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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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                                                                                      The Cloisters, Paweł Drozd




The Cloisters


 

 

We ride up Madison through

midtown.  In the seat across

from us Mei, in pigtails, heads

home with her Jamaican nanny

and little Lolo takes his shoes off

and puts them back on, and at a stop

near Columbia a Vietnam vet comes

up the ramp and struggles to park

his motorized scooter in the disability

section and we continue uptown through

Harlem and wind over to Washington

Heights and a little boy in a cap a few rows

ahead has caught my attention and we are

making silly faces at each other and playing

peek-a-boo and he grabs a juice box from his

mother’s hand and a bag of corn snacks and

when he’s done he tosses the bag into the seat

in front of him to see if I’ll say anything and I

don’t.  My husband looks at his Samsung

to see how much longer until we arrive

at Fort Tryon Park and when we get there

we climb the worn stairs towards the

entrance, past the teasel, the feverfew,

the mandrake, and move through the

gardens and the room with the unicorn

tapestries and the courtyard and see lovers

here on a Friday afternoon, lovers and art

lovers, music lovers here to see the speakers

set up around the chapel each broadcasting

a voice of the choral piece composed in the 1500’s

by Thomas Tallis presumably for a princess

or a queen and it’s impossible not to tear up

hearing it and nearly impossible to tear

ourselves away but we want to see the Hudson

in this exquisite October light and we sit in the lower

garden on a bench next to a perfectly espaliered

pear tree and the river is dotted with a few boats

moving slowly by in the distance—one sailboat,

one cabin cruiser, something that looks like a barge. 

The leaves here are still green.  I say Let’s

never fight again.

 

                                              -Lin Benedek

 


 

 

Pretty Words and Shrill Birds


 

 

The tiny Buddha sits on my writing table.

Two bluebirds in a bath.  And a swan.  

Miniature pinecones from Emily Dickinson's tree. 

 

I have seen rhinoceroses and elephants.

I have felt tradewinds on my bare shoulders.

 

A green turtle, a golden turtle. A silver paper crane

and Florentine marbles. The Serenity Prayer

on my father's keychain.

 

I have a love. I have a son. I have lived, much like you,

between the seen and the unseen.

 

A heart-shaped paperweight with a calico cat inside

and words that say Hello Dearest. 

 

I wanted to write a poem.  It will be made

of sticks and twigs, dried moss and pin feathers. 

It will be as loose and tight as a bird's nest.

 

 

Sing What will we do with the drunken sailor. 

 

Sing Cockles and Mussels, alive, alive oh.

 

We listened to Lovers and Thieves, dined

on chocolate reindeer, edible flowers, rose petal jam.

 

Isn't it always what we want to happen and what we're afraid will happen?

 

Shall I be Annie Oakley's partner in rhyme and ride those boys straight out of town?

 

One grandpa mountain man; one who'd wagon-trained out west; girl in their party caught

and raised by a native tribe.

 

 

He took the Q to the A to JFK.

 

I wanted to write a book about a boy, a river and a raft; someone beat me to it. 

 

Shall I describe the architecture of a kiss?

 

Birds' memories are strengthened by sleep.

 

The gospel chorus of an embrace?

 

Swallows are getting sexier. 

 

Shall I compare thee to a bandersnatch,

to some rough beast, to an old scarecrow?

 

The tail feathers of the male barn swallow grow prettier overnight.

 

A windchime, a bird, the clang of a meditation bowl.

 

 

We were walking down the street and a car pulled up and a man asked how to get to the DMZ.  I said: Don't you mean the DMV?  He drove off and we kept walking, no less crazy-lost than he.

 

I want to write a book.

 

My husband said:

 

People will carry it around with them, like that woman

there in the bathing suit.  People will set drinking

glasses down on it and make rings on the cover.  Dogs

will chew on it.  It will be the rings of Saturn.

 

Truth is, I could hardly contain myself. 



                                              -Lin Benedek

 



Poetry Reading at White Lotus Farms



 

Rain falls softly on the slope of the tent,

the harvest moon dimmed by silver

clouds.  We sit and listen like children.

The Swedish poet reads Transtromer

in her native tongue, her own work in ours.

I have heard these sounds before—familiar

and unfamiliar.

 

In Sweden, she tells us, there was one hour

of TV a night.  The news came on just after

Children’s Hour, when a woman sat and read

from a storybook.  Every evening our poet

would run down to the basement to hear this

woman read.  And now she reads to us, our poet.

You are the one in the white boots and I am the one

in the black boots.  The rain that falls on both of us

is the rain.

 

Our rain pats the tent in an easy rhythm,

causing the strings of white Christmas lights

to sway.  Soon there will be snow.

 

                                              -Lin Benedek