Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Wishes with Roses and Ivy

It is that time of the year again. Christmas. The stack of cards waits for my pen and a moment of stillness. Maybe an afternoon on the sunny patio would allow me to reconnect with friends and family? There is so much to do, so many parties to go to. I have to remember not to start thinking of holiday-ing as a chore, one more thing to do when there is no time, no time at all. It is nice to send cards, at least to sign them, if not write something original for every addressee. We are all interconnected through a network of thoughts and affection, but tend to forget about its importance in days filled with the daily business of busy-ness.

I was asked to read some poems at a party and realized that I have not written my annual Christmas poem yet. It came to me in the rain, when I could barely see the road ahead and the sky was heavy with darkness.

Did you know?

Some Christmases are rainy
Tears fall from overcast sky
On lonely crowds in hospitals
And prison yards

Sometimes Christmas is icy
Frozen under the pale moon
Changing faces into lifeless
Shadows at night

Some Christmases are scarlet
And green like fir garlands and hearts
Warmed by barszcz and hot chocolate,
Evenings by the fire

Sometimes Christmas is white
Snowflakes melt on my gloves
The thin wafer of opłatek we break
Shelters us in good wishes

Some Christmases are sparkly
With the tinsel of laughter
Giggling children unwrap gifts
Magic in the morning

My Christmas is golden
Like that first star of Wigilia,
Warm kisses with kompot and kutia
Blessings under the tree

© 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

I paired this poem with a photo I took this October at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I liked the open window, looking out through the multitude of shapes and colors onto a simpler, luminous world.

The picture became the cover of my Christmas card, and I paired it with the collage for the poem of "Rosa Mystica" - already posted here, but included below in the image pages. I also reprinted my last year's holiday poem, "Rules for Happy Holy Days" as a reminder about the importance of holidays. This poem was written for my last year's Christmas wishes. These Rules are timeless.

Rules for Happy Holy Days

Don’t play Christmas carols
at the airport. Amidst the roar
of jet engines, they will spread
a blanket of loneliness
over the weary, huddled masses,
trying not to cry out for home.

Don’t put Christmas light on a poplar.
With branches swathed in white
galaxies, under yellow leaves, the tree
will become foreign, like the skeleton
of an electric fish, deep in the ocean.

Clean the windows from the ashes
of last year’s fires. Glue the wings
of a torn paper angel. Brighten
your home with the fresh scent
of pine needles and rosemary.

Take a break from chopping almonds
to brush the cheek of your beloved
with the back of your hand,
just once, gently. Smile and say:
“You look so nice, dear,
you look so nice.”

© 2009 by Maja Trochimczyk

Since the year 2012 is supposed to be the last year of this Earth in existence in its present form, I figured I'll reprint, as a farewell of sorts, the "Apocalypsis" poem written for Easter, as well as some lovely poems that I enjoyed writing and reading this year: "A Jewel Box Sunrise" and "On Mushrooms." Below is the complete card with all the poems I selected to share for the holidays this year.


Poetry, photos and design (c) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

You can print out a little booklet from the .jpg images of the poems, each stretched to a full page 81/2 by 11 in., sideways.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Season Sparkling with Love

I spent the morning taking pictures of liquid amber leaves and all sorts of other colorful tree leaves or petals that shone in the sun. I love the sparkling beauty of sunlight. The pictures are not ready yet, but I found a poem about fall colors, so here it is.

As everyone knows, November in California is the equivalent of September in Canada, and our fall display of color ends only at Christmas. The first daffodils are coming out already, confused.

