Locked Gate

On December 19, 1980
Alaíde Foppa went to buy flowers.
She disappeared.

Sixty-six years old.
In a cellar, in a bloody cell, in Guatemala,
by the hands of thugs.
Or worse.

I walk by Alaíde’s sweet house in Tepoztlán
refuge from city noise and endless sorrow

Mario, husband of decades, killed
in Guatemala by a car
two sons, Mario and Juan Pablo,
Guatemalan guerillas, dead

Silvia, belovéd hija, hiding in Cuba
Laura and Julio, safe in an unquiet life
in Mexico.

 

Alaída’s house is closed.

White cotton curtains cross the fastened windows,

embroidered flowers near the sills.

 

Past the locked iron gate, leaves blow in corners

of the patio, brown on the stones

undisturbed.

 

Now and then, someone, thinking of Alaída, tosses

a message through the patterned bars

also undisturbed.

Thirty years ago I write a poem, lift it to the wind,

through the barred gate.
Dust now.

 

Alaíde loved the light of Italian art


and the music of Italian words.

Teacher, translator, scholar,

for almost half a century, she put words on paper

justice equality honor

despair hope.

 

No body. No grave. Not a strand of hair.

 

Only paper reminds us

of her beauty, her courage

but a century after she was born, her words,

written down,
are read.

 

Remembered, like Joe Hill, she’s alive as you or me.

Between us

Not one eighth of a millimeter

 
space enough
unbounded
extravagant
uncontested
unconditional
for prairies of quarks and muons
to find themselves locked in atomic attachment

 

Not one eighth of an millimeter

from you, I am
profligate
spendthrift
improvident
imprudent enough to fill galactic silences
shriek strings
across the frozen black topography
to grace the electrons of our nucleus

 

Not a molecule struck by lightning

not one breath inhaled
then released into planetary atmosphere
not the thickness of thread is
between us

 

Only the length of that thread

twisting
stretching
lengthening
to the necessary
infinity

 

Nothing between us

but this hour

Ghost Along the Tracks

Rough-cut stones ragged in roofless granite walls,

piled up, heaped on what was once the floor.

 

Where windows were,

perfect rectangles of the mason’s craft look in.

 

The room once low-roofed, dark, enclosed,

now illuminated by refractive rolling mist,

 

every standing stone silvered in waves

amidst the grasses, lupines, wild barley, verbena

 

rosy blooming rowan-ash reclaims its place

nourished by grounded clouds

At St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, Ireland

On the funerary cover, drapery

shining black and beautiful,

centuries of parishioners have yielded to its tactile seduction

and left a polished ghost of their passing caresses.

 

Flesh and bones consumed by decades ticking on,

century yielding to millennia,

and none of these lords and their few ladies

noticing at all.

 

My hand trails the looping folds of medieval Irish limestone,

polished deep perfect black,

a shade thinner, more black now than before I came.

 

And I, too, am a shade thinner,

a microscopic layer of fingertips left on this lady’s robe

clothing her eternity,

not mine yet.

At St Mullins

high above the river, the stone walls, the belfry,
condominium-ed nests crowd higher in flapping air
noisy thousands bank, wheel, shift to port then starboard, circle furiously

dusk meeting of the parliament of crows

New York Public Library

 

                   A book connects us to one another through time and space. We hold the author’s ideas in our hand unmediated by anything except our own curiosity.

 

 

I

 

The children’s room

          five steps above the main floor

          open shelves for young patrons

          librarian’s desk near the door

 

Read pictures, read poems

          hushed rustle of pages

          dust motes in the window’s shifting light

          bindings skate across silk-smooth golden maple

          quiet clicks stamp dates on paper slips

 

Borrow armfuls of books

 

Five steps down, secreted from infant eyes,

forbidden treasure

Necessary whispers only

perfect

 

II

 

Marble beasts before limestone columns

allow passage

across hundreds of steps

                        mimes mug for nickels

                        anxious lovers suspended in anticipation of one face

                        arms overflow with books unaligned

                                    readers ascend to their shared home

                                    scholars climb the white flights

                                    earnest heads bow with weight of words

 

III

 

Double-storied coffered domes over stacks

                        asylum for earth’s every thought

                                    city’s every scholar,

                                    idler, pencil-pusher,

                                             venerable, solitary,

                                              prized, repudiated

                                    aged and child

                                   have a place at this table

 

sounds brush through silent space,

                     talk soft at the desk

                    pencils scribble

                    shoes cross marble floors

                    index fingers slide under corners 

                                     impatient to turn pages

 

everything we touch is paper

 

thoughts from yesterday and millennia before

seined in paged nets

 

on heads bent over books

brass lamps shine gold

                     consolation for the lonely

                     comfort for the cold

                      solace for the bereft

stay until the midnight closing hour

That Day​

Knock your elbow against the edge of the door,
the funny bone sends a thrill of shock
right to your brain.

