FEATURED POET: CARL GOTTESMANPRESENTED BY EILEEN TABIOS who says:
I am delighted to present Carl Gottesman's lovely poems -- they speak for themselves. Some biographical details: Carl Gottesman graduated from the University of Iowa Poetry Workshop in 1972, worked as a typesetter, printer, business editor, technical writer for automative and other subjects, and was a college and high school English teacher in Athens, Greece and New York City. He's published over 80 poems in such publications as Salmagundi, Notre Dame Review, South Carolina Review, Poetry East, Poem and other magazines.
WHY I CHOOSE SLEEP
Cloudy headaches, pinching shoes, hunger,
exile from dreams, thinning scalp --
sleep the strange balance amid autumnal gusts.
Behind the roadhouse
the icy blue wheels of vetch, joe-pie weed,
skeletal, resistant, cling like children
the last prayers of a world.
Disinfect walls, clear sky-lights, lie down
in deepening cold -- out of the west
thin smoke rises from rusting clothes.
With only half a heart
with flagrant whiteness.
Go hungry; black out in autumn;
abandon grainery; lights out; mute bells;
weather too bizarre to rise in.
GAMBLER LANCES A FLAME
4 a.m.; we cave in, then
we don’t; a strange hand
shoves the deck, we sit up,
money still flows, the door
stays locked. Your faces suddenly
magical, half-seen as bright robes beneath
lake ice. Look overhead, the mist of sleep,
it rose from us and gazes back down
as a child gazes back down
on its deathbed -- each breath
breaks off, yet remains, like bubbles
against rock face. If we
have motion, it is a dream of motion
crossing our eye-lids. If you go
to the window you may see light
flashing on the river bottom; the boats,
the paddles twined by heavy growth, the lovers
casting off for an hour turned to stone
dreaming of each other. We are wiser,
returning from beneath the scale
with the lightning of dawn. As you open
the curtains, what you see is the relic
of angelic slaughter laid down
as warning, as blessing. Let it splash
over to raise our desperate senses; what was,
a dream; today, and what’s to follow,
a dream, but sharper, made vital
by what passes from hand to hand
and never fails.
Children! Do you not know the nettle?
Do not touch him! Shun him, shun the field,
the feckled ridge, the tinner’s waste --
plunge like deer, bury yourselves. Deeply!
No prayers, no priest . . .
Look! I stepped down and the earth reeled
and stank, dust ate my heels
but the grandstand glitter lured me on.
All was free to taste, my palms tingled
but that music was a roaring cave. Children!
Get on and stay on. You’ll never see the end
if Mr. Nettle dogs your shadow. You’ll see your hat
ground my millstones, clothes drown
on your back. Listen when I spit in your ear!
Now that I’ve returned, shaken from a dark
blanket, and out of the ditches
a strangling, a splitting of doors. Cleave
to your harness, children, stoop to furrow,
surrender to the whorls of a still sky,
for one day while clearing your site
the nettle will be waiting, a sullen
churchman, unredeemed, patient. That broken soul,
listen to him, then, if you must, but turn,
stiff with cold, and drag your reins through brambles
back to the glow above your rafters, that silence
where your foals stir, women fling shutters open,
shaking the dust, calling your name. Touch their breasts,
bear your burden. Then bless your lucky stars,
children. I heard and followed. What’s poison
if not to taste? I stepped down
and the train rushed on. Now the rash burns,
never slows. From my hand our blood merged --
distemper my blood brother. No shadow before me,
none behind. Upon my forearm, in my palm grows
a sore, a brew that I suck for strength.
As you approach the piano, Lisa,
you would pass us here awaiting
a recital, pass without a glance
to meet those in the garden, a myriad,
you say, wearing the gold
of heavenly forgiveness;
you swear the angels surround you,
await you, and you yearn for the angels
to know you, to welcome you, but
what they desire, the angels,
is not your death, Lisa --
you breathe for them, they know it,
they know it like their deaths --
they may crave that you rise, Lisa,
rise out of your body,
but not for death, Lisa,
they may reach out
out of the last remnant
of breath, to you, Lisa;
and you hear them, you listen,
and offer, out of yearning, done
with yearning, with hurt, your breath;
all they yearn for
they live in your breath
they live in your breath
you take them in
when you take your breath
Lisa, they desire death,
but it is not your death,
it is their death
your death is their death
do not rise
do not rise to embrace it