Archive for April, 2008

From those lemon flowers
set free
by the light of the moon,
from that
odor of a love
sunken in fragrance,
there came
from the Lemon tree its yellow,
from its planetary system
the lemons came down to the earth.

Tender merchandise!
Our shores filled up with it,
the markets
of light, of gold
from a tree,
and we open up
the two halves
of a miracle,
congealed acid
which ran
from the hemispheres
of a star
and the most profound liquor
in nature,
unchanging, alive,
born from the freshness
of the lemon,
from its fragrant house,
from its acid, secret symmetry.

Inside the lemon the knives
a small
the window hidden behind the altars
opened to the light its glassy acids,
and in drops
like topazes they were dripped
onto the altars
by the architecture of freshness.

So when your hand
squeezes the hemisphere
of the cut
lemon onto your plate,
a universe of gold,
you have poured out
yellow cup
full of miracles
one of the sweet-smelling nipples
of the breast of the earth,
a ray of light that became a fruit,
the diminutive fire of a planet.

Pablo Neruda
Translated by Jodey Bateman


Oda al limón

De aquellos azahares
por la luz de la luna,
de aquel
olor de amor
hundido en la fragancia
del limonero el amarillo,
desde su planetario
bajaron a la tierra los limones.

¡Tierna mercadería!
Se llenaron las costas,
los mercados,
de luz, de oro
y abrimos
dos mitades
de milagro,
ácido congelado
que corría
desde los hemisferios
de una estrella,
y el licor más profundo
de la naturaleza,
intransferible, vivo,
nació de la frescura
del limón,
de su casa fragante,
de su ácida, secreta simetría.

En el limón cortaron
los cuchillos
una pequeña
el ábside escondido
abrió a la luz los ácidos vitrales
y en gotas
resbalaron los topacios,
los altares,
la fresca arquitectura.

Así, cuando tu mano
empuña el hemisferio
del cortado
limón sobre tu plato
un universo de oro
copa amarilla
con milagros,
uno de los pezones olorosos
del pecho de la tierra,
el rayo de la luz que se hizo fruta,
el fuego diminuto de un planeta.

Pablo Neruda
Odas Elementales (1954)


When I cut open a lemon,
I look for the cathedral.


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We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

Czeslaw Milosz

Commentary: I was thinking about this poet, Czeslaw Milosz, because my colleague, Roger Lundin, mentioned him in a meeting the other day … and then, I read a reflection by Elle Morgan called “Worship without Words,” in which I found the following quotation from Milosz: “If one day our words / Come so close to the bark of trees in the forest / And to orange blossoms, that they become one with them / It will mean that we have always defended a great hope.” I appreciated this idea and went to find more poetry by Milosz where I could … namely at www.poetseers.org. This poem, “Encounter,” is a good one and reminds me poems by Imagists. But there is more than image in this poem, of course.

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My first rantpage

Sometimes poets need to rant. When they do rant, I suppose we could say they’re on the rantpage (a neologism). Take myself, for instance. I am a poet, and I need to rant. Here’s what I want to rant about:

1. www.poetseers.org – Outstanding site. Definitely better than mine. (rant, rant) Go visit it, and get lots out of it. That’s the only way to redeem the situation.

2. Pablo Neruda is a better poet than Czezlaw Milosz. (rant) It’s true. We can argue if you want, but that won’t change the obvious. I realize that comparing these two poets is like … comparing apples and oranges … or a bird of paradise and a rugged pine … and maybe there’s no point in comparing a Latin American poet to a Polish one, but seriously, no one with sense can deny it: Pablo Neruda is the man.

3. Why is that only TWO women poets have rec’d the Nobel Prize??? (rant, rant, RANT!!!) I’m happy for Gabriela Mistral and what’s-her-name, but what about the rest of the women poets in the world? Sappho is weeping somewhere.

This concludes my first rant.

(I’ll try not to let this mode dominate my poetry place discourse.)

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Blush of morning on your skin,
bathwater now forgotten—
you stand like a wish,
willing but unkissed—
then, flight of the Czech falcon!


First, to God, marimba hymn,
next, drums deep and Indian—
then, canta desnuda,
sing songs of Lorca—
last, the marimba again!


Renoir’s bright orange paints cast
French light on us from the past—
we stand together,
mother and daughter—
and breathe in and out at last.


