Poetry editor RONY ALFANDARY writes: The 3rd Poetry section of C.20 finds us all in a lock-down, shying away from Covid-19 and its real and imaginary threats to our well-being. It is time of indoor activities, allowing our imagination to travel the world without stepping out. The voyage home as an internal process. Isn’t it always?
This section carries the poems of three individuals: five poems by Carol Coffee Reposa, two poems by Yorai Sella and three poems by myself, Rony Alfandary.
Carol Coffee Reposa
Viewing a Spanish Art Exhibit
Across El Greco’s Christ,
His angular face
And slightly twisted neck, beyond
The swaggering bullfighters
Posing with their cigars,
Those rosy-cheeked infantas
In their gold brocade,
With the fringed epaulettes.
Already his thoughts turn
Toward heaven. He sees past
The sunbaked hills of Toledo
Rising in rich russet
From the rocks,
The cloistered green
Of a walled garden,
A mother about to take the waters
While her playful children
Splash through light
In their diaphanous dresses,
Those saccharine cherubs
Even the assorted Annunciations
Beyond the lace and ruffles,
Outside the museum’s stately walls
He contemplates the youth
Lying dead in the street, those deserts
Of crumbling brick, venom in the air.
The edges of his halo dissolve
Under an indifferent sky
As his luminous eyes
And Calvary continues.
My daughter drives, our seatbelts clicked in place,
To see a show downtown and I replay
Her early years, no car seat for a brace
When I would swing my arm around her, pray
That was enough, each time I had to stop
Or turn. “That mother arm,” she used to say.
We drain our Pepsis to the final drop
And watch The Butler, see him move through change:
Oil embargoes, Watergate and Woodstock,
Three decades, seven presidents, a range
Of crises. Credits roll and then the light
Goes off. Lost in the dark, caught in the strange
Transition out of history, I fight
For footing on the stairs and stumble, feel
At once my daughter’s touch, her warm hand tight
Around my arm to guide me as we deal
With crowds who hunger for a 3-D thrill
Served up with buttered popcorn. In their zeal
They push and jostle us, a giddy mill
Of teens intent on scripted harm,
Plastique and painless love, the easy kill.
At last we reach the doors and leave the swarm
To breathe blue night, its sweep of fleeting clouds
And silent stars, her hand still on my arm.
Seeing Voices in Wartime
(For those in Iraq and Afghanistan)
We gather at sundown
In a former church,
Its nave lined with stained glass windows.
Last rays stream
Through their geometric crosses
As the film begins,
Until they are opaque,
And all we see is the screen
With its thousands
Of boots on the ground,
Boots on the ground
Light glancing off helmets
Light filling the sky
Over Dresden, bursting
In an apocalyptic cloud
On the grounds of the hospital
Where Sassoon and Owen convalesced
Before they returned
To their deaths,
Light oozing through trenches
Down incinerated palms,
Light slanting across the face
Of a grunt who shouts,
“I’m hit!” and then he’s gone,
All the light in the world
Shining on piecemeal children,
Their missing limbs.
I pray for darkness,
The nave so black
I can’t see more.
Let it come now.
Sculpture of Ariadne, Sleeping
She reclines against an outcrop
On the island of Naxos, lost
To everything except her dreams.
At her side a bird of prey
Attacks a lizard. Her glowing arms
Encircle her head, the drape
Falling from her breast.
She does not yet know
Has left her there,
Fresh from his triumph
In battle with the Minotaur
To seek another port,
Perhaps another woman.
When she wakes, will she rail
At his ingratitude,
Shake her luminous fists
At his memory
After she gave him the thread
That led him from the Labyrinth,
Gave him the years to come?
Will she take up life
In this abandoned place, watch over
Its rough animals and scratch out
Her days on white stone? Will she scan
The seas for wayward ships or simply wait
For the gods to intervene? Can she put
Those wine-dark nights behind her?
For now she sleeps
In perfect marble silence,
In her thoughts
She doesn’t know
Watching the Tour de France
Hunched over their handlebars
In high definition, for 21 days
And 2200 miles
Cyclists by the hundreds
Churn up and down
Over the Alpe d’ Huez
Across the Pyrenees,
Their legs driving like pistons
As they pump
Toward some impossible summit,
Sweat rolling down their bodies
In steady streams,
Through arms, backs, calves
Blood throbbing in their temples
Their muscles like bones,
Their bones hardened
To some new element
We can’t name.
They don’t seem to notice
The crumbling castles,
Cathedrals with their Gothic spires
Lush vineyards and quaint cobbles,
The colors of the shirts
Ahead of them
And the digital time display.
Watching their taut faces
As they grimly pedal through paradise
I recall my own time in France:
Coffee and croissants
On a terrace in Rouen,
Two days in the Louvre
(Not enough to take in Winged Victory),
A night cruise on the Seine.
