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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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SITTING BY THE LILY PADS


 


on the grass by Lochan Mor

the Scottish clouds in June

are dark gray

 

and the strong highlands wind

causes ripples to the shore

 

I touch the North Sea water inlet

it is cold

 

the mother duck moves slowly on the pond

near the large lily pads

 

two ducklings far behind follow

crying out

 

a third – more timid – is

further away

 

too far behind her siblings

the wind blows the lonely duckling off course

and she paddles the easier direction of the wind

 

is the mother aware?

or is it a method to teach her young

about treachery in summer

 

on the grass under the gloomy sky

the lily pad appears small

 

the cold water brushed by rough winds

conspire to overwhelm the purity and fragility

of the leafy pond

 

the mother and two siblings are gone now

an aroma lingers near the lily pond

where even beauty is no fair match for death


                                             -Kosrof Chantikian 

 

 

 

KISS



 

I imagined tossing a flat stone into the vast lake hoping it would skip many times over the warm afternoon water.  I wanted to believe in the dream I had had days before.  it concerned a kiss.  I had kissed a friend on the street.

 

I thought I could see the stone in the water trying to keep its face above the surface – afraid of drowning – as happens when one is thrown into a lake, or the child stumbles into the nearby pond.  but it was the kiss I kept remembering, the kiss that urged me on.

 

I imagined the kiss like the stone – flying over the waters of the lake – touching the air then passing down into the water up again for air down into the water repeating this pattern until the lake became exhausted and stopped moving.

 

a kiss – I thought – that might continue on for a long, very long time.  traveling through space over the oceans until one day it stops right in front of you at your eye level, very still

 

waiting – waiting for you

waiting to get to you

waiting to go up into air

down again

up again

into you   through you   above you

 

inside you


                              -Kosrof Chantikian



 

 

IF THE WHOLE WORLD KISSED

 

 

I

 

the poems living inside this work

which you are about to see

                and hear

                                and touch

 

have asked me to say a few words

                about them

 

I did not know

poems could speak

or that they were capable of

making

themselves

 

I believed it was the poet

who gives birth

to that wonder we call the poem

 

who invents the work

and says a word or two about it

 

but lately these poems have been

speaking up and claiming –

that it is they

who have given

birth to me


it was a shock to hear this

because as far back as I can recollect

every presumed critic

 

had assured me it was

the poet

who creates the poem

 

besides who ever heard of the poem inventing itself?

did the sun make itself?

or the wind?   or the iris?

or your eyes make themselves?

 

but all this has changed

it is the poems themselves now

who are calling into question

 

the very foundation

of these beliefs

 

of who gets to be created

and who is

the creator

 

whose work is this?

the poet’s or the poems’?

 

can the creator be created?


 

II

 

let us admit then

 

it is time

 

to recognize that the language

of this book

and of any work

 

consists of the

imagination and the body together

 

two lost friends

lovers once inseparable,

who, after long searching,

 

have found each other again

and passionately embraced

 

if the poems are the phrases themselves

then what part of this joint invention

is the poet’s responsibility?

 

what work does the poet do?

must a poet work each day

to avoid the smell of the commonplace?

 

it is not a single moment

even to say it is impossible

 

it vanishes before we speak it


your shoulder brushes barely against mine

night comes through the curved window above the door

the moon stares at us

 

each passing and each becoming

is the same present

 

you are undressing me now

 

there is nothing except the present –

and your laughter

 

your laughter is like the sun

your laughter is the beginning

of all that is necessary in the world


 

III

 

a bulletin shouted from the street

begins like this:

 

the future has been run out of town

progress is dead

and only the smell of rotting petrifaction

 

– this corpse called future

once hailed as progress –

remains

 

like the twisted smell of an old wound

or a scar not perfectly healed

the wind gasping for breath

 

I want to sleep and wake up above the sun

 

the heat of your legs and thigh

your breasts banish my sleep

 

there is not a tomorrow

only the present

 

when your fingers move over me

 

do you believe in something

called the future of progress?

in the progress of future?

 

your look pierces my resistance to you


IV

 

the poet cannot abolish stupidity, arrogance, or greed

but may remove the causes that give rise to them –

 

belief in linear time

absolute progress

in the future

 

your breasts heavy like the sun

 

the smell of bread

coming out of the oven

I tear a piece of it to taste

 

it is pure and fresh like rainwater

a poem is like bread

made by hand

 

guided by my mind and desire

 

a poem can be for eating

are you hungry?

do you need to quench your thirst?

 

this poem shall nourish you

this poem is for you

 

you bring me autumn love & the light


 

V

 

will you stay a while?

I will make some fresh tea and feed you

 

do not be in such a hurry

stay a while

 

I will cure you

of that dreaded disease

the disease of progress   the clock disease  

the illusion of future

 

take these poems

and by tonight you will know –

 

all the philosophies ever devised

all the theorems and proofs

that pretend to demonstrate the world exists

 

all the theologies that ever slaughtered

in the name of the unknowable

never comprehended –

 

the one grand thing born of all ages

 

the embrace of

the imagination and the body together

 

of the poem with the poet

and of you

with me


if I ask: “what dream

do you wish for?”

