Monday, November 4, 2013

California Poet Jane Blue Celebrates Zsa Zsa Gabor and Icarus

Jane Blue's work has been published recently in Pirene's Fountain, FutureCycle, TheInnisfree Poetry Journal, Stirring, and Avatar. In the past her poems have appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, The Antigonish Review, The Louisville Review, and Quarter After Eight, among other print and online journals, as well as anthologies, books, and chapbooks. A new book of poems, Blood Moon, will be published by FutureCycle Press in early 2014. She was born and raised in Berkeley, CA, and now lives near the Sacramento River with her husband, Peter Rodman.

Who Lit This Flame in Us? 
by Alexandra Eldridge

Zsa Zsa Gabor Asks for a Priest

She sits up slightly in her neat chaste bed, sheets
tucked in hospital corners, someone singing
a canticle in her brain; whispers that she wants
the last rites. She can speak "only a little,"
the usually voluble Zsa Zsa. And from her heart
a lily grows. The bed floats above the faded world,
no gems, no diadems. No one sees it, looking at
her crumpled, sculpted face. From long habit
she says the Hail Mary before the priest arrives.
A halo dissolves among the clustered stars,
the glowing lily becomes a giant lamp, or a Sister
of Mercy's starched headdress, which she remembers
from her Hungarian childhood, how the nuns worried
about their intricately folded creations wilting
and shrinking in the rain. Someone has thought
of umbrellas, but Zsa Zsa is floating far above them.
The paint is not yet dry in the ecstatic shadows;
she is still alive. She cannot say if she feels a tinge
of disappointment, married nine times, eight times
failed, a hunger dogging her. Drifting into
the midnight sky, the nebulae, she looks down
upon herself, the priest anointing her.

Landscape with the The Fall of Icarus,
Attributed to 
Peter Breughel the Elder
Landscape with the The Fall of Icarus

O! I am the center of the universe; the sun
revolves around me! Icarus thought in that
plangent moment before the wax of his wings
melted, and the feathers fluttered out
into Breughel's blue sky; almost consumed
by the cloud of amorphous, pale light
that Breughel smudged, lemon-colored,
across the upper right quadrant of the canvas.
The sun was that close in those days; Daedalus
warned his son, "Don't fly too close," but Icarus,
being an adolescent, did exactly the opposite;
the contraption was Daedalus' own invention:
a test, sending Icarus first as you might ask
the host to taste the wine for poison, or
give a bit of meat to the cat; in a flash Icarus
is in the green Cretan sea, head first, legs
jutting up, flailing only a little; fat Daedalus,
wearing a woolen robe, reaching timidly
from the bank toward the drowning boy,
too late; ashamed to call for help. And life
goes on; birds sing, water laps;
sure-footed sheep munch up and down
the steep hillside, almost to the cove where
Icarus sinks; a young man plows tiers
into rough soil, pushing as the horse pulls,
both their heads bent to the task; the focus:
work, daily life, a red blouse; a ship sails away
from Icarus' splashing; the shepherd
rests on his staff, glancing up to the left
where he thought he saw a speck in the sky.

Woman Reading
Digital painting by Dean Pasch

Always breaking out/ and in/ of prison

Your legs on the ground and the sun
so bright you cannot see; cannot stand
to love sometimes, and you want to leap
back through the grate
into that dark, solitary cell.

And the memories come: reading the poems
of Thomas Merton, on a bench
in the courtyard of an old convent
in Maryland. (Merton says an abbey
is paradise and purgatory.)
The encircling balconies

the brick courtyard. (The brick
prison and the mouth of the grill.)

A nun scurries upstairs, leading a man
to a cell. He is a doctor. An old, old nun
is dying.

And how this seems a curiosity, not a tragedy.

What you don't remember is why
you were there, in the sun, reading.

painters and poets

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