What else can we do but garden our shadows while far away the universe burns and vanishes. Andrée Chedid
The Final Poem
A forge burns in my heart.
I am redder than dawn,
Deeper than seaweed,
More distant than gulls,
More hollow than wells.
But I only give birth
To seeds and to shells.
My tongue becomes tangled in words:
I no longer speak white,
Nor utter black,
Nor whisper gray of a wind-worn cliff,
Barely do I glimpse a swallow,
A shadow’s brief glimmer,
Or guess at an iris.
Where are the words,
The undying fire,
The final poem?
The source of life?
Where is the distant voice
That speaks like my soul?
Buried beneath daylight’s clamor
Gold and the seasons
Beneath groaning streets
And the ferment of cities
In my grave of care
And blond laughter
In what bare tomb must I lie
To summon the voice
That speaks like my soul?
The Ever-Patient Woman
In the flowing sap
In her growing fever
Parting her veils
Cracking out of her shells
Sliding out of her skins
The ever-patient woman
In her volcanoes
In her orchards
Seeking solidity and measure
Clasping her most tender flesh
Straining every fine-honed fiber
The ever-patient woman
* On her site there’s a link to her “Creative Process.” Interesting. Worth your time.
Andrée Chedid (1920 – 2011) was an Egyptian-French poet and a novelist of Lebanese descent. She was of the Syriac Maronite Church. I believe she is better known for her fiction here in the States but I appreciate her generally spare style and think her poetry is not to be missed. She questions the human condition and asks what binds us to the world. Not unexpectedly the perfume of the orient wafts through her poems. She denounced the Lebanese Civil War.
Ms. Chedid moved to France post-WW II and remained there for the rest of her life. She was the recipient of many literary awards and was a Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour (2009). A public library was named for her in Paris (2012). Her Amazon Page U.S. is HERE. Her Amazon Page U.K. is HERE.
“Emily* sat with her wide skirts Spread out over the squirrels and roses Like a peacock’s tail in the desert of my childhood Hugging the incubus of her daydreams And listening to her own loneliness As though her hands could touch its shape.” Ouija Poem #1, Mike Stone, February 5, 2016
Editor’s Notes: The photographs here belong to Mike and his family. Please be respectful. Note also that Mike’s mom changed the spelling of her name from Vivian to Vivienne, hence the discrepancy between the narrative commentary and the name on the book and the header photograph. The reference to Emily in the poem above is to Vivian/Vivienne who, if she could have chosen her own name, would have chosen “Emily.” Mike’s poem above is from Songs of Joy and Pain, the complete collection of Vivienne’s poems. The book closes with some poems by Mike under the general title Conversations with My Dead Mother. / J.D.”
Dear Child, you wonder why I watch you so,
Your solemn, grey eyes now are questioning me.
How much are they like mine! How wise and still –
Brimming with dreams. I saw your fingers clutch
Your book as though it were some precious jewel –
And so it is …
A thousand books ago,
I sat as you sit now, far, far away
In some new land, my mind the strange mirror
Of what I read. What joyous life can dance
Across a printed page! Quiet little elf,
Too old for those your age, but still too young
To understand the subtle meanings of
The grownup’s world. Like me, aloof you sit,
Thoughtful, and yet, perhaps one moment back
Your little feet were flying over sand,
Eager, and swift, like wind, and close to God –
(Or what you think God is).
You deem me rude
To come and pierce your solitude. I know
More than you dream, how precious are your thoughts,
Guarded and unperceived. You see, dear heart,
We are but one. You are the child I was,
I am the poet grown that you will be. ……………………………July 13, 1948
Child of the Poet .
I am the child of the Poet,
The daughter of the Beloved.
My soul was moulded by the hands
Of the Infinite Creator.
Silent and tender was His touch;
Eternal is His creation.
Out of a darkness do I come,
Reluctant to leave the warmth
Of the womb that has cradled me,
Rebellious at being thrust forth
From the secret nights I have known,
Into a strange, beginning day.
