Past Squares 7: A Look Back at This Kickass Reading Year (2021)

This is also today’s post for Life of B’s Past Squares!

Poetry Monday: Kyi May Kaung

RANGOON ZOO

The polar bear sat
sweltering
near its single
factory delivered
2 x 1 1/2 x 1 foot
block of
yellow
ice –
dejected bear –
the tropical
heat is killing
the seal in
the rectangular swimming
pool had
a little better
luck —
bear and seal exchanged for
priceless rare
takin –
very soon the bear
fed on corn on the cob —
the keepers had stolen the
meat for
their families —
very naturally died ==
the otter pool is bereft of swimming and squealing otters and
the tigress — loose skin on bones
must have by now
died —
the same tigress that
in her youth
bit the hand
of the keeper who showing off
too familiarly
patted her
head —
Take that she
said.

Kyi May Kaung is originally from Rangoon, Burma and has written four collections of poetry, an allegorical novel, She-Monkey Goes West, and a novella, Black Rice. Much of her work addresses oppression in Burma, now called Myanmar.

Poetry Sunday: Conchitina Cruz

CHANCE MEETING

Blame it on our common distaste
for confrontation — the day we called it
quits, there were no more questions,
even as they hung in the air.

And so we drew the line between ourselves,
and I fished my panty hose out of your hamper,
and you took your blanket
off my bed, packing the rest
of ourselves into separate bags.

Now that it’s done, where was the line
we drew? After all, how divide such things
as books, according to who bought them,
who hasn’t read them,
who needs them for class? How break
a painting, a tub into equal parts?

How dismantle a memory?
Like burglars on the scene of a crime, we took
what we thought was ours, by right,
by excuse, by default.
Cleaned out,
the house returned

a blank stare, saying nothing.
Now this awkwardness of meeting
again this inescapable
intersection, and after a second
of courtesies, we head for separate

doors, leaving a debt we share
unsaid — I’m afraid I still
have something
of yours.

  • Conchitina Cruz, a graduate of the University of the Philippines, is a multi-awarded Filipino poet.

Poetry Monday: Luis Cabalquinto

Depths of Field

I walk some hundred paces from the old house
Where I was raised, where many are absent now,

and the rice fields sweep into view: here where
during home leaves I’m drawn to watch on evenings

such as this, when the moon is fat and much given
to the free spending of its rich cache of light

which transmutes all things: it changes me now,
like someone resorted to the newness of his life.

Note the wind’s shuffle in the crown of tall coconut
trees; the broad patches of moon-flecked water —

freshly-rowed with seedlings; the grass huts of
croppers, windows framed by the flicker of kerosene

lamps: an unearthly calm pervades all that is seen.
Beauty unreserved holds down a country’s suffering.

Disclosed in this high-pitched hour: a long-held
secret displaced by ambition and need, a country

boy’s pained enchantment with his hometown lands
that remains intact in a lifetime of wanderings.

As I look again, embraced by the depths of an old
loneliness, I’m permanently returned to this world.

to the meanings it has saved for me. If I die now,
in the grasp of childhood fields, I’ll miss nothing.

Luis Cabalquinto was born in the Philippines and came to the United States in 1968. He is the recipient of a poetry prize from the Academy of American Poets and a fellowship from The New York Foundation for the Arts, among others.

Poetry Saturday: Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 1988)

We real cool. We
left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die Soon
.

Poetry Saturday: Carlos Bernardo Gonzalez Pecotche

from Bases for Your Conduct, a compilation of teachings the author passed on to his son, Carlos Federico Gonzalez, and published posthumously by the author’s widow. This is from the 3rd edition, published 2012.

Poetry Saturday: John O’ Donohue

Fluent

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

— from Conamara Blues, which Dear Departed Father Richard Haslam gave to me on my first visit to Ireland, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Csilla Toldy

Because it is Saint Patrick’s Day, the poet is from NI: Csilla Toldy came over from Hungary, when there was still a Wall. We met in 2014, at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. The picture is of the lake.

Csilla was kind enough to allow me to post the whole poem. It’s from her collection Red Roots – Orange Sky (Belfast: Lapwing Publications, 2013)

Love in Paris

Arriving late at the wrong address
a stranger in the street,
Ali, offered her a bed. He lovingly
treated her wounded knee —
that she had fallen on
when searching the sky for the guiding star
at the green borders to Italy.

Her nerves frazzled
by the long march through the Alps
on pills of caffeine and amphetamine,
taken by the echoes of her throbbing heart
when face-searched
and feeling so lucky for not looking like any
one of the Red Brigade.

So grateful for a clean sheet
after a week in ditches with crows and crickets,
yet fearing horror dreams of her misconceptions
she fell into a black hole
to be woken up by sunlight
glinting on a tray of golden croissants
brought up by Ali.

Recently, Csilla has been focusing on films.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Re-Reading, Re-Discovering Angela Narciso Torres

Angela Narciso Torres is the author of Blood Orange (Willow Books) and What Happens Is Neither (Four Way Books); and winner of the 2019 Yeats Poetry Prize. Her recent work appears in Poetry, Missouri Review, and PANK.

Angela and two other Four Way Books poets, Andrea Cohen and Rodney Terich, are reading tonight online at an event hosted by Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor, NY. Reading starts at 7 p.m. EST (that’s 4 p.m. PST) You can find out more from the Canio’s Books Calendar of Events.

SUNDOWNING (An excerpt)

for my mother, Carmen

The sweetest meat clings to the bone,
my mother says, knifing her steak.
Carmen. Silver spade on my tongue.

Mahjong nights, her father and mother gone,
she cried herself to sleep. Blamed in the morning
for her mother’s losing hand. Unlucky tears!

The sweetest meat — she begins
at dinner, tearing off a chicken leg.
What will she recall by morning?

Named for Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
she pinned brown scapulars under our shirts,
wet stamps that cleaved to our skin.

— from To The Bone, by Angela Narciso Torres (Sundress Publications, 2019)

Poetry Friday: Kimiko Hahn

To Be a Daughter
And To Have a Daughter

(An Excerpt)

can forecast at-odds relationships
especially when the mother hazards to write
while keeping the baby safe
from herself as she and the baby wail,
one in the crib, the other on the floor, to wail
with the vacuum cleaner so the daughter
can’t hear mama-drowning, so the new relationship
isn’t all arithmetic and geometry, all right
angles barely connecting. What is left
at dusk, still tender and safe,

— from The New Yorker, 23 March 2020
  • Kimiko Hahn teaches at Queens College, City University of New York. Her latest poetry collection is Foreign Bodies.

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