Talking with Poets (page 2)
Talking with Poets
page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5
 
Do you have a line or two (or three) that expresses the experience for you from one of your poems?
Brazaitis:

    She wants to know my name,
    where I’m from,
    how old I am.
    Her questions come as quick as water
    rippling over rocks.

These lines are from “On the Roof of the Hotel Pasaje.” For me, they capture the experience of being in a foreign country — how people were curious about me and how I, in turn, was curious about them. From such curiosity (and such questions) grew many friendships.

Conlon: I was a PCV in Botswana but lived only a few miles from the South African border. As a result I spent a good deal of time in South Africa with friends from all racial groups, and I found myself in Cape Town on the very first day after the beaches had been desegregated. Here’s a three-line poem about it:

    Beaches Open To All Races Today
    Cape Town. 1990

    Two little girls, shadow-colored and shining,
    splash naked in the open sun: happy as porpoises,
    as if the waves were not white, merely water.

Szumowski: I had a hard time choosing, but this is from “Ngorogoro”:

    In hot dust the markets wait. Flies crowd the bloody meat, the black fish.
    Hawkers and urchins pester me, beggars tear at my sleeve. The women pull me
    again. I want this world.

Neelon:

    Out of her good heart, my neighbor
    gave me a chicken.
    I was a stranger,
    carnivorous.

These are the opening lines of “Chicken Tied Up in a Red Handkerchief,”: a sestina I wrote using the endwords “neighbor,” “chicken,” “stranger,” “knife,” “heart” and “yard.”
     Shortly before I was scheduled to leave my post in Fatick, Senegal, a friend gave me a chicken as a going-away gift. The irony, of course, was that I had to kill it in order to appreciate it as a gift. In retrospect, I see this irony as emblematic. Africa blasted away any number of self-imposed limitations, so that afterwards, as a writer, I could begin to give myself away.

Rich:

    By evening when she tastes
    my color coated chocolates
    shares them with her friends
    we both will recall the nomad
    the other woman
    that we each might have been.

or

    And I searched to forego belonging
    like a Bedouin who leaves her home

    hung inside a desert tree
    knowing it does not really matter

    if the branches are bare when she returns,
    if she decides, to come back this way again.

Meek:
From “Gift”

    I was given a sliver
    of tongue, of the tongue that belled in that head
    roped to the tree as the blade
    narrowed. It tasted

    of river, a bed of mud, near clarity
    Stammering over stone.

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