.

She opens her eyes.

Our look acknowledges the proximity of death, and of death’s silence.  Mommy, writer mother, has been stripped of speech.

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3.

Three days after the stroke, she has not said one word.  I’m singing songs to entertain us, my sneakers propped on the iron bar of her hospital bed.  She’s had her swallow test  (she can’t), she has been tested verbally  (zero).  I’ve already sung the lullabies, the folk songs.  I am into patriotic melodies.  I sing, “Allons enfants de la pa-tree-ee-uh–”

And suddenly I hear my mother’s voice.

“Le jour de gloire est a-ree-vay!”

Suddenly she’s singing “La Marseillaise.”  She’s warbling out the words, she knows them, she remembers every one of them, both of us burst out laughing, I am singing, she is singing, laughing, “Contre nous de la tee-ra-nee-uh!”

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4.

When I run down the hall to tell the speech pathologist, she’s unimpressed.

“Your mother sang a song with you?” she says, so bored that she can hardly speak.  “Different part of the brain.  She’s not recovering.  No.”

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5.

I bring in the Hospice rep.  I’m filled with trepidation.  Mother knows that Hospice means the end, and mother can be rude.

Or could be, when she could still utter insults.

“Mom,” I say, “this nice lady is from Hospice.  She is going to help us.”

“How do you do?” the social worker says, bowing at the end of the bed, beneath the crucifix nailed to the wall.

My mother smiles at her.  And then abruptly says, “Hail Mary well-met!”

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6.

Scraps of language.

On the seventh day, when I tell mother we are leaving the hospital, she asks, “Where are you traveling?”

She is afraid, I know this (I have always known it, she has always been afraid), that I will put her away, as she was forced to put away her sad ill raving mother, in what mommy always called the insane asylum.  I was there; I was ten.  I saw my grandmother dragged, struggling, up the stairs by two male aides.

“We’re going home,” I say. “I’m taking you home.”

To die, the two of us know.

My mother leans forward and kisses me on the mouth.

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7.

The story of my father’s dying, in the very same house twelve years earlier, waits for us there.  His unintelligible bellowing in the middle of one night.  Then silence.  How pointedly the ambulance crew told me that mother and I needn’t rush to follow them to the hospital.  I didn’t get the message.  His was my first death.

Halfway there, my mother realized she was without her teeth.  We turned around, we roared back home, we turned around, we roared back down the highway.  Stopped by the cops.  Released.

But daddy was already dead before the EMTs arrived. The moment we glimpsed the sly tip of his tongue.  No need to rush.

We couldn’t know it, how to believe that he had stopped? 

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8.

How to believe my mother is in diapers now, enormous basins, monstrous, rigid white papier-maché, like those we laughed about together, in some hospital, years earlier, when we did not believe them relevant.  Does she remember how we joked?

I change her.  I brush the six teeth in her mouth, and the others, in the water-glass.  I know this body as I knew my babies’.  This is my mother’s body, demystified.

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9.

Scraps of language, tender buttons.  “Skillet!  Skillet!” she says.  “She has gone to an extent to spread her trestle.”

I put a warm washcloth over her eyes.  “Oh,” she says.  “Very valuable.”

We send for the speech therapist.

He makes a house call.  He stands close up against her bed.  “C-can you say b-b-banana?” he asks.

“Banana,” mommy says.  She looks alarmed.

“G-good,” he says.  He leans in toward her face, as though to kiss her. “Now say muh-muh-muh—“

“–gician?” says my mother.  “Marauder?  Muckraker?”

“You’re d-doing very wuh-wuh-well!”

I catch the eye of mother’s healthcare aide, who looks at me and quickly leaves the room.

“C-call me, any t-time.”

The therapist hands me his card.

“You g-get t-two more sessions.  Although muh-muh-most people think wuh-one’s enough.  But p-please don’t heh-heh-heh—“

“I won’t heh-hesitate,” I say, with effort, and shake his hand.

x12

10.

Still as a breathing stone I sit each morning, on my cushion, while the Hospice nurse bathes mommy’s body in her bedroom.  I count my breaths.  I inhale, exhale my grieving.  We keep a dented dark-red iron tank of oxygen, as tall as mother standing, beside the hospital bed we’ve borrowed from the Rescue Squad.  Sometimes the racing of my small mind stills.  Then I am present, an instant.  For an instant I am not in pain.  A myriad of birds whose names I don’t know call to each other in the field.  Construction trucks roar past, down on the turnpike.

One day, after I’ve parked the car in our garage, I’m summoned by the waterfall.  I walk to the wall beside the brook and look down.  Below me, a great blue heron stands on a stone.  The stream is tumbling around him.  He looks up.  Then calmly opens his slow wings as wide as the water and flies low up the length of the creek bed, until he vanishes in the trees.

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11.

Thanksgiving night, I go to tuck my mother in and find her weeping.

“What’s wrong, mommy?”

“I had wished,” she says.  “I had hoped.  I would be dead.”

“But you didn’t die,” I say.

