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Posts from — November 2010

Music: What’s right about Stripped Down

The Post-Modern Deconstruction

of Double Fantasy …

(or, John Lennon Lives!)

By Jeff Katz
Music Editor

What to do about the new John Lennon remasters? Let’s be honest, Lennon’s solo work is a mixed bag. He may very well have the greatest individual work of any member of the erstwhile Fab Four (Plastic Ono Band). Imagine was a huge leap downward, though still excellent. (Here’s the sacrilege: “Imagine” is a puerile piece, perhaps the most overrated bit of pop utopianism ever recorded. Think how much Paul McCartney would have been skewered had he written the sophomoric sentiments of this bit of Lennon legend). There’s a sample of pleasant dreck (Mind Games and Walls and Bridges) and then a dollop of lifeless drivel (Sometime in New York City and Rock ’n’ Roll). After John was murdered, and sales of his catalog skyrocketed, a dorm resident from across the hall knocked on my door with fury.

“This album sucks!” he yelled at me accusatorily. I was, after all, the Beatle expert and therefore responsible.

“Just ‘cause he’s dead doesn’t make his albums great,” I responded.

I love John, have all his solo albums and enjoy them, but I have no interest in the remasters as a set of work.

When Double Fantasy was released in the fall of 1980, I was prepared for anything. What I got was an assortment of disappointment and surprise. The songs, split between John and Yoko, showed the latter to be the edgier and more rhythmically exciting member of the duo. “(Just Like) Starting Over,” the John track that began his first album in five years, was just awful, though I appreciated his tip of the cap to the heroes of his rock and roll youth. Many of Lennon’s tracks were mediocre, though he soared with “Watching the Wheels” and “Beautiful Boy.” Worst of all, the ultra-slick ’80s’ production left me cold. Where was the warmth and playfulness, the fervor of the John Lennon that I, and millions of others, waited half a decade to hear? The album was a solid seller that turned brisk after the horrible news less than a month after it hit the stores.

Turns out John was there all along, and the new “Stripped Down” remix of Double Fantasy, shows the Johnny Boy we always knew. The instrumentation is spare, the production value zero and the vocals boosted to the forefront. John’s songs come across as polished demos, complete with background murmurings and intro and outro commentary a la Let It Be. The Lennon humor is front and center and that voice, oh that voice, is a game changer.

I’m still not a fan of “Starting Over,” but its stark form, including a direct tribute to Lennon’s own four angels, takes a bad song and makes it better. Every song lays bare the soul of the man in a way the original version glossed over. “Watching the Wheels,” still my favorite and, since my own departure from “the big time” financial world at age 40 my self-appointed theme song, is heartbreakingly real. “Beautiful Boy” is less grand in its Spartan incarnation, but the punched up vocals more than make up for it. Over time I’ve grown to appreciate John’s songs on Double Fantasy more, but never more than in these renditions. Yoko’s vocals don’t come across any worse in the naked versions, though her climactic, well, uh, “climax,” to “Kiss Kiss Kiss” is submerged in the new mix. (We do live in more conservative times after all). Overall, the overproduction of the initial release added to the propulsion of her tracks and that’s lost here; “Give Me Something” is a towering exception. The final two tracks, “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him” and “Hard Times Are Over,” are reworked as solid duets. The latter, a churchy pastiche, has Lennon at his most knee-slapping funny.

The passionate, meaningful voice that we think of when we think of John Lennon, not the softened edition prepackaged for a return to 1980 Top 40 radio, has been reclaimed on Double Fantasy Stripped Down. Hearing that voice now makes you realize how much was lost on December 8, 1980.

