Martín Espada

The Soldiers in the Garden
The God of the Weatherbeaten Face

Anne Waldman

5 Female Poets Next to a Block of Ice

Martín Espada

The Soldiers in the Garden
                      Isla Negra, Chile, September 1973

After the coup,
the soldiers appeared
in Neruda's garden one night,
raising lanterns to interrogate the trees,
cursing at the rocks that tripped them.
From the bedroom window
they could have been
the conquistadores of drowned galleons,
back from the sea to finish
plundering the coast.

The poet was dying;
cancer flashed through his body
and left him rolling in the bed to kill the flames.
Still, when the lieutenant stormed upstairs,
Neruda faced him and said:
There is only one danger for you here: poetry.
The lieutenant brought his helmet to his chest,
apologized to señor Neruda
and squeezed himself back down the stairs.
The lanterns dissolved one by one from the trees.

For thirty years
we have been searching
for another incantation
to make the soldiers
vanish from the garden.

The God of the Weatherbeaten Face
                       For Camilo Mejía, conscientious objector

The gods gathered:
the crusader god took off his helmet,
the desert warrior god stood his shield in the corner,
the sword-maker god sat between them sharpening blades,
the bombardier god spread his maps on the table,
the god who collects infidel heads traded trophies
with the god who collects heathen scalps,
the god of gold opened his handkerchief
for the god of oil to wipe his dripping chin,
the god who punishes sin with boils scratched his boils
and called the meeting to order.

And the gods said: War.

Sergeant Mejia heard the prisoner moan under the hood
as the guards shoved him into a steel closet, then pounded
with a sledgehammer on the door until the moaning stopped;
heard machine gun fire slicing heads from necks
with a roar that would be the envy of swords;
heard a soldier sobbing in the toilet for the headless boy
who would open his eyes every time the soldier closed his own.

Sometimes a song drifts up
through the moaning and sledgehammers,
machineguns and sobbing.
Sometimes a voice floats above pandemonium
the way a seagull floats over burning ships.
Sergeant Mejia heard his father’s song,
the peasant mass of Nicaragua:
Vos sos el Dios de los pobres,
el Dios humano y sencillo,
el Dios que suda en la calle,
el Dios de rostro curtido
You are the God of the poor,
the human and simple God,
the God who sweats in the street,
the God of the weatherbeaten face.

Iraq was crowded with the faces of this God.
They watched as Sergeant Mejia said no to the other gods,
miniscule word, a pebble, a grain of rice,
but the word flipped the table at the war council,
where the bombardier god had just dealt
the last hand to the god of oil,
and cards with dates of birth and death,
like tiny tombstones, fluttered away.
Sergeant no more, Camilo Mejia walked to jail.
Commanders fed the word coward
to the sniffing microphones of reporters
who repeated obediently: coward.

The cell crowded with faces too, unseen travelers
wandering in from a century of jails:
union organizer, hunger striker, freedom rider,
street corner agitator, conscientious objector.

The God of the weatherbeaten face,
dressed as an inmate steering a mop,
smuggled in the key one day, and Camilo Mejia
walked with him through epiphany’s gate.

Martín Espada is the author of 8 books of poetry, including Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover's Hands, Imagine the Angels of Bread, and Alabanza: New and Selected Poems 1982-2002. He is a professor in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts--Amherst, where he teaches creative writing and the work of Pablo Neruda. The poems in this issue of Logos are reprinted, by permission of the author, from his most recent collection, The Republic of Poetry (NY: W. W. Norton, 2006, www.wwnorton.com )

Anne Waldman


           in memory, Kathy Acker & for Ambrose

what is it to be corset maker binding the bone and cotton in a daily sweat of labor and purpose what is it to know the sweat of all you my sister workers of daily living surviving an economic purse-string purpose what is it to be declared the most dangerous of purpose when J. Edgar Hoover has your number and what is it here now in St. Petersburg hungry and anxious and soul-stirring for surviving my purpose what is the cause of insomniac passion my further disillusionment in your systems in your many systems in all the systems that bind the bone in this labor to you who will always profit off the labor of Emma's hands sewing binding aching toiling bone and cotton in the class struggle a dangerous purpose you want to call it that why you can call it that and it's so much more but do call it that and you will I'm sure call it that and most dangerous of violence and terror too and what of a Spanish Civil War I'll call wake up all minions! I'll call: arise! and would cast in a daily sweat of labor a struggle a sweet edge that way for it's an energy of daily sweat and toil to be free of the fascisms of how and when and why and why o never free of J. Edgar Hoover but my imagination ever free of the imagination of J. Edgar Hoover who will surely most certainly have your number in his fractious labor and psychopathic toil even now when he the ghost of fractious J. Edgar Hoover is stalking haunting the work places the meeting places the "commune" of all my sweat and purpose--what is it to a large woman be-speckled and intent in my libertarian socialist moment to incite a riot what is it to be thus called trouble and to be forever "unpopular with authorities" to be watched and goaded and arrested and in lock-down what kind of terror moment is this and will it survive and assassinate a president this kind of moment will it will it survive McKinley will it survive psychopathic fractious J. Edgar Hoover and will the ghosts of Haymarket stalk the Union Hall still in that old purpose and will that will now sisters break the corset that binds the moment?

5 Female Poets Next to a Block of Ice

            (--Wrestle the damn dream down!)
                                   --Eleni Sikelianos

This was the dream
where I left the palm and stereo at home
left my fatigues at home
I became lost in a Theater of Reading
I was provoked by aggressive how-to book titles bobbing out at me
           as I passed the (fluctuating) shelves
"Incapably Positive Chronicles"
"Received Ideas But In No Things Received"
"The President Is Not Projective Thirst You Can Be Too"
"My Hands Are Tongue-Tied"
"More Than Laura Riding Knows"
I open a volume, hands shaking but my condition ordered me to salute
I felt like Queen Mab, I wanted to eat nightshade
and ply the spirits of poesia out of their caves
My sisters--all four of them--reminded me of
the Library in Alexandria--think of it before its sacking
--(time is a spiral)
and suggested how one might behave
           in such a place--
such a Memory Place, you need, girlfriends, to bow
Joanne was seen polishing marble
Diane remained in samadhi
Alice had her glasses on to scrutinize a miniature map
Eleni was eager for the card catalogue, she started "And you?"
She was enceinte, she held the future in a book
I was a lumpen proletariat, a deadbeat, a shaman
I wanted him, the only librarian in the room (snap fingers)
to be a nurturing woman librarian
The world was askew how get it right again?
Stacks of glassine Duncan, Olson thin, weathered Ginsberg,
his pages long with hair
It was "all about" Spicer's grail, the Enron scandal
It was all about death in war, torture
The empire of reading was clear
You needed special glasses provided by Homeland Security
But here there was no "home," there was no "secure"
But something was going to change, get born.

Anne Waldman is the author of over 40 books and pamphlets of poetry, including
Fast Speaking Woman; IOVIS, Books I & II; In the Room of Never Grieve; and Structure of the World Compared to a Bubble. A co-founder of The Kerouac School at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, she is also the editor of numerous anthologies, including The Beat Book and Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action. The two poems in this issue of Logos are reprinted, by permission of the author, from her most recent book, Outrider (Albuquerque, NM: La Alameda Press, 2006, www.laalamedapress.com) .