I am born now of love and pain
That is shared by the earth each spring,
When flowers break the hard, stubborn ground –
Shattering beauty with beauty, –
So I pierce the wind with my cries,
And the flight of years with my birth.
I am born, and the Beloved,
My Mother, is joyous and free.
Her voice is lifted in singing. –
“World, I give you my dearest child,
My vision of beauty made whole!”
And I am her dream and her song.
. . . . . . . . . . . . July 9, 1952
So you thought to love a poet, –
Dared to want a poet’s body, –
And refuse her mind!
Did you guess her soul carved deeper
Than the shallow well?
Know it filled with flames of heaven,
And the ice of hell?
Could you think to take the darling
Of the gods above,
Bind her spirit into submission,
In the name of “Love”?
Leave the hearts of poets for others –
Wiser men, and kings;
You are well-content with lesser,
Foolish, little things!
February 14, 1953
The Cry of the Dreamers .
World, you seek to still our yearning,
Have presumed to curse the stream
Raging in our hearts, as madness,
Hailing stagnant lakes supreme;
Proudly garbed in robes of science
You dissect the Poet’s dream!
In your land that grants the tyrant
Leave to trick the stupid breed,
Lauds the fork-tongued man as clever,
Bows before the rich man’s greed;
In their midst, you call us foolish
Who would plant a different seed …
What do you require of dreamers
Leaving footprints in the sky?
Is it envy gnawing in you
That would suffocate our cry;
In your sterile disbelieving
Do you still shout, “Crucify!”
Ever have you scorned our treasure,
Shunned the beauty we would give,
Cast away the sun and roses
Of the star-born fugitive …
Ever was Life sung by dreamers
Who were not afraid to live!
September 22, 1954
. Goodbye .
Goodbye, I will not lift my lips to touch yours
In this farewell, or look into your eyes,
Instead, I’ll note how spring has come too early –
For still, within my heart, the winter lies!
Goodbye, and speak not now of a tomorrow,
Or say, in parting, that we still are friends,
For friendship cannot be for those once lovers –
The night comes quickly when the sun descends!
We’ve learned impassioned vows are made, then broken,
We know the fires of love consume, then die,
And leave no trace – no softly burning embers
To glow, but just the ultimate – goodbye!
December 11, 1954
At Onslow Bay .
Spare my wild heart words of logic,
Here upon the naked sand;
Love and cautious apprehension
Never have walked hand-in-hand!
See my small form straight, unbowing,
Braced against the ocean’s wind,
Think you, that I’ll halt and ponder
If I gave too much, or sinned?
Is your heart a door half-open
On intruders’ love and pain;
Better shut and bolt it tightly –
Let me weep out in the rain …
Stooping down, you find a seashell,
Hold it, listening, to your ear,
Heeding not my young heart drowning
In the roaring floodtide here!
December 16, 1954
I crowned you with a golden crown
For which a prince might long;
I wrote you deathless in a poem;
I made your name a song,
And one dark night I burned your face
With kisses wild and strong.
But what cared you for crowns of gold?
The rhymes you never miss;
My poems you scarcely can recall;
Yet, you remember this:
That one dark night your heart was burned,
And by a young poet’s kiss.
January 22, 1955
– Vivienne Stone,
These poems are excerpts from The Song of Joy and Pain. They are copyright protected and published here with Mike Stone’s Permission.
VIVIAN STONE (a.k.a. Vivienne Stone) was born Vivian Ethel Hamm on November 16, 1927, in Reading Ohio, now a suburb of Cincinnati. She was the second of five children: Wilda (oldest), Vivian, George, Bobby, and Gloria (youngest). She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She eloped with Alvin W. Stone and they were married on June 15, 1946, in Newport, Kentucky. After the marriage they lived in Clintonville, Ohio. Vivian gave birth to Mike Stone on March 27, 1947 and to Victoria Stone on October 11, 1951.