November 1, 2010   Comments Off on Music: What’s right about Stripped Down

Ali Abdolrezaei: Poetry


Travel and I have not even been to the top of the alley
I’m still prisoner to the same room whose age I have changed the last two years
Doing loneliness yet not alone
My mother still comes to my dream to inspect my dreams
And the house I left alone
falls down on my tenant
whenever it feels heart stricken
so I come back
My sin was ‘everyone’s human but me’
I had gotten away with betraying
my mother father friends and all who are human at once
Of course I’m not antihuman       I just am
Day after day runs out of my hands
Again I am squandering being human
I’m in immense need of an adequate poet
to go calamitously  free in my imagination
even though sorrow laid down with me as my face grew long
but I have not stretched long
I still am more Ali Abdolrezaei than when I was Ali Abdolrezaei
but I don’t know where along this ‘I don’t know’ to begin
and with the next I don’t know to begin and again… next…
How would I know where is next?
I always wanted if there is anywhere, to be somewhere       it was not to be!
The old dolphins flirt with the beach when it’s time to die so humans
at the end of their lives can park with peace of mind in parks at the edge of the world
The sea too is a delightful cruelty
giving only wooden wrecks to the shore in order not to give
everyone’s committing their own calmly exclusive suicides so I don’t live
what can I do?
The great teacher doesn’t eat more than the shit we talked about
I am still the spelling mistake of this same kid who’s doing his homework
they don’t rub it out strike it through so I won’t drop a line
If I wanted St Mark’s Basilica with its golden domes to come to my side hailing Jesus
Venice that is my most beautiful wandering jewess
would mount her Bridge of Sighs to drink from my Rio and put the Thames forever to shame
It’s pointless of some to speak Dante Dante
Florence that is a fit flaxen hair damsel
has always been in love with me
is in love with me
wants me
You don’t believe me  take a trip to Ravenna
and follow the trail of Amsterdam’s tears in Sicily
which emptied these lines           in empty line breaks
Wet your lips on this goblet Senorita    salute!
most enjoyable these lips you’re eating
be careful you don’t get a fat belly
up the crutch of these words    golly!!
no matter how much I try
I don’t get a life
It’s a pity that only lepers swim in the waters of this Gulf
otherwise if the Caspian could get on the plane
it certainly would land in the middle of Paris so we swimmingly mix and return as frogs
Last night
A river came to my room
with a slender tree on its banks which only wanted me
to pick of its large apples
I had no appetite
what a pity it was
what a lonely birthplace it had become.
من با سفر تا سرِ کوچه هم نرفته‌ام
هنوز زندانیِ همان اتاقم که دو سالی‌ست سالش را عوض کرده‌ام
تنهایی می‌کنم       ولی تنها نیستم
مادرم هنوز به خوابم می‌آید که خواب‌های مرا ببیند
و خانه‌ای که ولش کردم
هر وقت دلش می‌گیرد
سرِ مستأجرم خراب می‌شود که برگردم
گناهِ من جز من همه آدم بودند بود
جانم را به در برده‌ام
تا به مادرم پدرم دوستانم که آدمند       همه یکجا خیانت کنم
البته آدم آزار نیستم        فقط هستم
روز از پیِ روز از دست می‌دهم
دارم        دوباره آدم را تلف می‌کنم
نیازِ مبرم به یک شاعرِ کافی دارم
که به طرزِ فجیعی در خیالم آزادی کند
گرچه افسردگی با من دراز کشید و صورتم دراز شد
ولی درازم نکرده‌اند
هنوز علی عبدالرضایی‌تر از وقتی هستم که علی عبدالرضایی بودم
فقط نمی‌دانم از کجای نمی‌دانم آغاز و با یک نمی‌دانمِ بعدی آغاز و باز… بعد…
از کجا بدانم که بعدی کجاست؟
همیشه می‌خواستم اگر جایی هست کجا باشم        نشد!
دلفین‌های پیری که با ساحل لاس می‌زنند وقتِ مرگ گرفته‌اند که آدم‌های آخرِ عمری در پارک‌های تهِ دنیا با خیالِ راحت پارک کنند
دریا هم که بی‌رحمیِ دلپذیری‌ست
فقط تخته پاره‌ها را به ساحل می‌دهد که به ساحل ندهد
همه درحال ِخودکشی‌های منحصر به خودی آرام آرام می‌کنند که من زندگی نکنم
چه کنم!
آموزگارِ بزرگ هم جز گفت و گُهی که با هم می‌کردیم نمی‌خورد
هنوز همان غلط املاییِ همین کودکِ درحالِ مشقم که بد تلفظ شد
پاکش نمی‌کنند و خطش نمی‌زنند که خط ندهم
اگر بخواهم مشهد با دو باسنِ زرینش رضا کنان می‌آید که با من کنار بیاید
اصفهان که زیباترین یهودیِ راه گم کرده‌ی من است
سوارِ زاینده رودش شده از من آب می‌خورد که سن را برای همیشه از رو ببرد
الکی حافظ حافظ می‌کنند برخی
شیراز هم که تاریک مویی لاغر مردنی ست
همیشه عاشقِ من بود
عاشقِ من است
مرا می‌خواهد
باور نمی‌کنید سری به اهواز بزنید
و ردِ گریه‌های مازندران را در آبادان بگیرید
که این سطرها را خالی کرد         خالی بست!
لب تر کردنی دارد این پیک کاکو!       نوشِ جان!
کیف دارد این لب‌هایی که می‌خوری
مواظب باش شکم در نیاوری
لای این کلمات   جآآآآن!       گم کرده ام
هرچه دنبالش می‌گردم
جان نمی‌گیرم
یکجا نمی‌میرم
حیف که در آب‌های خلیج فقط عرب‌ها آب تنی می‌کنند
و الا ّدریای خوشمّزه‌ی خزر اگر می‌توانست سوار طیاره شود
قطعن وسطِ پاریس پیاده می‌شد که درهم شنا کُنان قورباغه برگردیم
رودخانه‌ای آمده بود به اتاقم
با درختِ رنجوری بر کرانه‌هاش که می‌خواست سیب‌های درشتش را فقط من بچینم
اشتها نداشتم
چقدر حیف شد
عجب لنگرودِ تنهایی شده بود

