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24. the wanderers’ blessing
25. family portrait
26. what happened to cousin harriet
27. our mother
28. song for my son
29. this is the box I leave to you
30. places of happiness (Candelaria)
31. three provinces and their king
32. baobab girl
33. savannah man
34. mother wolf
35. places of happiness (Colorado)
36. first grade activist
37. the olive farmer
38. the brimstone butterfly
39. places of happiness (Rajshahi)
40. the mango tree
41. homesteader
42. she came home suddenly
43. homecoming
44. reasons
45. april
46. the party

 
 

 
 

the wanderers’ blessing


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(The Albanian nun Teresa received Indian citizenship on 14 December, 1951. The official order granting citizenship stipulated simply that her name be removed from India’s List of Foreigners.)
 
the wanderer learns quickly
that in all places there are no lists
 
of those who belong, only lists
of those who don’t
 
members of the order
of strangers
 
and interlopers do not speak
when they pass each other in dim
 
mountain passes, on rope bridges
above the abyss
 
they bless each other silently
through bitter winds:
 
may your name be removed
from the list of foreigners

 
 
video based on this poem by Dave Bonta
 
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family portrait


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the goddess
 
is portly
but not made of balsa wood

last night, it rained slightly
around her

the land and his skin dry
upon him, the man approaches

with a basket of polished seed
from harvests past

he kneels and offers the basket
he inhales deeply, scenting

the breath of damp
from wood that is not balsa

she crushes the basket
with her foot

 
the man

retreats under thunder
to his cave and that night

twenty years of rain
fall before moonrise

the rising waters wake him
and he wades to the cave mouth

she shoots past
floating like balsa

the waters take him
and together, they flail

 
the child

unfolds on a sandbar
from the pulsing pile

of them, she totters
after a humming bird

 

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what happened to cousin harriet


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she pitched her tent
among the aspens
in spring
 
they shimmered
in hundreds
around her
 
she sat in their midst
as in the palm
of a many-fingered hand
 
all aspens are one tree
 
in May tall men emerged
from among the Douglas firs
and carried her away
 
when all was quiet again
the deer came

 

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our mother


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has a grappling hook
and a coil of rope
she wears them over her shoulder
when she goes to work
 
she gives us fifty kisses
anchors her grappling hook off our
bedroom window and climbs
over the sill in her big
adventure boots and her black
adventure watch with a compass and she
rappels away bouncing
and gliding down the side
of the world
 
we look out the window
down the rope
a lot but she always
surprises us she climbs in
at night and wakes us like a moon
on fire and daddy comes in frowning with
sticking up hair he says
it’s late and it’s
a school night but he wants to
dance around her too

 

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song for my son


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the shoulder blades under your skin are like the white
thread moon in the afternoon sky over
Naivasha when the ring doves descended
on clapping wings to take seed from your hand
and you were not afraid
 
your upper lip is the high violin
under bridges of Prague that drew all
sadness to the top of us and pulled us after still
as if it the moon and we
some spellbound tide
 
how do I speak of the sweep of your eyelashes
when you sleep they are like the opal reaching
of the midday tide on the beach at Tunis
when your brother buried you in the sand and your laughter
fell popping about us like bright green
carnival beads
 
that you are not here
is the raw black stench
left by wildfire at Suva
 
and the smoke
and the dying birds

 

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this is the box I leave to you


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it is of olive wood and has you grinning
and monster-leaping on me then us
tight-wrestling on the floor your squirming
 
feather bones and my square
growling ones muffling
your laughter it has our best stories Ferdinand

Swimmy The Berenstein Bears and you
being a shark me being a shark
in the pool on Saturday in

the sun gnashing our teeth your
laughter falling around me like
pearls it has me rubbing the boy-silk

of your back at eight o’clock
on school nights singing Brahms’ Wiegenlied over
and over and the poem you wrote my mom

smelz like hot cookies she feels mushy I love her
these are the things in the box
I leave to you which carries all the purple

pansies of my love and my honor to you
as you were as you are now as I shall not
have known you

 

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places of happiness
Candelaria


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my daughter asks about Colombia
and I tell her Bogotá in autumn
is drizzle and tramlines until
the Candelaria

where the streets become
warm stone they tighten
against cars and all the high houses
have names

we are students under full moon
in October in the Candelaria I tell her
weaving edgy midnight
laughter through the Gregorian
chant of log fire

Luis Fernando’s silver eyes are from
volcano land they jump at me through cracks
in the fire in the
wine he would much like
that I should sit by him

the warm bones
of his Michelangelo hand
press into my cheek and he uses
the subjunctive

there are cumbias
we slow strut raise our arms as hippy
sexy cockerels for the music they play boleros
for pelvis languor
to pelvis flaring out of rum
and aguardiente out of musky
anise which is fire-water which is the name
of our flesh its hot
crawling impulses
tomorrow
we will descend from the mountains we will go
to Villavicencio

suddenly it is dawn and Luis Fernando
turns my face kisses the oval-square of my jaw
that bone of mine
enchants him he whispers while I mourn
I do not want that I should go but the taxi takes me
from the Candelaria back to Bogotá and

this October in this New York my student daughter
is watching me

she puts down her book she kneels
by my chair in her orange jeans

her crooked smile
is moonrise in the Candelaria

 