“I didn’t die.”  As lucid and articulate as if she weren’t aphasic, hadn’t ever been, she says, “I think I know myself.  I think I know what I can do.  I can’t do this.  I can’t do this anymore.”

I stroke her arm, her forehead.  Her birthday is two weeks away.  If she lives another  fourteen days, she’ll be one hundred and one.

“I think,” I say, “that when you really can’t,  do this, you won’t.  I don’t know even what that means.  But I believe it.”

Murray, her fat orange cat, jumps suddenly up, out of the dark, to plop down in a circle at the foot of her bed.  “Good kitty,” mommy says.

A calm transparency connects the two of us like a windowpane.

“Thank you,” she says.  “You have helped me.”

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12.

The next day she insists on walking the length of her house, to the window in the living room.  On her aggressive metal walker, thump! to say goodbye to the view.  Although I can’t know that, not yet.

Snow lies along the branches of the pines at the border of her field.

“Look!” she says.  “How beautiful the sun in the palms.”

Any of us might have said as much, we’re sliding down the slope into forgetting language, all my friends and I.  But our slow glide is not the black hole where my mother disappeared.

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13.

One week later, in the middle of an afternoon, she dies.  It has been days since she last ate or drank.  We moisten her lips for her, now that she’s sunk into impenetrable sleep, immobile, white on white, against the sheets.  Could she be tinier?

She said to me once, years before, “Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could just get littler and littler until we disappeared?”  She’s nearly done it.

I hold her hand, although she doesn’t hold mine back.  I sing to her about a bird, a looking glass.  I watch the tiny pulsing artery in her neck.  It is her only moving part.

At the hospital, I saw the moving pictures of her heart, how her aortic valve came fluttering open, fluttering closed, it dizzied me to think that tiny shred of flesh had kept on going for a century.

That afternoon, the faintest rhythmic pulsing in her neck throbs, throbs, throbs.

Doesn’t.

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Nancy Kline’s memoirs, short stories, essays, and translations have appeared widely. She contributes regularly to the New York Times Sunday Book Review and has received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Grant. She has published eight books, including a novel, a critical study of René Char’s poetry, a biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, and four book-length translations of modern French writers, the most recent, Jules Supervielle’s Selected Prose and Poetry (with Patricia Terry and Kathleen Micklow).

z1

Say Never

PID8

I never planned

PID3

To add

PID11

Paul is dead

PID5

To the conspiracies

PID15

Swimming in my head.

PID 1

But as they say

PID22

Never say never.

PID20

When Birds Were Fish

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One could write poetically concerning When Birds Were Fish.

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Or When Birds Were Suns. When Birds Were Moons.

are the beatles going to play

Soaring and skimming from here to there, across times, flying into the rivers of the underworld.

are they building a bridge to the mainland

Emerging silently into the forbidding underworld of Jean Cocteau’s 1949 film Orphee, situated within the relic of postwar France: A modern world as silently old order as mythology itself.

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 Orphee, played by Jean Marais, interrogated by an underworld tribunal.

O2

Stating his occupation as poet.

square

To write without being a writer. 

flight

The Princess of Death, played by Maria Casares, asking him for a pen (to sign her confession).

face

Her confession of love. He has no pen.

face

She laughs. She forgot he is not a writer.

face

The scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_o9l3OqPMk

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Film images courtesy The Criterion Collection.

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A Bridge Out of Limbo

a6common scene

& When you think of who you are,

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The deep waters rising about you, within you,

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& Within you, who you are, symbols embedded within & upon a book of code,

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Like a stamp or seal upon a document, & you swim through the hollow and the false,

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Bearing metaphorical code,

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& When you think of who you are and what you have delivered, you realize

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The brave are still within us,

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& Your metaphor is reality, holding fast to your sense of balance, carrying out your mission,

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& You never venture from your footing upon this precipice,

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& your children walk upon dry land.

a7wild blue gasha5

U.S. Naval Archives Photo # 80-G-238786: USS San Jacinto steaming with USS Lexington in the Mariana (Islands) area, 13 June 1944.

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My father was on active duty aboard the San Jacinto (foreground aircraft carrier) when this photo was taken. I remember him as a young man, remembering also transferred memories… physical and emotional, memories flowing like water. I was thinking about DNA as well as the memory within, and of, water. In the back of my mind I was thinking about Berta Cáceres. The work she did with water. Her radiant identification with Mother Earth, the Mothership, and the water running through Her veins.

Berta Caceres stands at the Gualcarque River in the Rio Blanco region of western Honduras where she, COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and the people of Rio Blanco have maintained a two year struggle to halt construction on the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project, that poses grave threats to local environment, river and indigenous Lenca people from the region.green ball 6green ball 6green ball 6

I Knew It Was Over

car with border

I knew it was over

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When she came home

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From work

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And said

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There’s a spoon

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In the sink.

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Images: Photographic still from director Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night (1949), starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell and a detail from Piet Mondrian’s (1943) Broadway Boogie Woogie. 

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