Black Sea

The river runs through my home that has run?
Or too soon.  Too soon is it to ask this rover for help?
Where does the sea arrive
In… Or… !?
You would love to tip off this boat of broken oar
Or am I the wave that turns  not to return?
The briny sea  in this far shore   lacked only you    my humerus
do not pour such humor  on this dear wound
In the end this naked soul
Other than that naked soul
What can it be?    A naked soul?
Me having love affair now with whomever
And being whoever you want
What do you mean you being whatever I want you to be?
Or like some watermelon thrown in ice
In the heat of summer
For me to cry hug me I’m freezing!?
Like a child’s wanting mother — ma tear
Someone come like scream into my words
Until when this wave pounds
Its head on those two mounds up there
And these two crevices down here!?
The sea is still at work
A wave somersaults and Alexander
Returns to his sea      black in the face
دریای سیاه
رود می رود
? رودخانه در خانه ام که در رفته ست
یا زود      زود است کمک بخواهم از این رود!؟
دریا کجا می ریزد
در…     یا … !؟
تو عاشقی که نارو به این قایق ِ پارو شکسته می زنی
یا من موجی ام که هرچه می گردد      برنمی گردد؟
دریا به این شوری      در این دوری     فقط تو را کم داشت بانمک!
روی این زخم عزیز    اینهمه نمک نریز!
آخر این روح لخت
جزاینکه یک روح لخت
چه می تواند باشد     یک روح لخت!؟
من عاشق حالا هر کی
و هر که خواستی بودم
یعنی چه که هر چه خواستم بودی؟
باید بروم فرانکفورت
خودم را پیدا کنم در دختری که خودم پیدا کردم؟
یا مثل هندوانه ای که انداخته باشندش لای یخ
وسطِ تابستان
فریاد بزنم سردم شده بغلم کن!؟
مثل کودکی که مادر بخواهد اشکم
یکی بیاید توی حرفم جیغ بزند
تا کی بکوبد این موج
سرش را به آن دو تپه آن بالا
و این دو صخره این پایین!؟
دریا دارد هنوز کار می کند
موجی سکندَری می خورد به ساحل و اسکندر
به دریایش سیاه      دوباره برمی گردد.
Post- censorship
The plain is green
The page, white
And the line, a row of passing sheep
there is no green
But everywhere a blackening
I too  — Ali Abdolrezae — I
who am writing — am the shepherd
Taking my words to graze
To arrange some fodder
For the wolf of the hills
wound up in the office of the censor
Stalking round for words.
And without me these words are just sheep
grazing as they are bound to
Eat looking for answers
The poor sheepdog too
Is censoring words
Sniffing for bones.
What does the Poor dog know
When you are a poet you are Jesus
The shepherd Mohammad, Moses
Upset at all this blackening
Herding after the green that is not.
One of these words strikes out for hills and dales
Another goes after Joseph’s coat of many colours
Takes refuge  in a well
If the mountain goat is feint hearted
Dashes for dale and hills out of fear
To take refuge with the wolf
It is not the poet’s fault that you censored him
It was for him that you released it
The bullet shot in the air
In my air
to spread darkness on the page
for blindness to come in fashion
Distance has always been my close relation
I know exile scene by scene
Five lit windows
A bare and only tree
Behind a naked autumn
The scenery    a few acts in the mist
That I am still directing
A bit of a wink over there   Red
A moment’s embrace over here meaning
Give a bit of bosom without a grudge
Oh son of whoever your father wanted of your mother to bring a son
But where?!
Your poet wanted to bring a spouse
Don’t be peevish
