Sunrise, 30 December 2020 Now is the hour of the small birds storming into the cypress tops, which do not bend as they do under the weight of magpies and ravens. A murmuration of morning steam rises off the cement factory. Disguised as fast-moving clouds, they power up the valley; an insubstantial mother tugging at the hand of her sleepy puff of a child, running off into nothing. Now the sun snaps across the mountains an incandescent ribbon of rose-lipped pink. Clouds, scattered across the measureless pale-blue tile of sky, explode into tulip petals, pink swans, holy doves alight.
a follow up poem to “White Skirt on the Train”
Old Women and Old Men at the Ferry Stop
(The old women)
We remember the harem of the walled citrus grove;
Old women, how like apple trees we gather now:
Pink, heavy with stories of
some familiar odd thing —
mimosa trees, a seagull’s wing.
The wind rattles branch and bone
creases in our skin drawn dry
the feathered marks begin
(The old men)
A grove of old men gathers at the dock
live oak, pin oak;
Backs curved, stilted up
Worn down with the effort of standing
Dry twig of a laugh cracks wry.
The empty and chaotic air,
that passing through the trumpet sounds:
Ferry outbound, ferry in
Grebes baste across the swanless surface
On the occasion of the municipality posting a letter asking people to pay their cemetery dues
Boxes of disremembered bones
expatriated into/out of locus
the heartbreak of a January
Her eyes slide to the side
like a Sienese saint
Painted by the brothers who died in the plague
back when there were 100 stories to tell
while bodies rotted,
left where they fell.
Escape into a place where
we can’t smell
we can’t feel
we can’t fear
But she’s convinced it’s coming:
the lost weekend
of the barrel.
One year when the awakened plane trees
find themselves struck yellow in the night,
there will be nothing left of me but
a memory in your hands as they pull
wet laundry from the spun drum or
open the window’s case –
inviting October’s last, warm breath
to communicate the dust
between one room
by Bonnie McClellan
This was first posted in May of 2013.
I am early / the train is late / the image is ubiquitous as false nettle / poetry is a red cat in a sunny window / lying to get out.
This week’s Google Doodle reminded me that in 2013 I wrote a poem about Georges Méliès, one of the first film-makers, the father of special effects and author of the first political film: L’affair Dreyfus (1899). I had known nothing about Méliès until, in the course of my work as a translator and language coach I was working with Dr. Barbara Grespi, a professor of cinema and visual culture. Now, Barbara is one of those insanely intelligent, sophisticated, and stunningly beautiful Italian women who makes someone like me feel somewhat ‘less than’. So, I was thrilled that she had asked me to work with her on an English language presentation about tarot iconography in the films of Georges Méliès. When she first talked with me about the topic, I said George who? She graciously replied, “He’s famous for the film of the Moon with the rocket in its eye.” Sure enough, I wiki-ed and then Youtube-ed and came up with the familiar images.
In the process of finding out about Méliès I also got a bit of information stuck in my head. Five hundred of his films were confiscated by the French army in WWI in order to recycle the celluloid into heels for soldier’s boots.
When I started writing the poem that had been poking and shifting in the back of my head for over a year. I wrote 10 lines of blank verse and then I sat still and started again. It all came in rhyming couplets (which I rarely use and then never one after the other) and it turned into the first eight lines of this sonnet:
Gare du Montparnasse: Sonnet for Georges Méliès
What kind of boot heels do you think they made
Five-hundred films for la deuxième armée?
Celluloid soles France’s poor bastard sons
It is difficult to avoid the puns:
“Attrition: boot(less) battles lost when won.”
“Headline: (well)heeled dead sink in sanguine mud.”
Harder yet, the dramatic phrase hold back:
“Verdun: Europa’s epic fade-to-black.”
The cinemagician’s vanished oeuvre leaves
me, stumbling barefoot through 1916.
Fumbling across mounds of nameless bones;
Agape – Agape, from this place no train goes home.
Dancing couplets I misstep and massacre the waltz,
Lost within the sonnet’s frame, I’ve borne their witness false.
I ended up adding the last 3 couplets because I couldn’t help asking myself: “why are you writing about a toy maker and a special effects man when the ground is full of the blood and bones of the people who died wearing those boots?” Somehow, I don’t suppose we’ll be seeing a Google Doodle about Verdun any time soon.
The mountains are on fire with clouds,
burning wet they billow up,
choking the spaces between the trees.
I hear the ticking of two clocks.
Furrowing through the valleys
fat white engulfs the state road,
levelling even the bell tower’s lopsided stones.
The crackling ash of rain stops.