“The Trouble with Being Human” by George Kalamaras

14 November 2011 on Poetry   Tags:

It seemed secure as a proper-fitting shoe.
Then the cabbage soup got cold.

We leaned into our autumn evening
and disturbed the owl, somehow there
in the kitchen, perfectly content
by the pot.  Mostly, though,
our breath was gypsy.

We touched a pair of candles.
Great wagons with torches came
toward us.  The smell of Transylvanian pine
resin and flame.  Long shadows
larger and smaller than a bark canoe
that swept past, containing our secret.

What grain of love grew in the unkind word?
In the public coat and collar turning
against the mold that collected just as anemic
green in other people's plates?
What was in the bone of the hand that made it
reach toward another, shake vigorously
upon meeting some stranger?  The rivers in the palm
were no help.  Once mine even read
trouble ahead at the same time as
you are a perfect soul.

What restrained the breath,
made it lift and fall
even in our sleep, as if some star-filled
indigo ocean struggled against our will to flood
the prairie with the piracy of our dream?

The soup contained tomato and leeks
and, of course, requisite slabs
of cabbage.  It recalled deep forest,
Hungarian ponies, and dark rye,
tasted vaguely of pine cone
and the resinous sadness
of the poems of Lucien Blaga.

We listened to the dwindling dancing fire
snap of Saturday evening
radio talk, clung like salve
to the list of jazz lions
after each cut.

We fed the owl tiny roasted seeds
that seemed to come from us.
Asked its forgiveness
for what, as human, we had done
just to stay alive,
for what hurt lay ahead
we might, unknowingly, one day do.


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