Sunday, April 1, 2012

Poem for Adrienne Rich.

This was written when Adrienne came to St. Louis for the River Styx P.M. Series, which I then directed.

Rubáiyát -- for Adrienne Rich
Youth in our prime, we were too busy
reading books to have spent much time
browsing among labels marking wines.
Of course, we knew Poe's cask of
Amontillado, the lure of aged perfection
that caused one vain man's demise when he
ventured into the cellar with his cruel host,
who buried him alive. The Rubáiyát of
Omar Khayyám was its opposite, an im-
possible dream love opening, inscribing
two hearts throbbing in harmony.
Thus we had read the downs and ups
of verses where a cask or a jug of wine --
and thou -- beneath aromatic trees --
marked the paths to danger, dalliance,
and the poetry of true romance.

Today we sat around an oak table
entertaining a famous poet, a poet for whom
I had bought two bottles of wine. The Mouton
Rothschild we served with the meal, which was
simple poets' fare -- perhaps fresh baked bread,
a salad, salmon -- yet poets seemed, in those
days, to live on air. With dessert, say
blueberry pie, we opened the Rubaiyat.
We should have let it breathe,
or lifted our glasses to our untutored nostrils,
but in youthful innocence, we simply sipped,
or drank. The effect was visible in an instant.

Before, we were simply friends; now, communion,
a meeting of minds, began. We could not stop
ourselves from examining, truly for my first time,
this wine enlivening us with its bouquet of flavors,
this gem alchemically opening our palettes
and schooling us to savor our own taste buds.
Nor do I recall any other wine tasting that good.
And now, when we uncork, toast, clink glasses,
and drink, there is the hope, in the
smiling way I dream before I sample, that
this glass will take me, if it is very, very
good, over the crest marked by a surprise
elixir -- the first taste of true love!

Here is a second poem on loss:

Rohan Kriwaczek on the art of the Funerary Violin
Dirge and drone
somber chords
weep in and out, plaint and swee:
chords splayed like mourners on a mound,
tone on tone, piercing ears and heart,
carving the niche where memory
may reside, chasing idle thoughts
with a sweep of bowstrings on strings.

And those born near this day
or who have died -- you, Adrienne; you, Father,
here you are once more, pierced through
yet filling air with a ripe rhythm.

Bodies of memory make air ring.
A mourner’s ribbon near the frets, the drone
pitched to bring us close to pure sound, as though
we could deliver ourselves from war, famine, disease, those
galloping horsemen in Darfur, Abu Grahib, Somalia.
Mourning fills the hole left by the flight of the soul.

Jan Garden Castro

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