To make a Romeo for Juliet    Didn’t work
Wanted his big words to hit the last wire
No matter what
Now that some bone is left in these pages
It’s the turning of the wrench
A game of nuts and bolts
A rending of the heart for nothing — this loving
A night that spilled out of a parcel
Is more of a goner than the stain
That takes over  this leap year
It’s the turning of a wrench in the flesh
Torture of words  from the front and behind
A Romeo has run away from me
lips that run away with the face
But don’t land a kiss
don’t sort with a Juliet   But the official
A wolf that eats the flesh of my words
Is still cersorship
دشت سبز است
صفحه سفید
وسطر      صفی که از آن گوسفند می گذرد
سبزی درکار نیست
همه جا سیاه کاری ست
من هم که می نویسم چوپانم
کلماتم را به چرا می برم
تا خوراکی جور کرده باشم
برای گرگی که از پشتِ کوه
آمده در اداره سانسور
نشسته در کمین ِکلمات
بدون من هم این کلمات گوسفندند
چرا که باشد مجبورند
جواب می خواهند می خورند
سگِ گله هم طفلی
پی ِاستخوان است
که این کلمات را سانسور می کند
طفلی چه می داند
شاعر که باشی عیسایی
محمدِ شبانی     موسایی
از این سیاهکاری گِله داری
پس سراغ ِسبزی که درکار نیست    گلّه می بری
یکی از این کلمات به کوه می زند
دیگری هم پی ِپیراهن ِیوسف
پناهنده می شود به چاه
اگربزِکوهی بزدل است
و از ترس   می زند به کوه و کمر
که پناهش بدهد گرگ
گناه شاعر نیست که سانسورش کردید
به هوای او بود که خالی کردید
تیر هوایی در کردید
در هوای من بود
که تاریکی ریخت در کاغذ
و کوری مُدِ روز شد
دوری همیشه فامیل نزدیک من بوده
پلان تا پلان ِتبعید را من بازی کرده ام
پنج پنجره ی روشن
تک درختی خلوت
پشت پاییزی لخت
چشم انداز چند بازی ست در مه
که دارم هنوز کارگردانی می کنم
کمی چشمک آنسوتر    سرخ
دمی آغوش در اینجا یعنی
کمی بی کینه سینه بده
ای پسر ِ حالا هر کی
پدرت می خواسته از مادرت پسری بیاورد
ولی از کجا!؟
شاعرت می خواسته همسری بیاورد
تلخی نکند
فرهادی کند با شیرین     نشد!
می خواسته با کلمات کله گنده اش
بزند به سیم ِآخر    شد شد    نشد نشد!
حالا که استخوانی مانده در این صفحات
پیچاندن ِ پیچ است
بازی ِمهره ها
دل خواندن ِهیچ است این عاشقی
شبی که ریخته باشد از کیسه ای بیرون
رفتنی تر از لکه ای ست
که امسال ِکبیسه می برد
گردش ِانبردستی ست   در گوشت
شکنجه ی کلمات    از جلو  از پشت
گریخته از من فرهادی
لبی که رفته باشد از صورت
و کاری نداده باشد صورت
با مثل ِشیرین جور نیست   مأمور است
گرگی که مثل گوشت   کلماتم را می خورد
هنوز سانسور است
This dry tree
how has it arranged itself so well
so well … under the rain…. to stand up?
The pomegranate that’s hanging
why should someone squeeze …. who knows nothing?
Why the rain that should rain down in this poem doesn’t rain?
And life…. this short lullaby…. finally puts me to sleep
on a page that spent a life in ‘I don’t know’
How many times should I write
the poem … that I’ll never write?
I’m sure….London’s blood group
which most likely is O or
doesn’t match mine
because I keep hitting the rain…keep getting wet
What ecstasy revolves round this
thought that’s in my mind
I wish someone came
to stop this Dervish that keeps twirling in my head
the rain that keeps raining no longer comes to my poem
This cursed beast
has brought tears to all eyes
This inquisitor
who drags so much out of the clouds over London
Is someone idling up there
or is it true
that it’s still raining?
We all die
so nothing ends
what a shame
این درختِ خشک
چگونه خود را برگزار کرده که این قدر
این قدر     زیرِ باران       برقرار مانده؟
اناری را که بر دار مانده
