By Martina Reisz Newberry
On the other side of the mountain,
my wealthy friend has built a castle.
It was a long project but now sits,
quiet as a profound thought, complete.
The day I visited her, we had
coffee and Red Velvet Scones behind
the castle near the Koi pond. Smell of
gardenia, petals stiff with infirm
hateur and, near pond’s edge, a lotus—
the real thing. I was impressed with it.
“It’s called Nelumbo Nucifera,”
my friend said. “A strong name for such a
peaceful bloom, don’t you think?” Yes. Oh yes.
Scent of water, sound of water, shade
on the water. So much silence, beauty.
My friend’s secretary came out with
more coffee.We sipped and blinked, and watched.
I was happy as I should have been.
When the palm fronds rustled anxiously,
nervously, I walked toward the water,
pellets in hand. “Throw them in. See what
happens,” she said. Palms nattered again
and I tossed the pellets.The water cried out,
had a seizure. Open mouths—orange/white/
gold—shock and awe—fought for space, a riot of
open mouths. They swarmed toward the food
while I flinched, stepped back. “I have
Sarasa Comets, Shubunkin, Butterfly Koi,
and some Domestic Koi,” she said. “I love to
feed them.” I left shortly thereafter
and drove carefully down the mountain.
My mind repeated Basho’s sly words:
“Learn to listen as things speak for themselves.”
WHAT TO DO IF HAUNTED
When the broken spirits come
into your dreams and cut your hair,
turn you on your back and whisper
complaints in your ears, fight back.
Fight with the sounds of pots and pans
in someone’s kitchen,
with strong winds below the canyons,*
with laughter and clinking glasses
from the gathering next door,
with the cat’s lapping water
from the stout green tumbler
on the floor next to the sofa.
Take sleep as it is supposed to be:
a baptismal font. It is the gift
that should soothe and cleanse,
the cup we drink from that lets us
wake to wonder into a dimension
that no longer invites wonder.
There will always be sleep and,
when the broken spirits visit,
we’ll wake. Oh yes! Eyes wide,
mouths parched, bellies and brains
starved for words that will dance
and music such as will make miracles.
*RIP 2001 Larry Kramer
Did you know that dreams are the scars of recall?
They prompt us to take one more look at the houses
of our childhood, the graves and the hiding
places we believed we grew out of. Remember
the things you said you’d never do again? You
will do them in your night terrors.You will do them
in the dreams of past lovers.You will do them
in the presence of your dead parents. It is
the nature of dreams to tickle and torture
your sleep with regrets. My mother would say
she died of loneliness which I supported by
never being there. After a while, in fact,
I could hardly bear to pass through the town where
she lived. My father would say the same—that I
stayed away, did not call, did not care.
I don’t know why any more than they did.
I dream of them almost nightly. I swim
clumsily through a thick, salty sea of regret
to live once again in their house with them.
In dreams, as in accurate recall, seeing them,
depending on them, scares and saddens me.
In my dreams, unlike accurate recall,
I cannot leave.
“RACHEL IS WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN…”
I imagine I can see
the scratched and scarred places on
my children’s bodies.
They are the places where I
used to live. Look carefully
and you’ll see my ghost, looking
for the rest of my family,
for that other life
I thought I would have. Careless
I read them like books, thumbing
through their pages that did not
love me—loved others—
but not the smiling, passive
woman who seemed only to REact
instead of grabbing the bull
by its proverbial horns
(a pithy observation),
and running for those famous
hills, their little hides in tow.
Oh, I have been penitent
all my life— all of their lives—
far from paradise,
further still from lenity,
landed under the spaces
in their memories, waving
Calling out to their bodies
“Here I am. See me.
In spite of your memories,
I am more than your laments.”
IF YOU WILL
If you will forgive me my darkness,
I’ll channel the winds that come through
the canyons and I’ll breathe them
into your hands.
You will be protected from the void
that sits at the sides of fucking and fasting
and numerous other bluffs that could
come your way.
If you will absolve me of my excesses,
I’ll see to it that the unjustness of this world
stays to itself and Magic––as it is wont to do––
will bear you no malice.
At supper, I will fill your plate
with undreamt dreams and pour
lightning into your cup. At bedtime,
I’ll turn your sheets down
with fingers like song lyrics and give the gods
of rest your full and true name. I’ll lay
vagueness over your esculent body and
Comb elixirs through your hair.
All this for forgiveness, for the exculpation
of everything I cannot be or do…
We are far from paradise. An apple
you accept from a naked woman
could explode at any time. Believe me,
you are better off waving away my sins,
smiling wisely at my weaknesses
forgiving me my darkness.
About the Author:
Newberry’s books: NEVER COMPLETELY AWAKE (Deerbrook Editions), TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME (9/2017, Unsolicited Press), WHERE IT GOES (Deerbrook Editions), RUNNING LIKE A WOMAN WITH HER HAIR ON FIRE (Red Hen Press).
Her work has been widely published in the U.S. and abroad. She lives in Los Angeles.