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Other notable works by Bonnie Maurer and Daniel Carpenter.
It is, as you look forward,
a crossroad asking where you will go next,
a tower blowing into dust,
a mountain range, steep ascent, hills, steep decline,
a snail creeping silently along.
It is, as you look back,
an ear learning to listen,
the double-beat – dub-dub – of the heart,
a small house with the full moon rising over it,
a nail driven into the wood of a crib of a coffin.
It is, right now,
a beginner’s uneven embroidery stitches,
a question of self.
It begins with
a cross on which regrets soon hang,
followed by tears that bead then flow down the cheek,
followed by the arches of lips soft in prayer.
It ends with a swirl of wind, a sigh, a breath.
We can imagine all kinds of things about it.
It is a balance whose scales, for the moment, hang evenly.
It is a dot and dash of Morse code.
It is a flying buttress supporting an ancient cathedral.
It is a hoof print in mud.
And it is a pig’s tail roasted with the rest of the beast for a pagan feast.
It is yesterday and tomorrow, two buddies snuggled together.
One of its eyes is open seeing impermanence, while the other winks in jest,
and we limp along with it as our crutch
until we realize we were always whole
and no longer need it.
Ode to My Broomstick Skirt
Oh, maiden fair, floral skirt,
oh, twenty year old skirt,
given to my daughter this morning,
when I first desired you, it was because
your colors and patterns
of flowers and leaves
echoed the body-loved places
of my first thirty years,
Indiana woodland spring beauties,
lost, to city living,
roses and lilacs and apricots in Santa Fe
that ripened with young love,
Oregon’s sand and berries
and autumn rains of first fury, first grief,
all lost, all turned under,
as construction of new cities, adult decisions,
cleared the wild ground in the
skin paradise of wonder.
Oh, skirt of yestering, I loved you
because you swirled with the colors
virgin and awakening
and when I wore you I still felt beautiful
and I was still beautiful, still young.
I packed you in my honeymoon suitcase
and you flowed from newlywed hips in Athens
and you strolled through Minoan ruins
and dined on white and blue terraces
overlooking the ocean caldera of Santorini
and then you came home with me
and I wore you, still young, still beautiful
as a new mother, my daughter, body of my body,
sweet rose bud, apricot of delicious baby flesh,
summer mornings, with robin song and storybooks,
and I wore you to art fairs and festivals and reunions
still a free spirit, still an old soul,
until one day, my daughter,
grown to school-age self-consciousness
told me you were ugly,
not like other suburban mothers
in their black and grey yoga pants
of fitness and perfection
and still I persisted in wearing you
rebelling, longing, grieving
but finally saw myself a middle-aged woman,
wide belly, wide hips, no longer
the lithesome thing who first wore you
and you as old and tired, your fabric thinning,
and so for several years now, you have hung in my closet,
a relic of the past, almost worn, passed over.
But this morning, my daughter, now seventeen,
vintage clothing shopping in my closet,
finds you, desires you,
and I give her to you,
and she emerges from her room
slender and lovely
with sandaled feet and bare shoulders,
the maiden at the sacred grove
dancing her way to Aphrodite’s temple,
swirling her way out the door
to her car, her school, her leaving home
her falling in love,
than any beauty that may adorn her,
as I once was, as I once lived.
Oh, my beautiful daughter,
oh, sweet, fleeting maiden,
oh, skirt of longing,
rite of passage,
clad in you,
she is just beginning
to give her body to the world,
and standing at the threshold,
letting her hazard everything,
wishing I could put you on again
and rush off with her,
I stand here rooted,
an old apricot tree,
waving good bye,
clad in the scarves of autumn wind,
becoming more and more naked.
A Dreamed Koan
The frustrated teacher insists:
There are only two choices.
Surface and depth.
For the life of the soul,
you must always chose depth.
The scared student argues:
And then, without knowing it,
says even more
by falling silent
and taking a breath.
Menstrual blood, before I must accept you will not be shed again,
paint for me the woman you’ve danced inside me all these years –
your henna hair, muscled arms and legs,
battle ready, blood spattered,
belly round with all my unborn babes
that you birth in the otherworld
where you are the leader of an ancient clan
from the Iron Age of the womb,
long before the one of men,
a tribe of sisters, mothers and grandmothers and grandfathers
who know you as the source, the earth, the root desire,
the belly of the cave upon whose red walls
we paint what we hunger and hunt for,
from whose mouth we are born
after every burial, every dream, every night.
Come wet, raw, juicy from my brush of blood
to stripe my cheeks with war paint
and tell me I have spent too many years
captured and enslaved by those
who reject and steal from you,
who would be healed if they did not fear you.