چرا یکی بچلاند       که نمی داند؟
دیگر نمی آید
بارانی که در این شعر       باید بیاید
و زندگی     این لالائیِ کوتاه        بالاخره خوابم می کند
بر صفحه ای که عمری در نمی دانم گشت
چقدر بنویسم
شعری را       که هرگز نخواهم نوشت؟
قطعن      گروهِ خونی ِلندن
که حتمن باید اُ باشد یا
به من نمی خورد
که هی می روم زیر ِباران و آب می خورم
عجب سماعی دارد این فکر که در سر دارم
یکی بیاید
باز دارد این صوفی را که هی چرخ می خورد در سرم
بارانی که دارد می آید
دیگر به شعرم نمی آید
این ملعون
اشکِ همه را درآورده ست
این باز پرس
اینکه از ابرهای بالای سر ِلندن
اینهمه حرف می کشد بیرون
آیا کسی آن بالا بیکار است
یا حقیقت دارد
که باران دارد     هنوز می بارد؟
ما همه می میریم
پس چیزی تمام نمی شود       افسوس!
Three O’clock
Two in the afternoon.
It was bang on two
I dusted and tidied the house.
2:00 p.m. I showered and shaved.
It was exactly half past
two wine glasses ready placed
I switched off Lorca’s voice.
Now thirty minutes left to three
Maria’s coming first time over
I should have a pick-me-up to take a sip to get me going.
Now the clock hands aren’t inclined to three
I should water the flowers
before Maria arrives.
Twenty five minutes are left
I should call my friend Michael
tell him my loneliness I’m now done with.
I’m exactly twenty minutes away from Maria
she must have come out of the station up the road and flirting
with the florist near my house to wrap a more scarlet bouquet.
In fifteen minutes my world will change
with glee. I should wear some aftershave
to entice her.
Ten minutes to three. Hey
like a red bull on the beach inside my chest
my heart’s beating such Bandari beat.
She has only five minutes left to show
up I should get moving What if she has
matched her bra with her white slip?
I should go get into my black boxers now.
Only three short minutes left to her knock on my door
I know she will.
Maria’s brought up at her father’s table
she’s always on time
she should be anytime
now that only two ticks
left to appointed time
this phone keeps ringing. Bugger.
I’m sure it’s the girl I left like a skunk.
I should pull the plug
but why the buzzer won’t let me go
she’s chasing my mobile now.
Ma mamia! It’s Maria’s number
she must be at the door. Hello.
Bang on three and I’m rolling the floor.
Why what savage time was three
o’clock third class to all o’clocks
three o’clock in a dark guardian age
No savior at work
I lose my faith in second coming
Sushiant, Jesus Mary and Mahdi.
I was the fool of the fields otherwise
Maria wouldn’t have rung bang at three
to say she’s not coming.
ساعت سه
در ساعت دوی بعدازظهر
درست  سرِ ساعت دو بود
که خانه را آب و جارو کردم
در ساعت دوی بعداز ظهر
دوش گرفتم
ریش زدم
درست وقتی که نیم ساعت از دو گذشته بود
گیلاس های شراب را هم ردیف چیدم
وخاموش کرده ام
صدای لورکا را
حالا که نیم ساعت به سه مانده ست
این بار اول است که ماریا می آید
باید خودم را کمی شاد کنم
ببرم پیش شراب و از شرَّش آزاد کنم
حالا که عقربه ها مایل نیستند سه بشوند
بهتر که به گلها آب بدهم
تا ماریا بیاید درست بیست و پنج دقیقه وقت دارم
باید از این غذا که از قضا آماده ست سیر بخورم
زنگی هم به مایکل بزنم
وبگویم که دیگرتنهاییم را انجام داده ام
دقیقن بیست دقیقه تا ماریا فاصله دارم
حتمن از ایستگاه سر کوچه بیرون زده دارد لاس می زند با گلفروش دمِ خانه ام که دسته گل اش را کمی سرخ تر بپیچد
پانزده دقیقه دیگر دنیام عوض می شود جآان!
وای چرا عطری نزنم که تشویقش کند زودتر
ها  ده دقیقه مانده به سه   هِه!