She won’t speak; he won’t listen;
this, her Lenten discipline—
oragami now
takes flight from her brow—
invisible, wings glisten.


Celebrate resurrection,
and make humble confession—
give the kiss of peace
to greatest and least—
and sense our soul’s redemption.


Seventy men stand and sing
the Passion of Christ-the-King—
their tenor-bass choir
lifts us both higher—
’til love fulfills our being.


How can today be the end?
I want to begin again—
poet, percussion,
art, laughter, lesson—
my mother, my bright falcon!

Jane Beal
March 2008

Commentary: When I went to Chris Wiman’s poetry reading on campus, I asked him a question that has been on my mind: is the rhymning quatrain a clichéd, worn-out form? He said, essentially, that the tired forms are waiting for a poet to redeem and renew them.

So … I wanted to write a poem to remember my mother’s visit to Chicago, to commemorate each of our evening adventures, so I chose to write this one–each stanza gives an impression from an adventure we shared. The first stanza alludes to a poem by Chris Wiman, the second to the marimba recital program, the third to Renoir’s “Les deux soeurs sur la terrace,” the fourth to one of the scenes played between Stephen and Alyssa (and Marty, who was the oragami in flight!) at the improv show, the fifth to the service at Church of the Savior, the sixth to the theme of the songs sung by the Men’s Glee Club, and the seventh to the morning of my mother’s departure from Chicago to California.

Did you notice that each stanza is a limerick? I was trying to redeem the form.

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Sometimes poets go on adventures, and sometimes the adventures come to them.

For example, just last week, my mom, my stepfather, and my fourteen year old sister, Alice, all came from California to visit me here in Illinois. They went to Chicago three days in a row! Sears Tower, Chicago Institute of Art, Millenium Park, Moody Bible College, the Cultural Center–you name it, they visited it. And I mustn’t neglect to mention the food: deep dish pizza, Thai cuisine, chocolate from the Hersey’s store–they tasted life.

Of course, I was at work during the day, so I would hear about these adventures in the evenings … when we went out to do whatever was clever.

The first night, Tuesday night, I took my mom to a poetry reading on the Wheaton College campus. Chris Wiman was reading. Chris is the editor of “Poetry,” a literary magazine, and gave out free copies. The first poem, a long one, in the March 2008 edition has this sonnet-like opening to begin it:

“Nights on Planet Earth”

Gravel paths on hillsides amid moon-drawn vineyards,
click of pearls upon a polished nightstand
soft, as rainwater, self-minded stars, oboe music
distant as the grinding of icebergs against the hull
of the self and the soul in the darkness
chanting to the ecstatic chance of existence.
Deep is the water and long is the moonlight
inscribing addresses in quicksilver ink,
building the staircase a lover forever pauses upon.
Deep is the darkness and long is the night,
solid the water and liquid the light. How strange
that they arrive at all, nights on planet earth.

Campbell McGrath {2008}

The next night, we went to the senior recital of Joel Alexander, percussionist and marimba player. On the third night, we went to the Chicago Institute of Art and stood in front of Renoir’s “Les deux soeurs sur la terrace,” marveling at the painter’s bright oranges. On the fourth night, we went to see a wheatonIMPROV comedy show. It was great! We laughed so hard. On the last night, Saturday night, we went to Church of the Savior, where I played flute and sang on the worship team, and then to the Men’s Glee Club concert on the college campus once again. My cousin Mitzi came!

It was splendid.

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Children at Easter

My next-door neighbor’s daughter, age seven, is preparing for her first Communion in the Catholic Church. Her mom, my neighbor, was quizzing her on things she needed to know. She asked her daughter if she realized that the Eucharistic bread became the body of Christ. Her daughter pertly replied, “What difference does it make? It just comes out the other end.” My friend told her not to bother the priest with that remark.

She then asked her daughter if she understood what Jesus did on Easter morning. “Yes,” her daughter replied solemnly. “He rose from the dead, turned into the Easter bunny, and gave us all presents!!”

True story.

When I was at an Anglican service on Easter morning, I was waiting in line to receive the Eucharist, and a little girl, age five, went on ahead of me. As the priest knelt down to bless her, she announced, “I’m pretending to be the Lamb of God!” The priest said something like, “That’s good, honey.” I was laughing with such delight that I could hardly swallow the bread!

I love Easter.

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