POETRY

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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

Light streams

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,

Those generals

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

And Crucifixions.

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

Encompass everything

And Calvary continues.

Mother Arm

(For Ruth)

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,

Light fading

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

And rifles,

Light filling the sky

Over Dresden, bursting

In an apocalyptic cloud

Above Hiroshima,

Soft light

On the grounds of the hospital

Where Sassoon and Owen convalesced

Before they returned

To their deaths,

Light oozing through trenches

And flowing

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,

Unfaltering dark,

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

That Theseus

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,

Tranquil

In her thoughts

Of everything

She doesn’t know

She’s lost.

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

Tree-lined avenues,

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,

Flames shooting

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,

Seeing only

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.

Yorai Sela

Grave Letters

The father, the son,

The patter

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

du

Mon dieu

Perdu,

Cringing from the tyranny of my

Dia

Per,

Pere-Dieu

Bequeathing me to the humble ministrations of my

Mere,

till, years later

that day of celebration

When you took a shot

Gun

And me

in our new car that sped at 112 km per hour –

like a Chita – we concurred –

to the Mere

Mort

And we shot down bottles

Empty of all

And

When I missed, again and again, you

shattered

left me there- in your lion-pride –

to fend on my own

a teen age boy in a desert of Un

shattered glass, then

Later

in

Broken mornings

Learning from your shaven face the gravity

of men,

Force-acne,

Learning from being

Fors

Ache

N

that your grave will be the site of

Longing for the words to be

Etched on

My face

planning

That I

Till kingdom come shall be

Shedding and reshedding on your

Grave

Letters – Never forsaken –

of marble and

Stone.

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).

Rony Alfandary

Betrayal on the Edge of the Field

Without bragging

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?

Birdie

When she appears

naked and glowing

I can stretch my toes

and doze

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

1991

changes:

A year ago,

my first thought upon waking up would be of her,

some woman.

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.

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