مثل گاو نر      روی ساحل سیاه سینه ام
عجب بندری می زند دلم
باید بجنبم فقط پنج دقیقه مانده تا ظهور کند
اگرکُرستی سِت کرده باشد با زیرپوشِ سفیدش چی!؟
باید زودباشم بروم شورتم را سیاه کنم
تنها سه تا دقیقه ی ناقابل مانده که زنگِ خانه ام را بزند
می دانم که می زند
ماریا سرِسفره پدرش بزرگ شده
همیشه در هر قراری سرِوقت می آمده حالاست که بیاید
حالا که فقط دو تا مانده تا موعود
این تلفن هم که ما را نمود
چقدرزنگ می خورد لامصّب
حتمن دوباره لیلا ست
که مثل سگ ولش کردم
دوشاخه  را از پریز می کشم
وای فقط یک دقیقه مانده اما چرا این کنه ول کن نیست
گیر داده حالا به موبایلم
جانمی!  شماره ی ماریا افتاده حتمن پشت در است الو!
افتاده ام ولو
درست سر ِساعت سه
وای چه موحش ساعتی بود سه
ساعت سه بود بر تمامی ساعت ها
ساعت سه بود در تاریکیِ ولی عصر
دیگرنجات دهنده ای در کار نبود
باید دوباره ایمانم را از دست می دادم
عیسای مریم و مهدی
همه وعده ی سر ِخرمن بودند
وگرنه ماریا
درست سر ساعت سه
زنگ نمی زد که نمی آید
About the Poet:
Ali Abdolrezaei’s poetry shows that the contemporary art of Iran has been hugely influenced by the traumatic historic events of the last three decades and that these events have affected millions of Iranians in one way or another. Abdolrezaei is young and represents the aesthetics and voice of a new, multi-faceted generation of Iranians and their cultural chasm with the past in the face of a repressive political regime.
Abdolrezaei gained reputation as a poet, speaking in the voice of his time, in the early 1990s and received wide critical attention. His poetry tackles difficult themes with a mastery of craft. Ali Abdolrezaei’s poems are translated into many languages such as English , French ,German , Spanish , Dutch ,Swedish ,Finnish ,Turkish, Portuguese,Urdu, Croatian and Arabic.
Ali Abdolrezaei was born on 10 April 1969 in Northern Iran. He completed his primary and secondary education in his city of birth and after receiving his diploma in mathematics passed the nationwide university entrance exams. He graduated with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tehran Technical and Engineering University.
He began his professional poetic career in 1986 and became one of the most serious and contentious poets of the new generation of Persian poetry. Abdolrezaei has had an undeniable effect on many Persian poets through of his poetry as well as his speeches and interviews. He is also one of the few poets who succeeded in expressing his unique poetic individuality. His 21 varied books of poetry – In Riskdom Where I lived, Shinema, So Sermon of Society, Improvisation, This Dear Cat, Paris in Renault, More Obscene than Literature,  Hermaphrodite, A Gift in A Condom, You Name this Book, Only Iron Men Rust  in the Rain, Terror, La Elaha Ella Love and Fackbook – endorse his poetic creativity and power. Nearly all well-known poets and critics of Persian poetry have written about Abdolrezaei’s work.
In September 2002 after his protest against heavy censorship of his latest books such as So Sermon of Society and Shinema, he was banned from teaching and public speaking. He left Iran and after staying a few months in Germany, followed by two years in France, he moved to London, where he has been living for the last 5 years.
We are pleased to publish these new poems in the original Farsi, and the English translations by Abol Froushan.

