Thursday, August 07, 2014

Poetry Friday: Holocaust Museum

I have been reading the news out of Iraq and Syria and despairing, learning of another genocide ignored by the world.  This time the victims are Christians and other religious minorities.  There have been Christians worshiping in Mosul, site of the Biblical Nineveh, for 1800 years, but now there are none left.  Other cities are equally empty of Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen. 

We say, "Never again," about the Holocaust, the one with a capital H, but how many small h holocausts have there been since then, that we seem unable to prevent or stop once they are in process, or do anything about except weep uselessly? 

I found a poem about a visit to the Holocaust Museum.  There are three people in the party, and one of them, a Jewish man originally from Warsaw, is blind.  It is a narrative poem, with the punchline in the last stanza, so be sure to click over and keep reading. 

Holocaust Museum

By Jane Shore
We filed through the exhibits,
Charlotte and I taking turns
reading captions to Andy.
Herded into a freight elevator,
we rode to the top floor,
to the beginning of the War

where we were on our own,
descending floor by floor,
year by year, into history
growing darker, ceilings
lowering, aisles narrowing
to tunnels like the progress

of Andy’s vision over the years.
In Warsaw, his family owned
Maximillian’s Fur Salon
like a little Bergdorf Goodman’s,
doorman and French elevator,
furs draped on the Persian carpet,

over the blue velvet Empire chairs.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Poetry Friday: Wendell Berry

My blog has been silent for a whole month now as I have been traveling, visiting friends and family in the US.  Yesterday I got home to Haiti and today I am savoring this last Friday of the summer, since I go back to work on Monday morning.

At the same time, I am sad for the end of the summer, and sad because this is my daughter's senior year, and will be full of "lasts", and sad because of the news of war and destruction and sickness around the world. 

Can I savor and be sad at the same time?  I think so.  This poem is from Wendell Berry's book This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems, which we acquired this summer.  It is in the 1999 section and labeled only with a Roman numeral. 


In Heaven the starry saints will wipe away
The tears forever from our eyes, but they
Must not erase the memory of our grief.
In bliss, even, there can be no relief
If we forget this place, shade-haunted, parched
Or flooded, dark or bright, where we have watched
The world always becoming what it is,
Splendor and woe surpassing happiness
Or sorrow, loss sweeping it as a floor.
This shadowed passage between door and door
Is half-lit by old words we've heard or read.
As the living recalls the dead, the dead
Are joyless until they call back their lives:
Fallen like leaves, the husbands and the wives
In history's ignorant, bloody to-and-fro,
Eternally in love, and in time learning so.

Here is today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Reading Update

It's halfway through the year, and I've read thirty-five books.  Here's the latest batch.

#20 was What We Talk About When We Talk About God, by Rob Bell
#21 was What Came from the Stars, by Gary D. Schmidt
#22 was The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
#23 was Curse of the Thirteenth Fey: The True Story of Sleeping Beauty, by Jane Yolen
#24 was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford
#25 was Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers, by Penny Kittle
#26 was The Milk of Birds, by Sylvia Whitman
#27 was I Was Almost Five, by Vida Zuljevic
#28 was The Living, by Matt De la Peña
#29 was Peanut, by Ayun Halliday
#30 was Just One Evil Act, by Elizabeth George
#31 was Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength, by Laurie Helgoe
#32 was Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley
#33 was The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
#34 was The Birth House, by Ami McKay
#35 was Trailing: A Memoir, by Kristin Louise Duncombe

Other books I've read this year:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Poetry Saturday

Yesterday was another travel day for me, so no post, but here is what everyone else posted. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Poetry Friday

Today is a road-trip day, and I am probably not going to get a Poetry Friday post written.  But here's today's roundup, so you can go read what everyone else is posting!  Happy Friday!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Poetry Friday: Chikungunya Revisited

I said a few weeks ago that maybe I would write my own chikungunya poem, and now I have. For anyone who isn't yet aware of this virus, here is some good information. Here is a recent summary of the situation in the Caribbean, and predictions of this nasty virus coming to the United States.

