January 2010

Reality, what can we do with it? Where is it in words?

Just as it flickers, it vanishes. Innumerable lives

unremembered. Cities on maps only,

without that face in the window, on the first door, by the market,

without those two in the bushes near the gas plant.

Returning seasons, mountain snows, oceans

& the blue ball of the earth rotates,

but silent are they who ran through the artillery fire,

who clung to a lump of clay for protection,

& those deported from their homes at dawn

& those who have crawled out from under a pile of bodies

while here, I, an instructor in forgetting,

teach that pain passes (for its the pain of others),

still in my mind trying to save miss Jadvyga,

a little hunchback, a librarian by profession,

who perished in the shelter of an apartment house

that was considered safe but toppled down

& no one was able to dig through the slabs of wall,

though knocking & voices were heard for many days.

So a name is lost for ages, forever,

no one will ever know about her last hours

time carries her in the layers of pliocene.

The true enemy of man is generalization,

the true enemy of man, so-called history,

attracts & terrifies with its plural number.

Don’t believe it. Cunning & treacherous

history is not, as Marx told us, anti-nature,

& if a goddess, a goddess of blind faith.

The little skeleton of miss Jadvyga, the spot

where her heart was pulsating. This only

I set against necessity, law, theory.

Czeslaw Milosz



Rachel Wetzsteon, 19672009 *

The Country of Single Women

At sunrise, check the ashes.
If you see your face in them
you have your freedom.

The national plant, let it be sawgrass
its thin smile sharp enough
to cut the unwary, but easy enough
to pick if you choose your approach.
A practical plant is required
one that survives drought and frost
and can be used as fodder
for the wild and the dumb
when times are hard.

Our anthem must be sung a capella
by a single voice with
or without microphone
in difficult conditions
for there will be many competing voices
to rise above.

National treasures comprise mainly
photo albums, anecdotes
and a shopping bag full of letters
refolded in original envelopes
stamps now wildly out of date
some of them foreign
and every letter
once known
by heart.

Nationality is a gift
that cannot be returned
by the recipient. If revoked
the papers must be twisted
into chains and set alight with a flame
carried from your first birthday cake.
This can only be done by a gentle man
at the time of a full moon.


Rhona McAdam

* Links via Ron Silliman’s Blog 
Rhona blogs at iambic cafe