Jazno Francoeur

Fall River at Midnight

 Fireflies brighten the grass by the shore

as you pass under the low-hanging trees

in your father’s green aluminum boat

above the submerged farms and rock quarries;

setting the lines on the branches, the leaves

just skimming the surface, you navigate

through an alcove, then settle in between

the bait cooler and the motor to wait.

At times, you see a faint light reflected

from the lamp on a small school of minnows

like silver coins flipping end over end,

disappearing in the darkness below,

while your father gathers a large white net

and casts it out, as if making a bed.

 

 VIA SACRA

 I was buried beside an olive tree

with a lamp, three figs, and a loaf of bread.

I was never a mother, nor a wife,

my duties conferred to the sacred flame

to attend the vestal hearth in winter,

to bless the Tiber’s water with my palms,

 

and then relieve the burning in my palms.

The Sacred Way is just beyond this tree,

where my lovers visit every winter

to share my memory with leavened bread

and hold their blackened fingers to a flame.

I was never destined to be a wife

 

they knew they could not take me as a wife:

the random lots were held against my palms

and made my fingers curl into a flame

then open as a blossom on a tree.

My mother wept; my father gave me bread.

We walked to an empty house in winter

 

just beyond the Sacred Way in winter,

my dowry paid in full– not as a wife

but rather as a holy child, whose bread

had crumbled into ashes in her palms;

I watched him pass under the olive tree

bending low, as a hand cupped to a flame,

 

his body disappearing like a flame.

All the days of my twentieth winter

were marked through every season on this tree:

prescribed from vagaries of man and wife,

I rubbed its soothing oil between my palms

and gazed from windows when we made the bread,

 

when I crushed the grain into flour for bread.

I pressed bellows, bearing the oven’s flame

to watch the bodies grow between my palms,

rising from dust, hardening in winter.

I was never destined to be a wife,

to be embraced by lovers near this tree

 

or kiss their palms, which hold the leavened bread

before an olive tree; or lift a flame

to see their winter eyes expect a wife.

 

 

Shin Yu Pai

the gift 

in another land
I ask permission to take from the fig tree 

my guide says
the Bhutanese believe plucking a leaf 

is akin to cutting the throats of one thousand monks 

here, he says let me do that for you,

how is this one

 

the uncarved block 

the thing we think

we want, perfection 

to honor a fidelity

to origin when all 

was ever in a state

of emerging 

the soft bones forming

a newborn’s skull 

the fontanelle of the David’s 

marble crown left undone 

imperfection a wholeness 

complete in and of itself