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three provinces and their king


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the seafarers
 
he is our king he is
sweet he sails
among us and draws rope
as we do gives many names to the sea
as we do
 
then he leaves us he goes up
to the mountains (we know nothing
of the mountains)

 
the mountain folk
 
he is our king he climbs
to us in snows and the eagle
names him as he names
our babies on the tableland
 
then he leaves us he goes down
to the plains
which are far from us
and not known
 
 
the plainsmen
 
he comes to us and walks
among cattle as we walk
the yellow grass
of the plains speaks
his name as it speaks ours he is our king
 
but he leaves us he goes out
to the sea which is wet and
storm-ridden and is not
what we know

 
the king
 
we have no wars
we have named
the sea the mountains
and the plains

 
the king’s mother
 
woe is
this kingdom

 

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baobab girl


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inside the baobab
lives a dark slender girl
dressed in drifting
moon-cloth who carries
 
a luminous bone dagger
upon which she has carved
many names
exquisitely
 
at her belt a bag of duiker skin
swells with the pulsing
prayers she has stolen
and kept
 
singing high
she rides as she pleases
upon the great winds
and through the light
 
she haunts the canopy
of the baobab tree
and at night bends
over your fevered
 
sleep to whisper:
ausculta, fili! I am
that to which nothing
may be preferred

 
her eyes are dark gold
as wild bee honey
and when she moves
little blood-beads fall
 
in scalding rows
from her prayer bag
and settle steaming
on the path behind her

 

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savannah man


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what might stop him from walking out
into the soughing heat of his
savannah what might keep him
from its burning winds its
tricks its cozy
punishment
 
his feet are sewn to hot
trails only by wrenching by brute
ripping in his walk might he tear
into the blood table
 
would he fall then free
and bloody onto cold alien
steppe

 

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mother wolf


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the buck is beautiful but
so am I
 
and he is there
for me
 
as are that curving moon
and all the silver grass
of the plains
 
in a moment he will know me
our bounding hearts and churning
blood will spread the night
out like a season and we will
contemplate his death together
in detail in
grace
 
and I will bring the sweetness
of his death to my cubs
 
and the plains will name us
as we name the plains

 

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places of happiness
Colorado


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the toffee-eyed young man with fringes
on his leathers who rides an itching
chestnut filly as if he were a ribbon
knotted to her saddle is a wrangler
called Chance
 
he holds the filly in the tight braid
of a bosal rein because she wants to throw
him she bucks and curvets she
whirls and the arches
of her nostrils are like crescent
moons flashing silver through scudding night-time
storm clouds
 
the open place that happens like a gift
unwrapped when the trail emerges
from the pine forest is alpine meadow
thick blue with upright flowers
with dancing rows
of bottle-brush they are lupines and
larkspur the wranglers say you may not
dismount to pick them so you reach out
to pull a handful of needles and angled blue
berries from the scratching
bushes shaped like teardrops
through which the trail meanders
 
their smell is like the first Christmas
you remember and their name you learn is
juniper and as you ride over the meadow your horse snatches
wisping mouthfuls of silver-blue shrub the color
of your grandmother’s eyes the day she died
and it is sagebrush and so the day goes on
and the names roll in and the high bowl
of heaven you are riding through gives itself to you a little more
 
with each name and at nightfall
at campfire when Chance passes you
the steaming enigma of egg coffee
in a tin mug and you lie back to watch the pearl rise
of Colorado mountain moon you know this place
is yours

 

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first grade activist


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if your friend gets teased
because she has red hair
you could write a poem
about how she is like bonfires
 
in the evening on the sand
when you are camping
in the desert and the sand
cools all the red sun
 
inside it and comes with
your toes into your sleeping
bag and escapes
from the tent like a bonfire
 
early before your parents
wake and the morning sea
roars like bright red hair
and you could read it
 
to the class here is
a poem for my friend
with the red hair
you could say
a poem for my friend

 

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the olive farmer


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we have an orchard in the sun
with six hundred olive trees
and an olive mill, our trees
are centuries old
 
we have named our trees, we walk
frowning among them
draw our fingers across singing
ridges of ancient olive bark
 
our skin watches for harvest time
with the moon, we shake
the olive fruit carefully from our trees
and carry it to the granite stones
 
of our mill and when we have ground
our year of olives into rich paste
and spread it on the straw mats
of our press, we watch it engender
 
a slow green-gold with the sun inside it
the hiss of pepper, a thrumming
of butter and the taste
of tart grass and cold appled fruit

 

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the brimstone butterfly


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Sarah thinks she is like
the brimstone butterfly
although she is solid
and brown like burnished
tamarind seed
and the brimstone butterfly
is pale lemon and
mist green with fairy veins
in its wings and a shimmer
like leaf-tremor
 
the sun shines
through its wings and you think they are
just leaves when you are walking by seeing
just leaves
 
but something stops you after
you have passed and makes you go
back and bend your face
close to see the pale yellow-green
butterfly among leaves
which is not a leaf
 
