Poems by Jerry Ball
When April Turns to May
Published in "A Second Look"
A friendly conversation it was, between two friends, a spell,
and full of subtleties, with plenty to pay attention to; though
if you missed it, well, naturally, it was OK. You just missed it.
And maybe there’d be another end of April,
to talk about, or maybe not. As Onitsura said:
Ah! Cherry Blossoms!
Well, chickens have two legs,
horses have four.
That’s how it was. So as we drove through the pruned green canyon,
full of curves, and cows, and trees, and grass, we conjured images
of rancher’s broad shoulders, stationed man-by-man, sentinels
just like trees, just like the walnut orchard itself; stationed
along the roadway, a sort of moral army, dedicated by oath,
and to the last branch, shell and kernel, to defend the borders
of their shared and dwindling twilight world from incursion
by greed. And we had no need for editing, we said what we liked,
we laughed, we lolled in subtleties, and in twilight images.
Then we talked of the auditory and the lyric, how some things
cannot be seen but can only be heard, like the beating of an ancient
heart. How in an effort to grasp the lyric we must say it, or sing it.
And then too, we might use words to paint such a scene as this,
perhaps covetously; how this seems tragic since certainly to capture
is to destroy. So we are led to imagine how it is that words
that paint are curious, they are both paint, and are somehow
beyond painting, and therefore looped in paradox. For words heard
are presentations, but when words do paint, they are sentinels
of images, and “mere” at that. Hence, by their very nature, words
that paint must mis-represent, as “curve” is not a curve, nor does “cow”
low or belch, or chew whatever mixture cows chew, though cows do,
We were neither right, nor wrong, and neither cared. There is neither
sin, nor virtue. What we spoke, we spoke naively, like some infant
liturgy, uttered innocently by children caught in the spell of springtime.
And as the sun winked, and nodded ever lower
toward the shadows of hills,
and our blind spirits, with ears cocked, rose accordingly
toward hints of stars, we approached frontiers between
idle speculation and emboldened narrative.
So we told brash and bawdy jokes of Saint Patrick’s Day, and
how green it must be, more green than dollars, green just like life’s hills
we pass through; and how they serve green beer, and how drunk we got
once, or twice, and so did everybody else. But the Irish are like that,
we said. The Irish seem to dwell in …, what’s another word for
green? Perhaps they dwell in conversation, perhaps in subtlety,
perhaps they think of subtlety as common, not subtle at all, at all.
And the more we thought about it, the more we thought we were in
Ireland, though we were nowhere near, except, of course, in story.
But though we did not plan it, since it was, and still is spontaneous,
yet still, our story did grow, and did take shape, a sort of hyperbole,
an exaggerated rambling, to be stored in the green glow of memory.
So You Tell Me…
A Conversation With a Sikh Girl
Published in "World Between Mirrors"
So! A husband for you, chosen
by your parents, not by you. They
choose, and you tell me that’s ok…
And I wonder how that can be. Well,
this is just a chat where words float
between us like pollen across wheat fields,
and I listen. We fertilize our minds with
words; our minds prepared, minds mowed
with looks, plowed with gestures, and
especially sown, sown with patience. So,
your fertile words cross the seas from
India. Pollination indeed! For I know
that’s a long way. And I wonder how you
came to sit here with me, now, and so open my
ears wider, and so hear the sound of the sea.
And as your words are wafted towards me
I guess that, as you speak, you think in
Gujarati, then translate to me, into English;
and having done something like this once
I sense the toil, and the practice. And,
you tell me that your English still, is not
good enough, though I hear it plenty well.
I harvest your words, your accent, your
inflection, and most of all I winnow
your Sikh innocence, pure and proud and
purposeful just like pollen, pollen from
blossoms, floating on breezes that
circle a cloudless sky. I can’t help but
admire the way you talk of respect,
your respect for your parents,
and how you truly, truly believe
they will find you a better husband,
better than you can do yourself.
And slowly, slowly, I become aware
how much you trust your parents,
perhaps more than you trust yourself.
And you tell me that they trust you. You
could be doing anything, anything here
at school, you say. But you are not,
because you know your parents love
and trust you. And as you speak I feel
the breeze and smell the smell of blossoms
and feel my soul rising, rising like bread,
leavening, freshly mixed with yeast and
sugar. You tell me this so simply, simply
like the waving, waving of the tassels
in the wheat fields.