 

what would you tell me?

 

do you call yourself a skeptic or a cynic?

 

do not pretend

this is not a game we are playing

 

a true skeptic does not speak

never speaks –

and a pessimist is without hope

 

yet you speak

in your dreams

 

and to speak

is to believe in hope

 

and hope is heir to the imagination

which transforms – and therefore invents – the world

 

speak to the world

speak in the present

because you and I are alive in the present

 

your memory of the past

of the wind destroying the 200 year-old oak in the garden

your argument about the shape of the future


of things to come

of the existence of desire

of how laughter is summoned

 

is taking place now

in this poem

in the present

 

do you see?

do you believe your eyes

could ever be fashioned in a hurry?

 

made by a stranger?

even the approximate color of your eyes

shall not appear again

for a thousand thousand generations

 

I know your face and your eyes

they are quiet

 

they seek repose and stillness

 

I know your body too

I know your arms

 

I know each finger of your hand

are you surprised?

do not ask me for explanations

 

the poem has none to offer

the poem is the imagination’s witness

the experience of how we live –

in the world – in our garden – in our dreams


the poem is the image

– sometimes the dream

the image of you

 

the dream of being

with you

 

take these pages

you will recognize yourself here

 

you shall henceforth walk and breathe

in entire knowledge of yourself

 

you make the world worth living

your laughter makes possible my existence

I will lie here beside you

 

the poems are the same as the poet

whose only trade is inventor and healer of the soul

 

true, a poet must work hard

to avoid the smell of the commonplace

 

to avoid the daily numbing sensations, indecisions

and stench of greed

 

a leaf falling in the rain

the stillness of this night

 

I can see desire in your face

your eyes invent the light of the world


 

VI

 

to risk yourself for something

something that you say matters

 

do not be afraid

I will stay with you

 

to be frightened is natural

loneliness exists everywhere

even the stars tremble

 

let us walk

to the edge of the road together

toward where the sea begins

 

where our hands can stretch out

and touch the clarity of the sky

 

what matters most to you?

someone you love?

the leaves in autumn falling to the ground?

 

or is it only yourself?

to risk by overthrowing the future   the myth

because risk summons the present

 

is a book worth more than a kiss?

 

risk summons us

because it is only through risk

that we invent ourselves and each other


 

VII

 

let the world disappear for a moment

let it dissolve for ten thousand centuries

 

it shall begin again

transformed

 

with a kiss

 

the origin of a kiss

was there a first kiss?

 

you shall no longer fear loneliness

 

imagine the moon whose future is bleak

a sun that will ultimately die

 

we shall all die

but the point is –

how shall we live?

 

it is your loving embrace that

saves me

your embrace and your eyes

 

I walk with you

toward where the ocean dreams

 

of touching the sun

as it falls slowly over the earth


there will come a time when a kiss

an absolute kiss

shall overwhelm the world

 

and the whole world shall kiss

and the power of such kissing

 

shall transform

loneliness into grace

 

quietly and in no hurry

you and I together

 

the imagination

and the body

 

in the present

in a very long embrace

 

your laughter is like the sun

your laughter is the beginning

of all that is necessary

in the world 


             -Kosrof Chantikian



                 

WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT LOVE

                                              

                        On reading Anna Akhmatova

 

 

last night

you spoke to me about love

 

about the bursting inside of you

the letters you wanted me to read

 

the letters you wrote in your mind

asking they not be crumpled

 

thrown away

or trampled on the floor

 

does it always start off so well –

with hope and excitement?

 

later to end

after the passage of time

 

by separation, doubt

the bitter feeling that

 

stunts the growth of trees

and withers the sunflower and the iris

so dear to you

 

at the beginning

I looked at the old pine tree


with a thousand branches

and bark lost in its decaying trunk

 

I heard the voice of the wind

passing through

 

touching each exhausted branch

as if to heal the wounds

 

the way the wind moves the air

at the end of the afternoon

before dinner

 

when we are resting after

the long walk somewhere in the mountains

 

the same wind that passes

over the ocean or high clouds

 

we come to realize later

how the manners of custom intrude

 

the rules that we are taught so well

and obey without effort

like breathing

 

rules we apply

when we meet at dinner

 

in kissing or in marriage

or in looking at one another

or how we touch ourselves


I shall show you another kind of rule

the forbidden one

 

the one lost in god’s memory long ago

the rule of rules

 

which reveals

how love ignores – even destroys any obstacle

 

placed in its path

how it overpowers arrogance

 

and nullifies greed

because love shall never subordinate itself

 

to the rule of custom

or the custom of rules

 

you wondered –

must everything in the world end?

 

you think it must

but you would stop the process

if only you knew how

 

if all things must end

the rules shall too

and even death vanish from the earth


yet even the old pine

though wounded

 

skin aging, pealing

falling

 

to the ground

stubbornly remains alive

 

the branches still strong

filled with color


last night
you spoke to me about love

you are wounded
but still living

like the pine
nourished by its own decaying bark

planting the seed
of its own

continual regeneration
its own desire

last night

you spoke with me about love


             -Kosrof Chantikian