Give me skins of wolves and lionesses
and tell me I am free now
and tell me you are not leaving
for you were with me,
as sharp thorns and red roses, bursting open
in the green girl’s circle garden,
as mother-work to plant, harvest, nurture and feed,
and you are here, now, in flashes of heat, sweat,
fury to reclaim creative life,
and you will be with me as
hearth-fire and torch-light deep in the bone,
as crone in her marrow cave of underground rivers,
storms of wind, snow, vulture, owl wisdom.
Woman whose eyes see in the dark,
who dances with loss,
and is strong enough to grieve
a lifetime of loves and memories departing,
already, so soon, telling stories
that make my hair white, and my gut clench,
let me trust you do not lie
when you tell me not to fear,
when you insist that the dying woman
you’ll make of me is not weak;
she is the most brave.
For Maggie, in Costa Rica
In this once-in-a lifetime river,
we are in every moment just once , always
and today the boat has reached the place
where ringless trees are always growing,
and lizards run on water
and fruit falls from the sky.
We have seen the hummingbird rest, nest,
this always-in-motion being
another animal, utterly still, at peace.
We have seen sparks that daily rain doesn’t douse,
fireflies above the night forest.
We have seen caterpillars
becoming blue morpho butterflies.
And now, as we float in the tannin dark water,
high in the canopy, the trees stir, shake,
a troop of spider monkeys,
swinging from tree to tree,
crossing above us.
Its mother nearby, a young one hesitates,
then throws itself into sky,
falling, missing, just catching
branches far below,
and hurries back to where her mother waits,
tail wrapped around the tree they are leaving,
hands holding the branches ahead,
body suspended over the water,
a bridge which her child scrambles over.
Our boat sails on, and there are
cloud-covered volcanoes, hot-springs and thunder,
queasy roads, Pacific surf, and ocarina mornings
and then we are flying above islands
and looking down into storm clouds
busy with lightning
and then, you, my child,
who, in half a year, have acquired
driver’s license, car, and passport,
are leading me through
the customs maze in the Dallas airport
while in Tortuguero, that young monkey
is flying across wider and wider open spaces
high in the trees,
her mother watching, following,
every branch, every movement,
another letting go.
Poet Liza Hyatt is the author of The Mother Poems (Chatter House Press, 2014), Under My Skin, (WordTech Editions, 2012), Seasons of the Star Planted Garden (Stonework Press, 1999), and Stories Made of World (Finishing Line Press, 2013). She has been published in various regional, national, and international journals and anthologies including Reckless Writing, Tipton Poetry Journal, Painted Bride Quarterly, THEMA, Black River Review, Pudding Magazine, Indiannual 4, 5, and 6, Flying Island, Branches Magazine, and England’s Tears in the Fence. In 2006, Hyatt received an Individual Artist Project Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.
Liza is an art therapist (ATR-BC, LMHC) and adjunct professor at both St. Mary of the Woods College and Herron School of Art and Design. She hosts a monthly poetry reading at the Lawrence Art Center on the east side of Indianapolis. She is the author of Art of the Earth: Ancient Art for a Green Future (Authorhouse, 2007) an art-based eco-psychology workbook. For more information, visit www.lizahyatt.wordpress.com
Searching for the Warsaw Ghetto
I cross Warsaw streets with my dark images.
Ghetto walls up to ten feet high
topped by glass and barbed wire. You’ve seen them:
Families, gaunt and ragged,
smuggling a child out for a beet or potato.
A woman shivering from typhus.
Heaps of dead bodies naked in wheelbarrows.
Boys’ hands tunneling underground passageways
I ask the hotel clerk,
pressing my city map into his hands,
Where is the Warsaw ghetto?
“You are standing in it.”
“You mean last night I slept
on the feather bed, lingered
in the shower, hot and cleansing,
in the Warsaw ghetto?”
“Yes, he says.
I have come to Poland
to seek Holocaust sites
as if the seventy-year-old news
were as fresh as the fruit tea
I sipped this morning
in the lobby, in the Warsaw ghetto.
Between apartment courtyards
I find a remnant brick wall,
lean in and link my body
to family history in Poland.
I stroll through Warsaw’s lavish parks.
Who is complicit in the old faces I see?
Does the Polish gentleman staring
me down in the tram
see an obvious American Jew?
I ask one young waiter,
“Do you recognize Jews
on the street?” “What Jews?” he asks.
Late one night I stand
in the middle of Stawki Street
on painted white tracks. Here,
the drunk engineer loaded his steel
freight car to full capacity.
I step back between granite walls,
into The Umschlagplatz
collection point for 300,000 Jews
deported from the Warsaw ghetto,
taken to die in Treblinka’s gas chambers,
pumping day and night.