November 1, 2010   Comments Off on Ali Abdolrezaei: Poetry

D. R. in New Mexico

What A Nite: D.R. & Ramone ... David S. Canning photo

What a nite, staring at a big New Mexico sky with more stars than can be counted; a single tear in one eye (that never drops), watching shooting stars go by. Gordon Lightfoot reminding me of lost loves and Great Lake dangers. Care free highways and new days. My favorite cigar and best pal Ramone, high up on the mesa. What a nite.

November 1, 2010   1 Comment

Elizabeth Cohen: Poetry

© Steve Bromberg

There is a place beyond this place

The world has
extended its carpet
so you may walk upon it,
it’s warm arms  reach
out to embrace you,
lure you toward
the floating island,
the outback of cloud.

With your foot extending
from your rolled-up pants,
you touch the edge
of the known.

Water and sky.
Feet and sand.Cloud and hill.
Hand and rock.
In the end
everything is one.

In some small way
you meet this fact each day.
when you breathe the air
rotating from India,
taste rain imported
from the Andaman Sea,
and look out over
the tempting beautiful
nothing of everything
in that place beyond.

The Introduction of If and Then

When Black met White, there was a definite|
moment of tension, and Black lit a cigarette
and strutted around the courtyard several times
until it realized how much better White
made it feel about itself,  how it helped with self esteem.

Either was asked what it thought about Or
and it took awhile, almost a week,
but Either finally admitted it needed Or
when it came to a fork in the road
or when the first snows came rushing in
breathlessly, bleaching the lawn
and there were decisions to be made about the cattle.

If was tentative when it first encountered Then
but If finally realized it needed Then
to answer those big dark questions that come in the night,
to lie beside it, to make the biggest promises,
and, of course, for science projects.

