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Archive for September, 2020

Poems for our Times

Two poems have come to me in as many days, both with inspiration from abroad, and both shining light on troubling places in this aching world. The illustrations highlight the people the poems evoke.

 

The first, by Bertalicia Peralta, illuminates the power of love in a powerful woman.

 

La única mujer

–by Panamanian writer Bertalicia Peralta; translated by William O’Daly


La única mujer que puede ser
es la que sabe que el sol para su vida empieza ahora

la que no derrama lágrimas sino dardos para
sembrar la alambrada de su territorio

la que no comete ruegos
la que opina y levanta su cabeza y agita su cuerpo
y es tierna sin vergüenza y dura sin odios

la que desaprende el alfabeto de la sumisión
y camina erguida

la que no le teme a la soledad porque siempre ha estado sola
la que deja pasar los alaridos grotescos de la violencia

y la ejecuta con gracia
la que se libera en el amor pleno
la que ama

la única mujer que puede ser la única
es la que dolorida y limpia decide por sí misma
salir de su prehistoria.

The Only Woman

The only woman that she can be
is the one who knows the sun of her life begins now

the one who sheds not tears but darts
to sow the barbed wire of her territory

the one who begs for nothing
who speaks her mind, holds her head up and shakes her body
who is tender without shame and hard without hatred

the one who unlearns the alphabet of submission
who walks tall and true

the one who does not fear solitude because she’s always been alone
who lets the grotesque howls of violence pass her by

and she does it with grace
the one who frees herself through the fullness of love
the one who loves

the only woman, the only one that she can be
is the one who, aching and clean, decides for herself
to leave her prehistory behind.

 

The Second, by A.E. Stallings reminds us of the harrowing plight of millions of refugees and their forced marches from home.

 

After a Greek Proverb

By A.E. Stallings

Ουδέν μονιμότερον του προσωρινού

 

 

We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query—

Just for a couple of years, we said, a dozen years back.

Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

 

We dine sitting on folding chairs—they were cheap but cheery.

We’ve taped the broken window pane. tv’s still out of whack.

We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query.

 

When we crossed the water, we only brought what we could carry,

But there are always boxes that you never do unpack.

Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

 

Sometimes when I’m feeling weepy, you propose a theory:

Nostalgia and tear gas have the same acrid smack.

We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query—

 

We stash bones in the closet when we don’t have time to bury,

Stuff receipts in envelopes, file papers in a stack.

Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

 

Twelve years now and we’re still eating off the ordinary:

We left our wedding china behind, afraid that it might crack.

We’re here for the time being, we answer to the query,

But nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

 

 

 

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