The Lotus Tree Literary Review, Autumn 2022 (issue #1)

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31 | Poetry by Catherine Sloane


Editor’s Note: Growing up, I heard exciting tales about my globetrotting aunt, though for decades I did not get the chance to visit with her. Sitting there dusty barefoot in a faded Ocean Pacific T-shirt miles down a potholed, dirt road in California, hearing that she had attended the wedding of European royalty and had been the piano teacher for Paul Newman’s kid, or was the goddaughter of Robert Giroux, I began to envision her as being more a character in a novel than a real-life person. I remember thinking that she must have been leading a glamorous and international life like that of Bianca Castafiore, the Italian opera singer from The Adventures of Tintin (to this day, I use a Tintin framework to contextualize pretty much everything, bless you, Hergé). Not very long ago, I discovered that my aunt writes poetry and that some of it has been published, thus weaving another weft yarn into the swirling tapestry of her already colorful narrative. But as one can see in her poetry, not everything was glamorous. Such is life, the potholes and the bullet holes alike.

The gorgeous and poignant “love bites,” is best served by the Escher-like complexity of the numbered formatting in which I received it, but which was utterly impossible for me to replicate here. Even a simple copy & paste required typing in lines of poetry that had floated off and landed elsewhere. In the end, I presented the poem left-aligned as I usually do, its qualities, ultimately, undiminished.

I am very pleased to give you the following poems, some of which have been published elsewhere, some of which have not.

the ups and downs of heaven and hell

I was pretty sure I was going to hell
when I was a kid.
after all, I couldn’t compete very well
with all those deadly sins, pride,
envy, sloth and all the rest,
venial sin on one side, mortal on the other.
and I never tried my best
to be pure in thought and deed, but wanted to discover
each and every part of my anatomy
see how it was all arranged,
then look across at my neighbor’s geography
having noticed he was differently hinged.

the idea of heaven, angels and harps seduces,
but wouldn’t want to bet on it more than a pair of deuces.

Lebanon, 1993

(a haibun)

We headed to the mountains, leaving the frayed, bullet holed city
to sweat in the summer sun as we swooped upwards
on rutted roads. Bald tires squealed each turn and rocked us in our cradle
of old american sprung seats.

the adulterous affair
with america the beautiful
in old chevy seats

We felt a sudden freshness, began to pass small worn villages that breathed
carefully in the aftermath of war, a moslem village here, a christian one there.
Pockets of lush vegetation sprouted everywhere. It was foule medame season.

moslem, christian, druze
segregated villages
integrated graveyards

After an hour we reached the village of Souk-el-Gharb, its main street
battered even after several years of tenuous peace, deserted
but for a couple of shuffling women in black. I had a sudden vision of them preserved
in mothballs for the eternity that was the war, only recently re-aired.

two black moths
flutter
in the dead village

We parked in front of the old stone house, still intact except for the roof
which had disgorged its red Marseille tiles. We didn’t need the key.
Several armies had passed through. I picked my way carefully and entered.

front yard rubbled
careful steps
in case of ordnance

The walls were still standing. There was the bathroom where I’d had my weekly bath,
water warmed in an oversized aluminum pot, the kitchen
with grey marble sink miraculously untouched, the familiar crack running through the middle.

another life
I am a cat
with nine lives

We checked to see if anything was left but no, even the soul had gone long
ago, the walls were mute. I stood in eerie silence listening for anything.
The house gave off an almost hostile feel, suddenly seemed to say, “I’ve been betrayed,
ravished, go and let me be.”

a ragged village
still stunned
still shunned

Mistral

I wanted to write a poem
about the wind,

how it yowled up a tree
it’s hair on end,
how it howled and caterwauled
and hissed my hair and clothes,
how it scratched,
and clawed
brambled branches
into my face
and screamed abuse,
how it tore three times
around the house
trying to find a crack.

I wanted to write a poem
about the wind,
but today the air
sits quietly, waiting
for direction.

My Secret Garden

walking through the hills one bright june day
I fell upon a hollow in the ground,
felt a pull, a gentle tug. if I’d believed in little folk,
I might have stayed longer and listened
to the grey rock, and pines.
warm resin wafted, carried by a
breeze. wild lavender poked up in tufts, I picked
a bunch, rubbed it between my hands and sniffed.
I lay back letting scents and small sounds
do what they would.

a sadness washed over me,
a sadness that I could not fully grasp
and make my own such loveliness,
that it would dangle just out of reach,
though I clutched sweetness to my face
and leaned against warm rock,
though I took breath after breath,
that it might reach my heart.

Coming Back to Beethoven

the first time I tried it
sitting at an old grand in a friend’s living room
I picked out notes from the page
slipped them under my fingers

sounds like spring growth
that lean into new sun and wind
I struggled with the mood
couldn’t quite fit it to my own
or sense the darkness
underneath

till now 30 years later
I take it up again

listen to the melody
that floats over autumnrich
reds and browns

the lamentation for the dying year
the deafened ear

I pluck at arpeggios
like golden apples

and run along descending scales
swooping like a bird

with a rush of wings

I don’t dare lose a note

this grip on life

love bites

morning ripples roses
through my window
as I half dream the dreams
of the night before
and clasp them to my chest
I turn and look at you
and know it wasn’t a dream
at all

what is this love
this man and this woman
a river flowing down the middle
and myself looking for places to ford

I gave you half my life
like a melon in your garden
cut down the middle
full of seeds and juice
not yet overripe
waiting for you to scoop up
taste and let trickle down

shall I see you
in the afternoon
when sunlight lengthens
shadows down to gold
and we can find a shade
to while away an hour
perfume of lavender and jasmine
seduce the air
I’ll tell you where to find me
in the scented afternoon
I’ll be quite alone

like freshly baked bread
we melt
into each other’s mouths

I feel your edges stirring me up
as we lie side by side
heat seeps through cracks in the
windowframe.
cicada noise rises to deafening
stillness
as I turn to you
jump into your eyes

Lorsque je te vois a la fin
de la journee
ton sourire remplace le soleil
couchant

I traced your laugh lines
and told you that your tears
already had their paths

When I think of you
I smile inside
but sometimes the smile
touches the corners
of my mouth

wind spires pass by the door
I am in myself and you are in yourself
the edges of night pull down
around the house
I try to tell you secrets, the secrets
from the dark places
of the heart
tu tourne le dos et la fleur meurt
dans la nuit froide

the evening is quiet
you are still out
I’m thinking of you
in the jeweled sunset

the lamplight falls
softly on your
book
as I look at you
the fire is almost out
a few embers glow
in the slow going of the evening

the day ends
with gathered whispers
flower stalks back
against the darkened sky
wind dies down to fitful breeze
I remember you in my other life
blurred now with age
in my opening statement
I didn’t foresee any of this

a square of white sand
burnt by the sun
a turquoise sea
stretched out
we have no past
and no future

I hear the wind outside
it wants to come in
arrrrr arrrrr
but the doors are shut tight
as they are shut to you
today
my love

I loved
you
once
upon
a
time

your smiles have turned
the other way

love lost
among the briars
I pull out each painful thorn

I woke up one morning
got sadder and sadder
as the day grew long
wondered why I didn’t meet you
in rampaging youth
all our buttons undone

we are hung out
our juices dripping
tomorrow we will be pressed
folded
and laid away