Among Lemon Trees
Lemon trees studded the land,
and the woman, though pregnant,
moved swiftly among them.
Some had fallen in the previous night’s wind
and some remained, oddly green
for October, on the uppermost branches.
Now and then she shifted her hand
from hip to belly just to make sure—
the last had been lost
on a melancholy Sunday afternoon,
the last they’d told themselves
would be the last, but this
would be different. The air,
with its pungent sense of ripening
everywhere, assured her this would be
different. There’d be no blood this time,
no reckoning, no songs on the radio
to make her cry. Beyond the lemons,
the grapes, and then the spindly limbs
of the cherry trees outstretched,
but there was not a place to go—
months ago the birds had labored
and the village children stole
what they could not. Soon, November
would arrive, and the sea would rise
with that month’s cool and unforgiving rain.
Ayse Has A Secret
Ayşe has a secret.
Ayşe, overseer of the lonesome road
leading out of Bornova, has a secret,
a thing her father said
when she was four. He claimed and
she believed the Aegean Sea
edged the universe,
and if she stepped in she’d fall
across all of blue-black space and would still
be falling now. It was
an adult dare, a thing we say
to make our children stare in wonder;
we admire the gleam in their eyes
and adore them more
because they fear
what we cannot. So that July
she stayed ashore and gathered shells
and watched her mother descend
the steps with a plate of fruit. The water,
abhorrent, unholy—meant death
and worse than it, the neverending,
the calls of them way down below
who’d watch her fade: first a girl
and then kite-small
and then a speck ascending, ascending.
I tell Ayşe that would be a brilliant way
to go, but even now she turns away.
Turning, disappearing nonetheless.
Seven Lessons For My Students In Creative Writing 101
Eat carrots and beans and be reminded
of the million ditches in Nebraska,
and that axles bend sometimes. Being safe
and being home: these are the things
that matter. And that there may be soup
and a blonde lover who despises poems.
Read everything of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Watch Rathbone in the old black-’n’ whites
and note his gestures and especially his hair.
Tell me why he plays the violin. Think often
of violins and very sad men, and more
of Watson’s simple genius. It will be OK.
Sometimes the truth’s ridiculous; sometimes
it gnaws the gut like a patient Dalmation
gnaws a bone. By December you will know
the difference. By November when
the world’s aflame it will not matter.
Truth is always disguised as truth.
In diners, eat what the waitress suggests.
In love or out of it, iron your clothes
and save brutality for yourself. Brutality’s
an instinct of the damned, and the hungry
man who lives on 4th Street’s perfected it.
Avoid parties and people who don’t laugh.
Sleep with one leg under the blanket
and the other askance. Drink much water
and protect the bees; when all seems lost
you’ll have them as companions. Never date
a woman called Leyla or a man who says
he cannot stay away. Read Ghanian history.
Never write of war or truck-drivers.
Never think that what you’ve done I haven’t.
Never cheat at cards and never call the sky
black. And never steal peaches
from Mrs. Pritchard’s tree. She’ll call
the cops and you don’t want that.
Most of all, attend your mother, ill or well.
She’ll believe in you when the world
does not. She’ll take your stories
as her own and fry you fish and potatoes.
These will sustain you January evenings
when you fail. Take your failures quietly.