Vivian and Alvin were divorced on November 5, 1954 when her children were three and seven, respectively. A legal agreement, approved by a Franklin County court judge, was signed saying that Dad would be awarded custody of the children. Vivian was allowed frequent visiting rights. She moved to Virginia Lee Gardens in Columbus and subsequently married Irwin (Irv) Papish, a practicing psychiatrist from Cleveland, Ohio.
Irv was called up as an Army psychiatrist with the rank of captain and transferred down to a US base in Panama with his new wife, Vivian. Toward the end of Irv’s duty in Panama, Vivian and Irv adopted two infants, Lisa and Chris.
Vivian was killed in a freak pedestrian accident in which a local driver reached over for a pack of cigarettes and inadvertently swerved into her while she was walking by the side of the road to her next-door neighbors’ house. She died two weeks later, on December 20, 1961. She was buried Hillcrest Memorial Park, Bedford Heights, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Her poetry collection was published by her son, Mike Stone, on October 13, 2018. The collection is available in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited through Amazon US, UK, and around the world.
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His poetry and the plays are so fraught with the things that aggravated and influenced him and ultimately made his life successful. He took this form and infused it with an urban, Latin lifeblood that had never been used in poetry before. He was remarkable as a writer in terms of never really self-editing himself or censoring himself.
I happen to feel that [Piñero] was a romantic character and there was something about his love for land that was very wonderful, the way he held Puerto Rico, that elusive homeland in the foreground of his thoughts and writing. For all of us who are uprooted and thrown into this city, to keep a semblance of that is always so dignified. That would make it perhaps a bit nostalgic for me because people like that don’t seem to be around anymore.
I spent the better part of yesterday responding to submissions to The BeZine and setting up International Poetry Month blog posts for our special series, which I am collaborating on with Michael Dickel. When I was through I decided to watch the acclaimed movie, Piñero, which I’ve been wanting to see for some time. I’m streaming through Amazon. So far, so good. Benjamin Bratt’s performance is stellar. I’ve taken a break to share this with you.
Piñero was born on December 19, 1946, in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. In 1950 he moved with his parents and sister to Loisaida (the Lower East Side) in New York City. When his father abandoned the family, his mother moved her children into a basement, applied for and received welfare.
Piñero would steal food to feed his mother and siblings. Thus the criminal convictions came early in his life. The first time when he was eleven years old. He was sent to the Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx, New York, and to Otisville State Training School for Boys. He joined a street gang called “The Dragons” when he was 13; when he was 14, he was hustling in the streets of Manhattan. Over time he was drawn heavily to alcohol and drugs and died prematurely – aged 41 – on June 16, 1988 from cirrhosis.
Eventually, Piñero moved to Brooklyn, where he and three other friends committed robberies, until they were caught at a jewelry store. Piñero was sent to Rikers Island prison in 1964. In 1972, he was incarcerated in Sing Sing prison for second-degree armed robbery. His first literary work was Black Woman with a Blonde Wig On. Marvin Felix Camillo, the director of The Family, an acting troupe made up of ex-cons, submitted the poem to a contest, which it won.
While serving time in prison, Piñero wrote the play Short Eyes as part of the inmates’ playwriting workshop. Reviewer Mel Gussow came to see it, and due to his review in the New York Times, the director of the Theater at Riverside Church invited Piñero to present the play there.
“The theatre is the only thing that belongs to the people.” Miguel Piñero.
When Piñero left Sing Sing on parole in 1973, he was able to present Short Eyes with The Family. The title comes from “short heist”, the prison slang term for child molestation. Puerto Ricans could not pronounce the ‘h’ so it became “short eyes.” The play is a drama based on his experiences in prison and portrays how a house of detention populated primarily by black and Latino inmates is affected by the incarceration there of a white pedophile. Pedophiles are considered the lowest form of prison life. After all, the prisoners have siblings and children for whom they have concerns.
