Poetry


 

Baron Wormser
    "Carthage Gets Mail"
    "Carthage's Diary"

Francis Combes
    "Spain of Blood and Jasmine"
    (translated from French by Jack Hirschman)
 

Carthage Gets Mail

Citizens write letters to Carthage.
Mostly they want a smiling, signed photograph.
A husband or wife may leave,
The IRS may be auditing them,
The car may be broke
But the President is there smiling.

Now and then Carthage likes to stroll
Among the eager interns filling envelopes.
He’s not a Catholic but he feels like the Pope,
The way they want him to put a hand on their shoulders
And say a word to them.

He stops at one desk where a young woman
Is reading a letter someone has written by hand.
It’s blue ballpoint and looks hasty.
It’s not really a letter, just one line--
“What do you do with the dead children?”
Someone has written asking him that--
“What do you do with the dead children?”

Carthage shakes his head--
There are going to be people who don’t understand what war is,
People who are weak and confused,
People who think the world should be perfect.

The young woman looks up tentatively at Carthage.
“Here,” he says, “let me personally sign
That photograph.” She nods thankfully.
Carthage writes his name over the signature
That already is embossed on his picture.
He has to admit he looks pretty good in that picture.

The interns are all watching him.
The young woman’s lips are pursed as if she is going
To start crying from gratitude.
Carthage smiles easily
And waves a hand for the camera that never grieves.

 

Carthage’s Diary

Time is looking over his shoulder
And talking trash about tomorrow.
Like steam, Carthage feels he is evaporating.

He keeps a diary to hold his importance in place.
He is building a little monument.
The problem is he doesn’t know what to say.

He could write about what he had for breakfast.
He had an extra waffle with that good, artificial syrup on it.
He has to confess that seems trivial.

Everyone eats waffles.
He’s given orders to invade a few countries.
That’s not something everyone has done.

It doesn’t feel like much, though.
You’re excited for a few days
And then you’re back to thinking about waffles.

He can’t walk in and start talking waffles
To the generals and admirals.
They want to talk about battlefields.

Death is taking super-sized bites out of time.
Tall monuments have been blown up.
Carthage sighs. He can erase everything.

 

Baron Wormser is the author of six books of poetry and the coauthor of two books on teaching poetry. His poems in this issue of Logos originally appeared in Carthage (The Illuminated Sea Press, 2005), which can be found online at www.janestreet.com/press. He teaches in the Stonecoast MFA program and at the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire, where he co-directs the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching.

 

                            * * *
 

Spain of Blood and Jasmine (translated from French by Jack Hirschman)

Spain, of beaten leather
men carry as scarves neck-wise
with heavy guns in their hands
They stamp their feet blow on their fingers
to ward off the cold coming back up from the south
with Franco’s columns
Hitler and Mussolini’s airplanes
the cold of the black order
of the defenders of big landowners
and the church and the tradition
which wages war against life under the motto
Viva la muerte.

The silvery
olive-tree tops hold bodies of the tortured
put to the rack
but there are woods of justice
in the sorrow of the people.

On the plain, orange-trees
can no longer carry their crucified suns
in their arms.
O Spain of sweetness
Spain of the duende of violets
Spain of jasmine
of forged iron and wild mint
Spain of Federico, Miguel, Rafael
Spain of poets and goat-herders…
Still you’ve known hope
lorries rustling with red flags
traversing dry riverbeds
and crossing hills and valleys
with scarlet songs
and roars of laughter.
You’ve known youth’s living water drunk without
       putting your lips to the glass
the big sensitive drum of brotherhood
the warm friendship of the peoples
Teachers, workers or students
who’ve left their homes
to fly to the aid of your republic.


Spain, you became the home of the peoples
the motherland of the workers of the whole world.
You were defeated by the weapons of Franco, Hitler,
Mussolini
by the lack of help of the supercilious democracies
       and by your own divisions.

You bled along the way
they abandoned you in a ditch
like mule-carrion.

Spain of wire-guarded years
Spain of the sick dove in the confessional
Spain of pride tossed into the air
in the midst of tourists
like a cowboy hat
during the corrida.
Spain, you’ve left us the memory of a people
and the action of the Brigades
an epic of volunteer
soldiers without precedent
an action of international solidarity
humanity suddenly conscious of itself.

You’ll always look after your wounded flags
the sun of dignity
the blood of revolt
and your deep mauve sorrow.

But the people aren’t a bull in a ring;
men can plant banderillos in its back
make the red poppies of its blood
explode over the inky night of its spine
force it to its knees on the ground
thrust at it and drive
a sword between its two eyes
but they can never kill it
because though beaten down, vanquished, tortured
the people will always get up again
and sometimes will even arrive dressed in light
to gore their torturers
and dance on their disaster.

--Francis Combes
(Translated from French by Jack Hirschman)

 

Francis Combes lives with his wife and children in the "red belt," a working class suburb of Paris. He has published 15 books of his own poems, most recently Le carnet bleu de Chine, a poetic diary from a recent trip to China. A founder of the publishing cooperative, "Le temps des cerises," which publishes both poetry and politics titles, he has also translated several poets-- including the Russian poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky--into French. The poem appearing in English translation in this issue of Logos was originally published in his collection, Cause commune, a book of poems about the history of utopia, revolution, and hope.

Jack Hirschman has published more than 100 books and chapbooks of poetry and essays, half of which are translations of poets from nine different languages. He is an associate editor of Left Curve magazine and editor of the volume, Art on the Line: Essays by Artists about the Point Where Their Art and Activism Intersect (Curbstone Press, 2002, www.curbstone.org). His book of selected poems, Front Lines, was published by City Lights (www.citylights.com) in 2002, and he has recently been named Poet Laureate of the city of San Francisco.