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Inner Ocean Fantasy 2011
25” x25"
by John Babcock

Photo by Linda Babcock

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Danusha Laméris

Arabic

I don’t remember the sounds
rising from below my breastbone
though I spoke that golden language
with the girls of Beirut, playing hopscotch
on the hot asphalt. We called out to our mothers
for lemonade, and when the men
walking home from work stooped down,
slipped us coins for candy, we thanked them.
At the market, I understood the bargaining
of the butcher, the vendors of fig and bread.
In Arabic, I whispered into the tufted ears
of a donkey, professing my love. And in Arabic
I sang at school, or dreamt at night.
There is an Arab saying,
Sad are only those who understand.
What did I know then of the endless trail
of losses? In the years that have passed,
I’ve buried a lover, a brother, a son.
At night, the low drumroll
of bombs eroded the edges of the city.
The girls? Who knows what has been taken
from them.

For a brief season I woke
to a man who would whisper to me
in Arabic, then tap the valley of my sternum,
ask me to repeat each word,
coaxing the rusty syllables from my throat.
See he said, they’re still there.
Though even that memory is faint.
And maybe he was right. What’s gone
is not quite gone, but lingers.
Not the language, but the bones
of the language. Not the beloved,
but the dark bed the beloved makes
inside our bodies.

Eve, After

Did she know
there was more to life
than lions licking the furred
ears of lambs,
fruit trees dropping
their fat bounty,
the years droning on
without argument?

Too much quiet
is never a good sign.
Isn’t there always
something itching
beneath the surface?

But what could she say?
The larder was full
and they were beautiful,
their bodies new
as the day they were made.

Each morning the same
flowers broke through
the rich soil, the birds sang,
again, in perfect pitch.

It was only at night,
when they lay together in the dark
that it was almost palpable—
the vague sadness, unnamed.

Foolishness, betrayal,
—call it what you will. What a relief
to feel the weight
fall into her palm. And after,
not to pretend anymore
that the terrible calm
was Paradise.

Fly

It lands on the white page
right under the glare of my flashlight
and I’m startled, not by the idea of a fly
soiling the last section of Jack Gilbert’s poem,
it’s furred legs obscuring the lines about the ancient
Sumerian tablets not being inventory, but poems or psalms.
It’s the beauty that surprises me, a kind of iridescence
I’d imagine reserved for Cleopatra’s jewels.
Though what gem glitters so? In the alphabet
of veridity I can name, emerald, malachite
serpentine, jade. But this is green fused with gold
the way Thai silk glimmers two different shades,
depending on how you hold it to the light,
or the dipped-in-liquid color
painted inside an abalone shell.
Peacocks know this hue, luminosity reflected
off their satin tail feathers.
I wish I could be a fly on the wall, we say.
I have swatted flies, shooed them out the window,
brushed them from my arms in the heat of summer.
But this one rustles its filigreed wings, shifts its body,
now covering the words, “ingots,” and “copper”
and for a moment I see it—held aloft
by the bezel of language—looking back at me
though its big, glossy black eye.

Danusha Laméris’s work has been published in American Poetry Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, New Letters, Crab Orchard Review and The Sun and as well as in a variety of other journals and anthologies, including the Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Verse. Her first book, The Moons of August, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the 2013 Autumn House Press poetry prize and was a finalist for the Milt Kessler Book Award. Her poem, “The God of Numbers,” received a special mention in the 2015 Pushcart anthology. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches private writing workshops.

Nonfiction
Wallace J Nichols
Micah Perks

Poetry
Danusha Laméris
Debra Spencer
Gary Young
Jake Young

Artwork
John Babcock


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