Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jay Chollick's "Finding the Refuge"

Jay is another regular at the Pink Pony Express open-mic at Cornelia Street Cafe. Bald, bespectacled, atheistic, Jewish, he is a visual artist who has turned to writing poetry late in life. From the start his poetry impresses me with its intellectual muscle, its rhetorical flights and its mixture of ornate and colloquial diction. Last night at Cornelia, he read an eloquent, moving prayer for survival, for all of us.

Finding the Refuge

Look back--ahead--the place
is dense
but we are forced
through creeping almost blind,
to move, we've seen
too much. Is there, away
from the world's
appalling room, a quiet

Spot--some place
of weakened energy--to lie,
sink down upon, is there
a hill; a water sound;
and muscled with
light twittering, is there a tree,
a massive twig
to catch the tearing of our shadows
on, does it

Exist? A place
of deep forgetfulness, where,
braided into greenery the skull
is hushed; and where,
to the quiet vapor of the mind
a herd in dappled movement
comes, we know
at last, snout-intimate, the breath,
the antler

Slowly forming--we know
the deer--sink down with it--the
priceless eden
claiming us--No more

Of torment, the offended skin,
a liquid-boned Hiroshima--and slime
Napoleons, they've
disappeared--and oil! religious
rot! the trundled wagons
of the plague--we sit here

Smooth. And on the ardent
patch, where only love, like lightning
to the retina, is seen, we give
a massive hug
to elephants--how could
we not? We draw such ceaseless

From the tusk

A tree "muscled with light twittering" is more than a turn of phrase; it is a new vision of a tree that a tree hardly understands. "Snout-intimate" makes me feel a new kind of closeness. The world's horrors are renamed: a liquid-bone Hiroshima, slime Napoleons, the trundled wagons of plagues, old and new. And then, that marvellous transformation of the "massive twig" into the "tusk" of the elephant we massively hug.

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