Back in Texas
I wonder how they can ignore
Those piled-up centuries
Of art and architecture,
Words that set history on fire
Those marble columns on the right
Or the flocks of doves
At Notre Dame.
But I never wore the yellow jersey.
The poems, reviews, and essays of Carol Coffee Reposa have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, The Texas Observer, Southwestern American Literature, The Valparaiso Review, and other journals and anthologies. Author of five books of poetry—At the Border: Winter Lights, The Green Room, Facts of Life, Underground Musicians, and New and Selected Poems 2018—Reposa was a finalist in The Malahat Review Long Poem Contest (1988), winner of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Poetry Contest (1992), and winner of the San Antonio Public Library Arts & Letters Award (2015). She also has received four Pushcart Prize nominations in addition to three Fulbright-Hays Fellowships for study in Russia, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico. A member of the Texas Institute of Letters and of the editorial staff at Voices de la Luna, she is the 2018 Texas Poet Laureate.
The father, the son,
The path-finder, the pather –
go further and further you said –
Anxiously – I now know – setting your sights from afar,
My per, my un-peer, my unfair
My breath of air – per
Cringing from the tyranny of my
Bequeathing me to the humble ministrations of my
till, years later
that day of celebration
When you took a shot
in our new car that sped at 112 km per hour –
like a Chita – we concurred –
to the Mere
And we shot down bottles
Empty of all
When I missed, again and again, you
left me there- in your lion-pride –
to fend on my own
a teen age boy in a desert of Un
shattered glass, then
Learning from your shaven face the gravity
Learning from being
that your grave will be the site of
Longing for the words to be
Till kingdom come shall be
Shedding and reshedding on your
Letters – Never forsaken –
of marble and
A Buddshit tongue twister
She sells selfies
by the seashore.
The selfies she sells
are selfless, I’m sure.
Yorai Sella Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, a humanistic psychotherapist and a member of ‘Tel Aviv Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis’. He teaches psychotherapy in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem universities and co-directs Dmut institute for ‘Presence and Vitality Psychotherapy’. He has practices Oriental Medicine, Zen-shiatsu and martial arts for over 30 years. Yorai has published fiction and poetry books in Hebrew as well as professional publications in Hebrew and English. His latest book is “From Dualism to Oneness in psychoanalysis: a Zen Perspective on the Mind-Body Question (Routledge).
Betrayal on the Edge of the Field
I have betrayed one or two people who love me.
Often I let you down.
Often I can not give.
I write this and pain swells my veins.
I sit on the edge of the field
I listen to the loud din of the city rising above the
hill. Above me grows an autumn tree,
its branches bare and thin.
I look further afield and watch
the indifferent moon, on the wane.
The wind is gently becokning to me:
grow, grow, grow.
So, I have betrayed four or five people.
To what does it all amount?
Has the tree stopped growing?
Will the skies stop moving?
Have we seen the last of the sun?
When she appears
naked and glowing
I can stretch my toes
thinking of selfishness and the flight of birds
but when she is covered
with thick damp rubbery
layers of eternal fat
I feel sharp and low
and even the birds hold their breath
A year ago,
my first thought upon waking up would be of her,
Now I wake up and wonder
whether I have enough time to do
a load of white washing in the washing machine
before going to work.
The television needs repairing, again,
and I only bought it last week.
still, some things don’t change.
I still rub myself to sleep,
and sometimes to wakefulness.
Rony Alfandary, Ph.D., is a clinical social worker. He is a senior lecturer at the School of Social Work at the University of Haifa and is the Assistant Director of the Post-Graduate programme of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy at Bar-Ilan University. He is also the Director of the Psychotherapy Unit at the Inter-Disciplinary Clinical Centre at the University of Haifa. He is the Editor of the book section of the Society and Welfare periodical.
As well as practising psychoanalytic psychotherapy, Rony writes and publishes poetry, prose and non-fiction. Among his recent publications is Seeking Psychic Space: Fundamentals of Psychodynamic Social Work, and Exile and Return: A Psychoanalytic Study of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet. Rony’s research interests are multi-disciplinary and include photography, hermeneutics, psychoanalysis, the relations between language, creativity and the sense of self and belonging, and the impact of the Holocaust upon 2nd and 3rd generations.
He is the Israeli delegate of the Israeli Association of Psychanalytical Psychotherapy (IAPP) at the Executive Committee of the World Council of Psychotherapy (WCP) and at the European Federation of Psychanalytical Psychotherapy (EFPP). He is among the founding members of the Israeli voluntary organization The Road to Recovery which helps hundreds of Palestinians children living in the West Bank and Gaza to receive medical care in Israeli hospitals.