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.