On this hot morning
our eyes knock.

In that instant

every bone funny
every muscle laughing
every hair breathless.

 

In the aftershock keep touching
that electric pain
lean against the doorframe
until our hearts can move again.

Night Work

In the night silence
the house hums darkly
wood creaks with memory of its tree life

refrigerator defrosts itself around ice cream
some small invisible creature scratches at the screen,
curls against the still warm wall

soft snores, shifting sheets
unseen stars
everyone sleeps in the dark

over the page
one bulb burns
word after word, one sheet after another.

Nebraska Sunrise

On the verge of a pond, grass glimmers with rime.

Thin ice cracks in tatters as the temperature rises a few degrees.

Early cold sunlight seeps across the eastern plain

And lends its energy to the half-frozen water.

New mists vaporize in a minute

Like crushed diamonds

Rising on the still silent air

Awakening the loons.

Partita

 

I  Coffee break

 

they lean into the space between them

faces illuminated with interest

or pheromones

they leave their coffee to  grow cold 

he explains 

     the phenomenological world

     materialist dialectics 

     kama sutra

blind to the world

they take one breath,

exhale,

then one more

     deaf to all but one voice,

     bellies, breasts, crotch, hair,

     focused, 

     limerance absolute

immeasurable, preposterous, unquenchable appetite 

ravenous for bone and skin

avid for muscle, fat, blood

finger pads on webbing of toes

hair against breast, tongue edging earlobe

voice in the valley 

notched between the ends of clavicles

the roar of alive

 

II  Lust 

 

He just wants

               everything

                       proud possessor of toes and taste buds

                       deaf director of board and bed

                       anxious owner of stuff no one wants

She holds hurt in her bones,

                in mind

                in dreams

                at the edge 

                of fingernails 

               scraping the soul

two, cancered with regret

shrunk into a teaspoon of sown salt.

 

III  Weight

 

hard tumor of hurt

no need for absolution

          unrequited 

          untouched 

          no amends

left with fingers 

bent backward off open palms,

calloused with unanswered forgiveness

For Love of Red

Red silk wet on pine needles.

Maple and sumac glimmer red against the road

neither red as the red wool blanket

in my blue room.

Red Twig

Morning fog lifted its wet weight
and left the red twig
shining in remembrance.

The clouds, in a prism of
urgency,
oblivious,
rush to the sea.

An insect passes almost
silently
lost in the litter of last summer.

Breath of Mercy

Hard edged cold slides in

             ribs rigid, pleural sacs hold iced shards of air

                       lungs freeze from inside out

             white fingernails roll over

                       round reddened fingers

                                   on fire with cold

 

               burning cold runs through each phalanx of fingers and toes

                          lodges in stiff knuckles immovable

                                      in frozen jackets of useless ligaments

 

Rime of sleep wraps tight

           eyelids droop

           sparkles of  crimson, cobalt, citrine

           warm the last slivers of fading, euphoric mind

At Santa Maria Del Mar, Barcelona

Body of light

bends sharp on the shallow steps
lies prone on the cold beautiful stone
curls up the wall

climbs the arch of heaven

Brittany Spring

Up past the atmosphere
steaming breath and steaming coast
meet the streaming foggy sky.

Rough edged clouds
remember the cold sea
where they were born.

The sky is suddenly blue
above the pitching,
stretching ocean of cloud,
glowing clean in the high afternoon light,

so brilliant
That you have to squint
or turn away for just a moment.

Ahead, banks, piles,
mountains of air
holding all the ocean’s blue
and the tangerine-gold edges of evening.

Maybe it will rain again tomorrow.

 

Green Bamboo

Imperceptible wind

moves long green bamboo leaves

across old black bark

an inky brush in the Spanish air.

 

This almost tropical grass

bending to the ground

is cousin to upright bright Korean stalks,

          now in October

                    ready to give up their green life

                    for the leafless windy winter.

Locked Gate

On December 19, 1980

Alaíde Foppa went to buy flowers.

She disappeared.

Sixty-six years old.

In a cellar, in a bloody cell, in Guatemala,

by the hands of thugs.

Or worse.

I walk by Alaíde’s sweet house in Tepoztlán

refuge from city noise and endless sorrow

Mario, husband of decades, killed
in Guatemala by a car
two sons, Mario and Juan Pablo,
Guatemalan guerillas, dead

Silvia, belovéd hija, hiding in Cuba
Laura and Julio, safe in an unquiet life
in Mexico.

Alaída’s house is closed.

White cotton curtains cross the fastened windows,

embroidered flowers near the sills.

Past the locked iron gate, leaves blow in corners

of the patio, brown on the stones
undisturbed.

Now and then, someone, thinking of Alaída, tosses

a message through the patterned bars
also undisturbed.

Thirty years ago I write a poem, lift it to the wind,

through the barred gate. Dust now.

Alaíde loved the light of Italian art


and the music of Italian words.

