SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE MOONS OF AUGUST

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FROM THE MOONS OF AUGUST
By Danusha Laméris


EVE, AFTER

Did she know
there was more to life
than lions licking the furred
ears of lambs,
fruit trees dropping
their fat bounty,
the years droning on
without argument?

Too much quiet
is never a good sign.
Isn’t there always
something itching
beneath the surface?

But what could she say?
The larder was full
and they were beautiful,
their bodies new
as the day they were made.

Each morning the same
flowers broke through
the rich soil, the birds sang,
again, in perfect pitch.

It was only at night
when they lay together in the dark
that it was almost palpable—
the vague sadness, unnamed.

Foolishness, betrayal,
—call it what you will. What a relief
to feel the weight
fall into her palm. And after,
not to pretend anymore
that the terrible calm
was Paradise.



LONE WOLF

On December 8, 2011, the first wolf in nearly a hundred years was seen
crossing the border of the Sierra Nevada from Oregon to California.

A male, probably looking for a mate
in this high wilderness
along the cusp of Mount Shasta.
Already there are ranchers waiting, armed.
True, it’s only one wolf.
Except that a wolf is never just a wolf.
We say “wolf” but mean our own hunger,
walking around outside our bodies.
The thief desire is. the part of wanting
we want to forget but can’t. Not
with the wolf loose in the woods
carrying the thick fur
of our longing. Not with it taking
in its mouth the flocks we keep
penned behind barbed wire.
If only we didn’t have to hear it
out in the dark, howling.



THE BALANCE

She was at a friend’s apartment,
my mother, a third floor walk-up.
It was summer. Why she slipped
into the back room, she can’t recall.
Was there something she wanted
fro her purse…lipstick?
a phone number?
Fumbling through the pile
on the bed she looked up and saw—
was this possible?—outside,
on the thin concrete ledge
a child, a girl, no more than two or three.
She was crouched down
eyeing an object with great interest.
A pebble, or a bright coin.
What happened next
must have happened very slowly.
My mother, who was young then,
leaned out the window, smiled.
Would you like to see
what’s in my purse?
she asked.
Below, traffic rushed
down the wide street, horns blaring.
Students ambled home
under the weight of their backpacks.
From the next room,
strains of laughter.
The child smiled back, toddled along
the ledge. What do we know
of fate or chance, the threads
that hold us in the balance?
My mother did not imagine
one day she would
lose her own son, helpless
to stop the bullet
he aimed at his heart.
She reached out to the girl,
grabbed her in both arms,
held her to her chest.



Today’s poems are from The Moons of August, published by Autumn House Press, copyright © 2014 by Danusha Laméris, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


The Moons of August: “Danusha Laméris writes with definitive, savoring power—in perfectly well-weighted lines and scenes. Her poems strike deeply, balancing profound loss and new finding, employing a clear eye, a way of being richly alive with appetite and gusto, and a gift of distilling experience to find its shining core. Don’t miss this stunning first book.” —Naomi Shihab Nye

“This book of motherhood, memory, and elegiac urgency crosses borders, cultures, and languages to bring us the good news of being alive. With language clear as water and rich as blood, The Moons of August offers a human communion we can all believe in. Reckoning with and grieving for the past as they claim the future, these poems are wise, direct, and fearless. “What’s gone / is not quite gone, but lingers,” Laméris reminds us. “Not the language, but the bones / of the language. Not the beloved, / but the dark bed the beloved makes / inside our bodies.” —Dorianne Laux


Danusha Laméris’s work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, The Sun and Crab Orchard Review as well as in a variety of other journals. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, and Intimate Kisses. She was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 New Letters Prize in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poem, “Riding Bareback,” won the 2013 Morton Marcus Memorial prize in poetry, selected by Gary Young and her first book, The Moons of August, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches an ongoing poetry workshop.


Editor’s Note: I first discovered Danusha Laméris when I featured her stunning poem “Arabic” in the fall of 2013. When I read that her first book was forthcoming this year—and chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest, no less—I begged the poet remember me when the book was released. When it arrived I read, devoured, re-read, explored, breathed, bled, and grew whole once more within the boundless confines of its pages.

Through Laméris’ words I was the first woman born; I knew the burden—and relief—of being Eve. I was as old as time and as all-encompassing as nature. I was as helpless and as grieved as a mother, and as powerful. The Moons of August is small and light and fits effortlessly in my hands. Yet it reaches far back to human origins and delves deep into the human experience and the complex soul of (wo)man. “With,” as Dorianne Laux so aptly states, “language clear as water and rich as blood,” this is a book to read when you want to feel alive, from the very atoms that comprise you to the farthest reaches of your white light.


Want to see more by Danusha Laméris?
Author’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DANUSHA LAMÉRIS

Author Web Photo
ARABIC
By Danusha Laméris

I don’t remember the sounds
rising from below my breastbone
though I spoke that golden language
with the girls of Beirut, playing hopscotch
on the hot asphalt. We called out to our mothers
for lemonade, and when the men
walking home from work stooped down,
slipped us coins for candy, we thanked them.
At the market, I understood the bargaining
of the butcher, the vendors of fig and bread.
In Arabic, I whispered into the tufted ears
of a donkey, professing my love. And in Arabic
I sang at school, or dreamt at night.
There is an Arab saying,
Sad are only those who understand.
What did I know then of the endless trail
of losses? In the years that have passed,
I’ve buried a lover, a brother, a son.
At night, the low drumroll
of bombs eroded the edges of the city.
The girls? Who knows what has been taken
from them.