The Purpose of Money

So much of the time it is like pollen
floating into, out of a life,
away from a city,
toward the coast,
back to the mountains,
up to the moon,
planting a flag there and leaving behind
expensive junk.
And the thing is
it doesn’t care, money,
where it lands or evacuates,
it has no pulse,
no four chambered heart.

There are those who have wondered
if it is mammalian or reptilian.
To them we must point out:
It does not bear its young live.

Once, in a small city in Spain,
a woman wanted to help her brother.
He needed work,
to get it he would need boots
and to get boots for him
she would need a maid’s uniform,
pink and aproned and starched clean.
To get that she would need
twenty seven pesetas.
She had nobody to go to for them
but that same brother,
the one who needed work.
The world has broken open for the lack of it,
it has collapsed and peeled back
and then, attaining it, empired and colonialized
gone war mongering, invented new diseases.
Despite this clear pattern, the begging
and brutalizing, we continue
to  wrap our days in it,
then regurgitate at the end,
we swallow it and spit
and repeat cycle,
repeat cycle
our wallets filling and emptying
like the womb of an orthodox woman,
as many times as is humanly possible
until the yearning,
becomes a fabric we sleep in,
it becomes flannel,
or it becomes silk,
so much a part of us we can no longer tell
where our skin ends and our money begins.

A man who won the lottery last week
decided to give it all to a library
near his home so they could buy
computers that the people there
could use to search for work.
He was interviewed by a newspaper reporter
whom he told he knew it, instinctively,
what he would do,
it was like it had been stitched
onto his bones at birth:
the purpose of money.

Supply and Demand


When you are tired
of the vagaries of highways,
the vanities of buildings,
jetstreams that criss-cross
the cerulean sky

When you weary
of the politics of hurricanes,
the beached whale’s
solemn eye

The waltzing of the presidents,
the parry of governments,
the closed gates
of the shoelace factory

Remember this:
it is just a matter of give and take,
yearn and satisfy, want and have.
It is simple, really, the world.

There is a rule.
The patter of rain desires the sea.
The smallest wave
desires the beach.

Northerners want bananas,
Southerners want steel.
And all of us want larger hard drives
to hold the names of all things.

This is the message of the economist.
Something as clever
as Velcro, or bubble wrap or a new kind of tea
strainer can bring the world
and its minions  right to your door.


In the country of potatoes
there are no leeks:

In the country of leeks
there are no potatoes.

Nobody in either country
can make soup.
The economist explains
to his daughter.

He has a smoker’s cough,
it sounds like a sputtering tractor,
his skin has grown tallow
and he often belches.

But he still knows the truth
about things: the two countries,
of potato and leek.
There is need
and there is have.

“Value is determined only by need.”

“You could own a diamond mine
and starve,” he explains,
“You could own an oil well
and die of thirst.”

“But what,” asks the daughter,
“if you own a small carrot and chicken farm
next to a lake, an apple orchard
and a field of wild strawberries
and then some horses come
and they carry you to the top of a hill
nearby where there are orange trees
and peanut bushes?

You would have
everything you need and want.”

The economist
finally clears his throat,
nodding, looking into
the placid fresh brown eyes
of the girl. She is the supply truck
of his heart. The answer to
his questions.
And he, the answer of hers.

About the poet:

Elizabeth Cohen is the author of two books of poetry – Impossible Furniture and Mother Love– and a memoir, The Family on Beartown Road. She teaches poetry at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh.

About the Photographer:
Steve Bromberg is a freelance photographer on one of the greatest adventures of his life. He is currently working in China. Home base for the next few months is Wuxi in Jiangsu Provence — a stone’
s throw from the north to Shanghai.

The photo-inspired poem is one of several collaborative efforts under way between Cohen and Bromberg.

November 1, 2010   Comments Off on Elizabeth Cohen: Poetry