Mothers and Daughters: Communicating Vessels

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
and another.

by Bonnie McClellan


This was first posted in May of 2013.

Gare du Montparnasse: Sonnet for Georges Méliès

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: by Bonnie McClellan

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.

Horizon lines: by Bonnie McClellan

the world is dark.
shutters open.
the sky’s glacial pool opens.
three morning stars laugh
over the horizon line.

* * *

this copse of time
this stand of hours
………..between nows
becomes a minute
bristling towards the moon.

Ouachita / Winding through Ouachita by Liliane Richman and Adina Richman

I would like to present the A pair of poems in celebration of International Women’s Day 2017. The first, by Liliane Richman, and the second, by her daughter Adina Richman, are both responses to a road trip to Arkansas that they took together. A beautiful mix of perspectives at the intersection of two different generations:



You and me
and me and you
lacing through
the Ouachita Mountains
Elevation 2,464 feet

Through clouds and shadows
the greens, the pale sky blues
Dripping through the majestic pines
I knew and loved in my childhood
In Sabres, Landes

So much majesty around us
The music of Johann Sebastian Bach
Elevating the castle in my mind
Wherein blooms new altitudes
A call for other adventures, different vistas
Colors and sounds
Young sense, new desires

Still together
You and me

copyright 2016 Liliane Richman, all rights reserved

Winding through Ouachita:
For mom

Mozart in the mountains
Spaghetti road lacing the Ozarks
From foothills to headwinds
Weaving us back and forth
Hairpins and switchbacks tucked
Among trees of green fire,
Iridescent June bugs, cottoned in rising mist
Sheltering fawns, bears, bobcat
Diamond waterfalls, wind whispers and secrets,
Flowers of gold, purple and silver,
And ancient furled ferns
That reach across time and space
To brush my cheeks and tie me again,
To you

copyright 2016 Adina Richman, all rights reserved

Untitled: by Sam Kilday and Jane Hunter

The following is a collaborative work by textile artist Jane Hunter and poet Sam Kilday

This land

Abound with shades and hues,

But a tilt shift,
a definite rift.

Colour draining away.
Inward, dark,
and grey.

Look up without superiority.
Vibrance and warmth.
Welcoming. Diversity.

A depth of palette.

And richer for it.

Photography, styling and poetry by Sam Kilday for Scottish artist Jane Hunter. Jane's embroidered textile map of UK with dynamic wool threads suggest a draining of colour from England and a brightness emanating from Scotland.
Photography, styling and poetry by Sam Kilday for Scottish artist Jane Hunter. Jane’s embroidered textile map of UK with dynamic wool threads suggest a draining of colour from England and a brightness emanating from Scotland was created by Jane as a response to the rise of xenophobia following the EU Referendum (Brexit).

Goodbye M’baye: by Adina Richman

For M’baye Diagne*

There are so few heroes in a war zone
Especially in a struggle no one wants to name
Military action, civil skirmish, rebel uprising, genocide, not my problem –
Whatever its name or non-name,
Hard to be a hero
In a place where each exhalation is occupied with the business
Of measuring itself, calculating how much fear is safe to expel and
Each inhalation a well-timed sniff, testing what stench is floating about.
In these times where one must breathe like a snake flicks his tongue to taste the air,
One hundred times a minute, because things can change
It is not easy to be a hero

Those who knew him
This Senegalese cowboy
describe three things:
His stride, his smile, his cigarettes
Always one step ahead, moving forward
His beacon grin
Incandescent in the night,
casting light on your face, and his;
As if he’d swallowed the moon
Anything was possible with the power of the stars, the force of the heavens
Beaming from his gut.
He walked with purpose
Lassoing all in his orbit
With that toothy smile
He drew up the slack and pulled in close
Making friends with his moonman laugh
Alien amidst screams, wails, the chop of the machete
To offer you something –
Strength, courage, confidence
A joke, a smoke, a sandwich
A fingernail of time, just long enough
To hang on or let go
The space to decide

He did what he did
Again and again
Crossing terrain from which it’s best to flee.
Laughing with men who didn’t try to hide
Blood spots on their white shirts;
Rotting flesh on the soles of their shoes.
Never allowing even the smallest scent of fear
No fragile tendril of disgust
To waft from between the spaces in his teeth.

No, he laughed, while under the back seat of his Jeep huddled
Bony shoulders clacking on floorboards
Three children stifle their cries
Wishing it was yesterday
When there was still a guarantee of tomorrow

And that was how he did it
No guns, no soldiers, no strategies
Playing the stars, playing the numbers
Three children here, five people there
Twenty-two checkpoints in twenty-four hours
One hundred days, a thousand hills to the Mille Collines,
800,000 corpses and then we stopped counting while
He did what he did
Again and again
One hero, impossible
The man on the moon
Or the moon in a man
His courage light years away from our trepidation
Our feigned ignorance
Our refusal to act

Good bye, M’baye
Peace unto you that persevered in patience!
May you dwell in the Gardens of Perpetual Bliss
Promised in your Qu’ran
Breathing ginger and jasmine
Instead of blood-metal and corpse
Tasting fruits with no thorns
Instead of fear bile and smoke

I wonder- will your heaven be flat, like Senegal-
You can see what is coming for miles-
Or dense, lush, like the forests of Rwanda
Hiding what is always just beyond
The next moonlit mountain
Another chance – there’s always another chance
To be a hero

• M’baye Diagne (1958-1994) was a Senegalese military officer and a United Nations military observer during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. He is credited with saving many lives during his time in Rwanda through nearly continuous rescue missions at great peril to himself. There is an excellent documentary Ghosts of Rwanda, and a BBC News article, “A Good Man in Rwanda” that might be of interest to the reader.

copyright 2016 Adina Richman, all rights reserved

To find more poems by Adina Richman on this blog, click HERE.

Fear: by Liliane Richman

This is my nightmare
I know the right way
Even if I am scared
Let’s say you knocked at my door
Dripping with blood
In the middle of the night
Would I open up?
Claim I’m afraid?
Say it’s Halloween
Some spooky disguise?

I’m smelling some trick
You might want to rape, kill me
Even if you were no mere stranger
You, my neighbor,
With your safe face
Begging shelter

Would I find the courage you need
Or would I desist
Trembling, wishing
I were in training
To be
Super Woman, undoing evil


To find more poetry by Liliane Richman on this blog, click HERE.

Liliane Richman’s recently published memoir, “The Bones of Time” can be found HERE.

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