To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Friday, October 21, 2011

Margo Berdeshevsky: from “Between Soul & Stone,” two poems


Out of a sense of purity: blackout.
No other voice of any other

No other voice
comes to her tiny garden.
No rain 
but stinging nettles,  
and no other soul but hers, parched.

On the footpath, a blue cypress, unhurt.
Tall as a July sun, reaching. 
Its own opal halo flung wide on the landscape.
Wild and bruised.


Bruises on the damp nature. 
Far from the sound of the lure. 
What was it she promised when she was an imaginative child
whispering hard at her own low window, mouth to that low

opening—was it to love? to be better than any sword?   
curled at her air-slit in between the house-stones 

no higher than her two hands— window no larger than
her face, burning? 
 There— her sky— there— her sky— its feral, cobalt voice, 
and sun that tasted of young honey.
A girl called Joan who would ask a thousand times—
“To shut me out from the light of the sky?”
Who thought a nation
could be ordained.
Cypress. Crepuscule. Lamb. Blackout. 

No other voice, a thousand times.
Like bees.

                        (for Joan of Lorraine, her sky.)



Again, the cradle. The bough breaks, the cradle,
quiet while lions wear their war weeds, bury silence, 
quiet while a child in stains screams —everything,

everything here smells like the gas!
her propeller hands like trapped rabbits, twitching,

my hair,    my mouth,    my breasts     —look!  
her tiny fingers try 

cracking    the bough,    collapsing   the cradle—
look! my grandmother's bracelets all buried—
Look, no face!   Look, it's morning.
Look, it's God.   In Gaza.  

Bandwagons line for each abject word —
where wheels don't stop exploded infants' fists,

or mother-skulls, lost,     lost mornings—

Brave holy land war.
Bright. Sun-split.
Where the bough has killed its cradle. 

Bright, sun-lit ash,  
its inexcusable shroud, rocking. 


They swept the dead like loosened crumbs from their fingertips, claws, curled. Brushed the dust, swallowed handfuls, hungry. Invented noise— in all that silence.  


An egg in her tiny right hand, blinded, seraph-child, she—was what was left of what had finished. Small-winged cataract, not much more. Killed

cradles, and skins, and old men, and kissing—stopped. Egg, in her sweaty small right hand, that hatchling meant for morning. Morning meant for saving. Or yet another prophet.

Prove it.


She stole an egg 
from the beast's bed—reeking, heaving nest builder.
Stepped blind, like vengeance. A cinder, empty eyed. 
Hovered like a cloud of summer wasps.
Shifted, a gaunt lighthouse onto
promise, across all slaughter.  
Reached.     —Held it.
What emerged bit her. What cracked its shell
licked her. What emerged, wanted her.

To do it all again.


It didn't happen that way. She held the egg she'd stolen from God's nest and He whispered to her: Good riddance to it and to you. See if you can do any better with this one.
I tried and I'm tired of making eggs. Believe you stole it if that makes you feel brave or dangerous.  Blessings.  He showed his teeth.
It never—mattered, which came first, the father, or the mother, or the egg. Go ahead, my good thief.  Go ahead, my bad angel. Bless. Happy morning.     She held the warm oval.

Held the breaking, mottled, hot ellipse. Couldn't remember—     why.     —Breathed it.  Waited to feel a nervous thin-skinned thrum. One heartbeat.
She held it for such a long winter.
Hyacinths were blooming in January. Snows froze them, washed them. Still, she held it.
Her eye like the promise she finally remembered—     but from whom?—on a sparrow. 
                                                            (for Gaza. 1/2009)

[NOTE.  Margo Berdeshevsky’s newest book Between Soul & Stone was published last month by Sheep Meadow Press in Rhinebeck, New York.  A poet, novelist, photographer, & actress by turns, her collection of illustrated short-short stories, Beautiful Soon Enough (University of Alabama Press), was the recipient of Fiction Collective Two’s American Book Review/Ronald Sukenick/ Innovative Fiction Prize in 2009.  Her "Tsunami Notebook" of poems & documentary photographs was made during & following a journey to Sumatra in Spring 2005 -- to work in a survivors' clinic in Aceh, & an earlier book of poems, But a Passage in Wilderness was also published by Sheep Meadow Press.  In celebration of the latter work & of her powers as a lyrically driven cross-over / cross-genre artist I wrote: “There is in Margo Berdeshevsky’s work a rare persistence of the lyric voice, used with a sense of ecstasy & grief almost religious in its evocations. Absolutely modern & fearlessly romantic by turns, the poems circle the rich & threatened corners of the living planet & travel further into places marked by mythic & oneiric time. With the publication of But a Passage in Wilderness [& now Between Soul & Stone], Berdeshevsky emerges, fully empowered, as the maker of a new poetry that pushes voice & image toward creation of a world ‘barbaric, vast and wild’ that Diderot once saw as marker of what all poetry must be.” (J.R.)]

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