In 1974, Short Eyes was presented at Riverside Church in Manhattan. Theater impresario Joseph Papp (played in the movie by Mandy Patinkin) saw the play and was impressed. Papp moved the production to Broadway.
The play was nominated for six Tony Awards. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and an Obie Award for the “best play of the year”. The play catapulted Piñero to literary fame. Short Eyes was published in book form by the editorial house Hill & Wang. It was the first play written by a Puerto Rican to be put on Broadway. This initial success was followed by: Sideshow(1974), The Guntower (1976), The Sun Always Shines for the Cool (1976),Eulogy for a Small-Time Thief (1977), and Playland Blues (1980).
“Islam has been practiced in Chinese society for 1,400 years. Muslims are a minority group in China, representing between 0.45% to 2.85% of the total population according to the latest estimates. Though Hui Muslims are the most numerous group, the greatest concentration of Muslims is in Xinjiang, with a significant Uyghur population. Lesser but significant populations reside in the regions of Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai.Of China’s 55 officially recognized minority peoples, ten groups are predominantly Sunni Muslim.” Islam in China, Wikipedia MORE
The detention of Muslim poet Cui Haoxin, also known by his pen name An Ran, is clear retaliation for his outspoken defense of Chinese Muslims, says PEN America.. On January 24, Chinese authorities detained poet and author An Ran in the city of Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, under accusations of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Such a charge is often employed by Chinese police as a catch-all provision against critics of government policy.
Days prior to his detention, An Ran tweeted his reaction to a story of a Hui Muslim woman who was detained by authorities in China and sent to an internment camp. An Ran retweeted the story and discussed personal experiences with Chinese authorities, mentioning his past detentions and the experience of others who have been surveilled and detained. The poet is a vocal supporter of minority rights. He has used his social media presence and his writing to raise awareness on stories of human rights abuses, including the dire human rights situation for Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
“While we don’t know what precisely triggered An Ran’s detention this time, it is patently obvious that he is being targeted yet again for his courage in acting as a voice of conscience against the government’s treatment of Muslim minorities, particularly the forced internment of millions of Uyghurs, Hui, and other ethnic groups,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “The Chinese government must truly fear the power of free speech to engage in such repeated targeting of An Ran for his writing and his social media commentary. We call on Chinese authorities to immediately release An Ran and drop all charges leveled against him.”
Chinese authorities have repeatedly arrested and harassed An Ran in the last two years. In April 2018, while en route to a weeklong “re-education” course, An Ran was singled out for a search and questioned, detained, and then released. Four months later, police intimidated An Ran by conducting an illegal raid on his home, and attempted to censor his use of social media. In November 2018, authorities yet again questioned and detained An Ran for writing about religious repression in China on social media.
The Chinese government continues to deepen their crackdown against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, including Hui people. While authorities claim they are acting to combat Muslim extremism, numerous observers—including PEN America—have reported that the government’s policies are instead aimed at suppressing the cultural identity of Uyghurs and other minorities. PEN America has analyzed the digital rights situation in Xinjiang in its March 2018 report Forbidden Feeds, and has called the current situation in Xinjiang “one of the greatest human rights catastrophes occurring today, with massive implications for the right to free expression.”
A report on Radio Free Asia (RFA) indicates that while ” . . . Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, Chinese officials have more recently begun describing the facilities as ‘boarding schools’ that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage “radicalization,” and help protect the country from terrorism.
“But reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets indicate that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.
“RFA has confirmed dozens of cases of deaths in detention or shortly after release since the internment system began, and while only a handful can be definitively linked to torture or abuse, several appear to be the result of “willful negligence” by authorities who do not provide access to sufficient treatment or of poor camp conditions that exacerbate an existing medical condition.” MORE
PEN Americastands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
Radio Free Asia’s mission is to provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press. RFA is funded through an annual grant from the United States Agency for Global Media, an independent U.S. agency; RFA has a legislative firewall that bars interference by U.S. government officials in the execution of RFA’s mission of providing reliable journalism to audiences otherwise deprived of uncensored, accurate press.