Teacher, translator, scholar,

for almost half a century, she put words on paper
justice equality honor

despair hope.

No body. No grave. Not a strand of hair.

Only paper reminds us

of her beauty, her courage

but a century after she was born, her words,

written down, are read.
sienna, Tuscany’s earth, moved to galleries

Remembered, like Joe Hill, she’s alive as you or me.

Between us

Not one eighth of a millimeter

space enough
unbounded
extravagant
uncontested
unconditional
for prairies of quarks and muons
to find themselves locked in atomic attachment

Not one eighth of an millimeter

from you, I am
profligate
spendthrift
improvident
imprudent enough to fill galactic silences
shriek strings
across the frozen black topography
to grace the electrons of our nucleus

Not a molecule struck by lightning

not one breath inhaled
then released into planetary atmosphere
not the thickness of thread is
between us

Only the length of that thread

twisting
stretching
lengthening
to the necessary
infinity

Nothing between us

but this hour

Breath of Mercy

Hard edged cold slides in

ribs rigid, pleural sacs hold iced shards of air

lungs freeze from inside out

white fingernails roll over

round reddened fingers

on fire with cold

burning cold runs through each phalanx of fingers and toes

lodges in stiff knuckles immovable

in frozen jackets of useless ligaments

rime of sleep wraps tight

eyelids droop

sparkles of crimson, cobalt, citrine

warm the last slivers of fading, euphoric mind

That Day​

Knock your elbow against the edge of the door,
the funny bone sends a thrill of shock
right to your brain.

On this hot morning
our eyes knock.

In that instant
every bone funny
every muscle laughing
every hair breathless.

In the aftershock keep touching
that electric pain
lean against the doorframe
until our hearts can move again.



At St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, Ireland

On the funerary cover, drapery

shining black and beautiful,

centuries of parishioners have yielded to its tactile seduction

and left a polished ghost of their passing caresses.

Flesh and bones consumed by decades ticking on,

century yielding to millennia,

and none of these lords and their few ladies

noticing at all.

My hand trails the looping folds of medieval Irish limestone,

polished deep perfect black,

a shade thinner, more black now than before I came.

And I, too, am a shade thinner,

a microscopic layer of fingertips left on this lady’s robe

clothing her eternity,

not mine yet.

At St Mullins

high above the river, the stone walls, the belfry,
condominium-ed nests crowd higher in flapping air
noisy thousands bank, wheel, shift to port then starboard, circle furiously

dusk meeting of the parliament of crows

Ghost Along the Tracks

Rough-cut stones ragged in roofless granite walls,
heaped on what was once the floor

Where windows were,
perfect rectangles of the mason’s craft look in

The room once low-roofed, dark, enclosed,
now illuminated by refractive rolling mist,
every standing stone silvered in waves

Trees, rosy blooming rowan-ash, reclaim their place
amidst the grasses, lupines, wild barley, verbena
nourished by grounded clouds

Red Twig

Morning fog lifted its wet weight
And left the red twig
Shining in remembrance.

The clouds, in a prism of urgency,
Oblivious
Rush to the sea.

An insect passes almost silently
Lost in the litter of last summer.

Nebraska Sunrise

On the verge of a pond, grass glimmers with rime.
Thin ice cracks in tatters as the temperature rises a few degrees.
Early cold sunlight seeps across the eastern plain
And lends its energy to the half-frozen water.
New mists vaporize in a minute
Like crushed diamonds
Rising on the still silent air
Awakening the loons.

For Love of Red

Red silk wet on pine needles.
Maple and sumac glimmer red against the road
neither red as the red wool blanket
in my blue room.

Night Work

In the night silence
the house hums darkly
wood creaks with memory of its tree life

refrigerator defrosts itself around ice cream
some small invisible creature scratches at the screen,
curls against the still warm wall

soft snores, shifting sheets
unseen stars
everyone sleeps in the dark

over the page
one bulb burns
word after word, one sheet after another.

At Santa Maria Del Mar, Barcelona

Body of light
bends sharp on the shallow steps
lies prone on the cold beautiful stone
curls up the wall
climbs the arch of heaven



Brittany Spring

Up past the atmosphere
Steaming breath and steaming coast
Meet the streaming foggy sky.

Rough edged clouds
Remember the cold sea
Where they were born.

The sky is suddenly blue
Above the pitching,
stretching ocean of cloud,
Glowing clean in the high afternoon light,

So brilliant
That you have to squint
Or turn away for just a moment.

Ahead, banks, piles,
mountains of air
Holding all the ocean’s blue
And the tangerine-gold edges of evening.

Maybe it will rain again tomorrow.



Green Bamboo

Imperceptible wind
moves long green bamboo leaves
across old black bark
an inky brush in the Spanish air.
This almost tropical grass
bending to the ground
is cousin to upright bright Korean stalks.



Susan Gardner
sugardner@gmail.com
© 2019 Susan Gardner All content and images.