Everyone in our household except one has now had the fever (and yes, I've had it, too). My husband had a particularly bad case, and was the inspiration for my poem.

My Husband Gets Chikungunya

Everyone’s getting it,
And then Steve does too.
The virus is a mosquito-borne history lesson,
A recap of all the injuries this body in its fifties has sustained.

The right arm that snapped while playing airplanes with Don
The summer between first and second grade,
Now aches as though Steve has once more been propelled through the air
And crash landed.

The two fingers broken in a car accident in college,
When, going too fast, he went off a bridge on a back road in Tennessee,
And the collar bone from that same impact,
Burn again with pain as he relives that night,
A blur of memory now:
Crawling out of his car;
The nurse fainting
As she held his bloody hand, nerves exposed;
Calling his mother.

Random knee injuries and ankle sprains
From years of basketball and softball
Return to haunt him
As he lies in bed, feverish and exhausted.

Some of these wounds predate me,
Like the conked head from falling out of a shopping cart as a two year old,
But some I was around for,
Like the broken coccyx on a cycling trip.
All, all hurt again,
As though to say,
Congratulations on surviving, zanmi mwen,
Tough old guy,
How many times could you have died already?
How blessed are you?

He moans, takes Tylenol, drinks the water I bring him,
And emerges,
Spent and covered in a rash,
From the ordeal of

Today's roundup is here.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Poetry Friday: Slowing Down

On Monday I finished up in my classroom, and I have spent the days since shifting into the rhythms of the summer.  We will be traveling, but for the moment I have been straightening up my house, exercising, hanging out with my kids, and reading.  During the school year, I feel as though I am stealing time to read, but in the summer I can relax a little, start in on the stack that has been accumulating by my bed. 

Today, as I was riding the exercise bike, I was listening to the Poem of the Day podcast (you can find it on iTunes).  I'm catching up on April's podcasts still, and on April 5th, Australian poet Mark Tredinnick is featured reading his poem "Eclogues."  This is a poem for the summer me: it's long, discursive, about work and family and landscape.  You can read the poem, and hear him read it, here.  The recording lasts just over eight minutes.

My dictionary defines eclogue as "a short poem, especially a pastoral dialogue."  It appears as though Tredinnick has written many eclogues.  I confess I had never heard of him before this morning, but I will be delving more into his work.

This poem describes Tredinnick's journeys back and forth from his house to the shed where he writes.  He illustrates for us his routine, the focus on work, the return to his family, and gradually, he talks about the country around him, and mortality (a friend who died, a friend who has cancer), and then he ends with a beautiful metaphor of landscape as poetry. 

It's hard to excerpt a poem like this, because the point is the whole, but here are some bits I liked:


Its balm inside and search again briefly for the frequency of family life
and I find it in the bath, my girl
                                               and our three children, sleek as seals,
and in that moment a truck passes on the road
and snaps the powerline from the eaves. The house shudders and we fall
back in time to candles and stories by heart and reading news from memory.


You’d call it a blessing if you hadn’t been woken four times
by minor deities, pyjamaed like children
                                                                             and frantic in the dark with oracles.
Why do our children not know how to sleep?
Do they fear we’ve left our waking late? At first light they dawn
and have you rise and lead them out into the story


The river has told the grass again, a parable the day has forgotten by nine.
And by ten, at your desk, you’ve forgotten it, too.
                                                                              A man so easily distracted
by himself. But what are you here for
and what do they love, if not the way you leave each day to change the world’s mind
and return with the night, your fire spent, your face lined with secrets?



But, listen: no one reads poems to learn how to vote. Verse can’t change
the future’s mind. You write it like rain;
                                                                              you enter it like nightfall.
It isn’t for anything; a poem is country,
and it needs you to keep walking it, and I walk out into it now, carrying my friend
and smelling the paddocky wind and feeling the rain cold on my face.

I'm so thankful for these summer days to slow down, read, think complete thoughts,  and maybe, eventually, if I can slow down enough, write something "like rain."

Carol is hosting the roundup here today.