I read out loud the symbolic
Hebrew names carved on the wall.
Oh ears, summoning voices jostling, shouting to be heard.
On this city bus to Auschwitz
We choose window seats.
We pass the houses painted yellow
sporting red gabled roof tops—
patriotic as the Polish flag,
flower boxes drooping light-hearted
petunias at every window and every
window framed by white curtains of lace,
fenced-in shrines to Mary,
willow trees and apple trees—full and plenty,
flat fields of corn and in one
field, smoke visible in the air, something
burning clear. We pass the Wisla River
smacking its pewter lips in the sun.
And for the ashes dumped by truckloads
into the Wisla River, rolling its singular shame
through Poland without song,
it takes a math problem: Three
or four kilograms per person,
times more than one million murdered,
subtract the ashes spread onto local fields
as fertilizer and how many kilos escaped to town?
Where do the ashes blow today—
into yellow paint? On the shoulders
of Mary? In the apple dumplings?
And we are told Nazis organized gardens
for flowers shipped to the Reich.
Imagine the young German bride
calculating her blissful steps down the aisle,
clutching flowers born from the ashes
of gassed and cremated Jews.
“I do,” “I do” the bride and groom
vow above the floral scents
of roses, lily, baby’s breath.
Originally published in Poetica Magazine, 2013
Himmler’s Lunch in Minsk 15 August 1941
(from his diary and excerpt on the museum wall at Terezin)
What did he eat for lunch
in the Lenin House, the SS headquarters,
at 1400, just after attending the morning
Einsatzkommando squad boys
taking turns to execute Jews near Minsk,
where reportedly brains splashed his face
and he turned a greenish shade of pale,
and hey! he told the boys there,
terrible it all might be,
even for him as a mere spectator,
how much worse it must be for them
to carry the killing out and
he could not see any way around it.
“And reportedly he came to the view that it would be
necessary to find a more suitable and effective
killing method that would not have
such a disheartening influence on the executors,
particularly with women and children among the victims.”
With what relish did he dig in his knife and fork? Was he
ravenous for lunch? With what eureka! This inspection trip—
the moment the gas chambers came into being.
With what hearty hale did he slug back his beer and lick his lips?
* Originally published in Wabash Watershed online mag.,2014
Bonnie Maurer, MFA in poetry from Indiana University, author of “Reconfigured” by Finishing Line Press, 2009; “Ms Lily Jane Babbitt Before the Ten O’clock Bus from Memphis Ran Over Her,” Raintree Press and Ink Press (2nd edition),1979; “Old 37: The Mason Cows,” Barnwood Press, 1981; and “Bloodletting: A Ritual Poem for Women’s Voices,” Ink Press, 1983.
As a result of the 1999-2000 Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, she authored “The Reconfigured Goddess: Poems of a Breast Cancer Survivor,”2013.
Maurer’s poems have appeared in the New York Times, Indiana Review; Lilith, a feminist journal; Nimrod International Journal; Innisfree online journal; The Wabash Watershed online mag.; on the walls of Gallery 924: “The Contemporary Landscape Show, 2014”; on the ceiling of Indianapolis’ St. Vincent Hospital’s 6th floor and in the recent anthologies: And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana, (Indiana Historical Society, 2011); The Cancer Poetry Project: Poems by Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, (Fairview Press, 2001, 2013.)
Currently, Maurer works as a poet for Arts for Learning, as a copy editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal, and as an Ai Chi (aquatic flowing energy) instructor.
March 2011, After Fukushima
Lenten Sunday, Genesis the text,
naked couple dealt death in Eden for playing God;
our prayers for Japan, in Hell from His wrath
and in terror from its own creations —
the fragile Faustian nuclear ovens,
atom bombs of the target’s making,
seething to join their penitential ash
to the cloud that could reach this Garden
where my G.I. dad grunted into my clay
against the faint echoes of Hiroshima,
where I play Adam, split you beyond atonement
and we crunch the apple
He’s 85, thick, ruddy,
so far past that regal gig
— vice chancellor, SUNY —
he could just as well pass
for a retired shop foreman
he drops ponderous
names, titles, trends
into the conversation
lightly as a star waiter
warming up our coffee
a history maker
a history teller
he rose to importance
with his books, pluck, handshakes
but not to greatness
greatness he brought,
learned in the dawn
of a life pressed to the earth
of western Minnesota,
a grandmother’s battleground
“Tiny woman, tiny,
up every day before light,
caught the chicken, wrung its neck,
plucked it, had it cooked
by that same afternoon . . .”
for many years, he says,
she did it hunched over,
crippled by a falling windmill blade
and, till she took her rest at 92,
was never and always the same
look with me
and in Urdu
and could not
or would not