For a brief season I woke
to a man who would whisper to me
in Arabic, then tap the valley of my sternum,
ask me to repeat each word,
coaxing the rusty syllables from my throat.
See, he said, they’re still here.
Though even that memory is faint.
And maybe he was right. What’s gone
is not quite gone, but lingers.
Not the language, but the bones
of the language. Not the beloved,
but the dark bed the beloved makes
inside our bodies.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in Rattle and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Danusha Laméris’s work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, The Sun and Crab Orchard Review as well as in a variety of other journals. She was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 New Letters Prize in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times. Her first book, The Moons of August, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest, and is set for release in early 2014. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches an ongoing poetry workshop.

Editor’s Note: What riches lie within today’s poem. How alive the market of the poet’s memory. Reading this piece is like walking through a souq; the corridors are buzzing and vibrant, but be aware. Keep your eyes wide open. In the caverns below the language lie both treasures and warnings. Both the language and the bones.

Want to read more by and about Danusha Laméris?
Author’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TAWNYSHA GREENE

BREAKING BREAD AT AL QALZAM
by Tawnysha Greene

My first time alone
with the women in Saudi Arabia,
abayas, head covers off and I see

their faces, their hair free. Hands touch
me, lead me down
a line of greetings, kisses, whispers

in Arabic that I try
to return, trilled rs, long ms,
they laugh, because my words are

Egyptian, not Saudi, not
ours, they say. I watch, follow
what they do, sit on the ground, drink gawa

from tiny gold cups, nibble whole fried fish
with my right hand. We break bread, strangers,
now friends, uncovered, naked

in a way, because they speak to me of love.
They motion with their hands, point
to themselves, each other, then

at me, pause to see
if I understand, stop between streams
of Arabic to say daughter, sister, lover.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here today with permission from the poet.)


Tawnysha Greene is currently a Ph.D. candidate in fiction writing at the University of Tennessee. Her work has appeared in various literary journals including Bellingham Review and Raleigh Review and is forthcoming in PANK Magazine.

Editor’s Note: When I first read today’s poem I was reminded of Reading Lolita in Tehran, a fantastic book I read recently about women in Iran and their relationship to their country, their government, their gender, and the veil. I was also reminded of Naomi Shihab Nye, a Palestinian-American poet whose soft-spoken reflections on the Middle East are often humbling, and, in particular, of Shihab Nye’s poem “Red Brocade,” one of my favorite poems of all time. Today’s poem is rich with sisterhood, with women bonding in their own sacred space—a tradition that dates back to a time before the patriarchy and remains a critical aspect of the feminine to this day. While I was drawn to all of these aspects of the poem, it was one stunning moment of emotional lyric that made me fall in love: “naked / in a way, because they speak to me of love.”

Want to read more by and about Tawnysha Greene?
Mandala Journal
Salome Magazine

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE ACHE AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD: ISRAEL-PALESTINE PEACE POETRY

Editor’s Note: Peace is always a timely topic. Today much of the middle east is in a state of political unrest. Civil wars are raging, dictators are struggling to keep the masses under their control, and citizens are taking up arms – be they in the form of guns or words – in the name of freedom. Having been born in Israel, the daughter of Israel-Palestine peace activists, conflict in the middle east has been a reality in my life for thirty years. I believe peace in the middle east is not only possible, but is an eventual reality, for Israel-Palestine and beyond.

Throughout history, poets have used their poems and songs in the name of peace. Today, rather than share a particular poem with you, I want to share with you some of my favorite Israel-Palestine peace poets. May their energy, their words, and their efforts help to bring forth peace.

Yehuda Amichai

Elana Bell

Mahmoud Darwish

Naomi Shihab Nye

On This Earth What Makes Life Worth Living

By Mahmoud Darwish

Translated by Karim Abuawad

On this earth what makes life worth living:

the hesitance of April

the scent of bread at dawn

an amulet made by a woman for men

Aeschylus’s works

the beginnings of love

moss on a stone

the mothers standing on the thinness of a flute

and the fear of invaders of memories.

On this earth what makes life worth living:

September’s end

a lady moving beyond her fortieth year without losing any of her grace

a sun clock in a prison

clouds imitating a flock of creatures

chants of a crowd for those meeting their end smiling

and the fear of tyrants of the songs.

On this earth what makes life worth living:

on this earth stands the mistress of the earth

mother of beginnings

mother of endings

it used to be known as Palestine

it became known as Palestine

my mistress:

I deserve, because you’re my mistress

I deserve life.

Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008): is a Palestinian poet born in the village of al-Birweh, in Galilee. A few months before the declaration of the State of Israel, Darwish’s family was expelled to Lebanon. Upon their “illegal” return to Galilee in 1949, the family found their village razed, their property appropriated by the state. Darwish went into exile in 1970, returning to live in Ramallah, Palestine after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

He’s considered one of the most prominent poets writing in Arabic in the twentieth century. He made many contributions among which helping to popularize free-verse, a project championed by earlier poets to free modern Arabic poetry from the strict meter and rhyme that characterized the earlier traditional poetry.

Many of his poems have become lasting, and quite recognizable, songs, the most famous of which is the poem he wrote for Rita, the Jewish girl who was Darwish’s first love. The first line of the poem, which reads “There’s a rifle between Rita and me,” encapsulates this romantic encounter between a Palestinian living in Israel without citizenship and his lover who enlists in the Israeli army.

More recently, Darwish published the long poem Mural (2000), an extensive monologue where the poet talks to, and argues with, Death which has come to claim him several times before finally succeeding in 2008.

In June, 2010, the Council of Paris inaugurated “Mahmoud Darwish Square” in honor of Darwish and his artistic legacy. In the words of Paris mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, Darwish “is not just any poet [but] a Palestinian poet, a poet whose inspiration is born of his suffering in exile.”