Poems by CK Stead and Jeffrey Holman
We read in a grand theatre, managed by pros,
with lights and projected backdrop, the poet
at the lectern reading behind his own back
greatly enlarged - teeth, bald head or bad hair.
We read in a hospital for psychiatric cases,
in the theatre again, in the Library Simon Rodriguez,
in the barrio with chickens, garbage and dogs,
the kids greeting us with songs in national costume
and the international costume of being kids.
At the hospital a patient comes on stage to recite
a poem by Blanco. It's good, but line by line
he's backing towards my chair so I smell him
and smell his terror. Someone tells me my poems
are 'warm'. I tell myself, 'Next time, add more salt.'
City of beautiful trees, barred doors and windows,
gas cheaper than water, and lunatic traffic;
city of vivid slogans and sad citations -
'Construyanos la patria buena', and then, more staunch,
'Patria Socialismo o Muerte'. All the plazas
are named after Bolivar, and the 'Bolivarian' President
has kind eyes full of a promise. I want to believe it
as his people seem to do, but History has doubts.
Should those brilliantly painted posters shout instead
'The patria fucks us always'? A purple beetle
like an angry enamelled robot seems to attack
as I walk to the van. The driver beats it down
to the rutted oil-smeared asphalt. 'Don't stamp on it,'
I shout - too late, and in the wrong language.
Caracas, May 2008
Hymn to the bookworms
by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
"Where is the darkness?" was what the poet Holub asked.
Now he knows - for whom "being a non-person was
a very happy time, with no distractions" - he who knew his
troubles were not so special. "I expose the poem, not
myself - I am a fully hidden poet" - now he is hidden
again in the worms, giants whose molecules he once
ventured deeply darkly strangely into - "by indirection
seek direction out". While we remember Holub, Holub
lives: not in the worms alone who prepare to eat his
books, not in the files of the NKVD that rot in astral
dumps where trustees fumigate forever the shelves
of mouldering incunabula that once incriminated
yet now mean even less than rotten leaves. Holub
lives while memory lives, while metaphor speaks
biologically exact and discriminating data over
the open graves of an incoming wave of tyrants.
His worms await the shelving of their books.