Sarah moves with tall boys
who have bonfire hair and blue
suits or gray eyes and butterscotch
hair she moves with them from meeting
to meeting and she is like the brimstone
butterfly among leaves people don’t see her and
don’t see her then suddenly they stop
after they have passed they come
back and bend their face close
to see the butterfly
which is not a leaf
 
Sarah used to kick
the furniture over being a brimstone
butterfly but now she finds it good she finds it
restful for the boys to lead
the meeting she hopes
they lead it right so she does not have to put it
right and make people stop
to look at the butterfly who is not a leaf because
sometimes now Sarah just wants
to be a leaf

 

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places of happiness
Rajshahi


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what
land of crawling
green of rain winding
water and ancient
tree life what
are you saying I will listen first
 
to the banyan for the banyan breaks
my heart growing old as it does in thick
high grace on the banks
of the Padma gripping
tight as it does the soil
of Rajshahi against the swirl the
gray-brown leak
of monsoon
flood what then
 
of the rice fields the luminous green song
of the rice fields and the girl
in the orange sari
working in bright single
grace a lonely
knife in all the wide green shimmer
of the Nawabganj
rice fields
 
and when I walk
in the jade rustle the deep
shade of the Chandipur
mango groves the swelling
of my heart is surely
audible for these trees call the names
 
of people I have known in voices
older than any dream
of Paradise and the scent of the fozli
mango blossom on the wind
aches like sharp questions like many
sharp questions of the kind
posed by God

 

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the mango tree


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so cool inside
the mango tree
 
soaring leaf dome
wired for jade rustle
 
rough bark knobs
sweet along my back
 
fugitive suns
burst through my eyelids
 
mango juice drips
off my fingers
 
the universe
sways with the breeze

 

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homesteader


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I step into the heat
as into a dress
 
the sun fits me, it is
my size
 
and the heat is
face-shaped
 
I move through it
tightly, in state in
 
slow motion, sailing
reef-eyed, hearing breath
 
the color of amber the color
of prayer
 
how silent is the heat, how long
the voyage
 
I will anchor here
in all the yellow grass of the plains, here
 
in the thick mutter
of brown soil

 
 
video based on this poem by Dave Bonta
 
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she came home suddenly


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twenty years she spoke
spare speech
in the desert twenty years
 
wearing white garments
as skin
forgetting
 
the liquid syllables
of home the moist onslaught
of sea wind
on naked skin
 
but when a place is your place
it tucks itself into you
prickingly
 
tattoo ink stigmata
and the ink is alive
 
and your tattoo sleeps it
sleeps then it
wakes
 
and the singing ink
reminds you
 
your place in red ache
is still calling
 
(on the sea wall again
her bare body drank
it drank and she said bless me
for I have sinned
)

 

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homecoming


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I will return one day a peddler
all hung about with winking boxes
 
in each a sweet thing will nestle -
a fragrant salt color, a talking
blue smell
 
on Fourth and Main at Sarah’s
the neighbors will mutter
we knew she would come to no good
 
but my father will hire a brass band
here is my daughter he will announce
in his purple bay leaf voice

 

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reasons


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because your eyes feel furrowed
and green-brown
like farmland in spring because your voice trails
the scent of cedar trees in June
 
because your fingers whispering on my skin
taste like mulled wine before Christmas
and my tongue feathering yours
hears an Easter oboe
 
because you smell of old gold
and orange and Friday afternoon because I listen
for the red fragrance of palm blood and weep
its warm splash

 

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april


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I woke from my nap and heard the goldfish whistling
I got up and pressed my face to the glass
 
goldfish I said please stop
it unpuckered its tiny orange lips but didn’t stop whistling
 
I went outside and a warm
blanket of bees fell upon me
 
that’s it I said
but the thrumming crept
 
into my ears like dormice
and you threw a bucket of sun over me
 
and I became so bright
I closed my eyes

 

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the party


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I will have a party and invite
Thursday for Thursday has glossy
black hair and a ticket
to Istanbul
 
I will invite the road to
Nizwa which is snaking and wears
skirts of orange silk embroidered
with humming birds I will invite
 
your birthday which is a green perfume
opening with bright citrus its notes are
bergamot its notes are moss it dances
bolero and the guests
 
of honor at my party will be
your years to come they will offer me
bowing deeply
cinnamon twigs and fire

 

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4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Forever Will End on Thursday by Nic Sebastian on 17 Apr 2011 at 4:01 am

    [...] in the ancient mold, or the beginnings of myths. There’s a soil maiden, a charcoal man, a baobab girl, and a man who marries a great cat. There are “places of happiness” on five continents [...]

  2. [...] what Dave Bonta has made, from one of the poems in Forever Will End On Thursday. I love [...]

  3. By Stepping into the heat on 24 Jul 2011 at 12:05 pm

    [...] book Forever Will End On Thursday and quickly found a nearly perfect fit: the poem “homesteader,” from which begins: I step into the heat as into a [...]

  4. [...] Forever Will End On Thursday: – video based on the poem homesteader, by Dave [...]

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