The Way

Do you like the poplars?
They line up the streets
cutting across sugar beet fields
on the outskirts of Warsaw
The yellow heart-shaped leaves
tremble in the breeze, glisten
like molten metal after the rain

The California poplars stand straight
and tall, guarding the way
Two fence poles gossip
The fields sparkle with color –
Fuchsia, rusty orange,
Burnt mauve, and bronze

The summer grass is dead
The rocks bruised purple
By the dying sun
Only the sky, blessed by honey,
Shines with the mandarin certainty
Of coming home

Would you like to know everything about everything? How about narrowing the focus and knowing just one thing, right now? Is knowing it all better than loving it all? Or some of it? As far as we can see? Astronomers keep finding clouds of matter further and further away. Billions of years. The seventh-billion human was born recently, or so we heard. Could you love seven billion people, even in theory? Possibly not. The numbers are too overwhelming.

Holidays give us a perfect opportunity to leave billions of people to their own resources, abandon trillions of stars spread across billions of light years to their unimaginable cosmic scale, and to focus on the people we are closest to, those we are connected with either biologically, through genetic links of kinship, or by choice, through that strange thing called "love."

It is probably because I got so completely disconnected from my "kinship network" and the safety of my genetically-predetermined, linguistically-defined environment, that I like writing about love so much. Writing is a substitute for doing, Freud knew that. At one point, I tried to define the various types of love, from desire to acceptance. The word itself is completely overused and extremely hard to put in a poem.

There is no greater love than... Love your neighbor... Do you love me? ... Mommy loves you...I love this necklace... I love turkey?

What does a single person without a single family member nearby do on Thanksgiving or Christmas? Mope around? Try to score an invitation to someone's party? Write? I wake up early and look at the sky above the hills outside my window. I make up memories of non-existent past. They are nicer than the real ones, I'm sure of that.

A Jewel Box Sunrise

Silver cirrus clouds float west
Like shoals of fish in an amethyst sky.
Sun rises over a wintry orchard.
The smooth zeppelin of poetry
Carries me above the tangle of dreams.
I rest, bruised after stumbling
Through twisted roots, broken tree limbs.

Frost grows flowers on window panes.
See how they dance? You nod
Over your morning tea. “You are welcome”
I smile at your questioning gaze.
My grandma’s gold-rimmed china cup
Warms your hands. Steam rises
From the bright topaz liquid.

“Tea flows in your veins, sweets,”
You say, laughing. The helium of words
Fills the skin of the moment.
“Come here” – you wrap
Your arms around my waist.
A kiss of herbal fragrance.
Dawn blossoms into lucid light.

We go outside, stand under
Snow-covered cherry trees.
They sigh and crackle. Their sap
Rises deep beneath the bark.
The white balloons of our breaths
Dissipate through cold air crystals.

I’m glad I waited so long
For my jewel box sunrise.


The "Jewel Box" poem came from the coldness of an air-conditioned room and being really, and I mean, really bored with an endless meeting. This is why I'm never bored. In transit, on a plane, waiting for a red light - if I find a bit of paper of any kind, I just write, write, write. Is it a better way of spending time than doing anything else, like fretting and complaining? Possibly. The results are here to stay.

Pity the modern chefs of astounding inventiveness; we can never eat twice what they cook. Pity the musicians before the advent of recordings; we could never listen twice to their voices. The notation was, and is, just a skeleton of a music that came to life under their fingers, with the air they breathed.

But pity the poets? We still know the names of Sappho, Dante, Keats. The words change meaning as the river of language flows, like lava, through centuries. The liquid, effervescent stream shifts, evolves, and transforms itself in response to the new landscape it encounters. We translate and re-translate ancient poetic gems into new linguistic guises. Poetry lives, sparkling with love. It is the mirror of the spirit, life itself.


Photos of public art at Washington Dulles International Airport, and of a palm frond in Sunland, California (C) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

Poetry (c) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk. "The Way" was inspired by a painting "Road Home Olancha" by Trish Shaheen, a part of the Poets on Site project associated with the "Painting My Way" exhibition at APC Gallery in Torrance, September 2011. Published in the Poets on Site anthology, edited by Kathabela Wilson.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Szymanowska's Satin Slippers

I went to Paris in September, came back changed in October. An astounding city, full of history and charm. My purpose was to talk about Maria Szymanowska and visit and photograph places associated with Chopin. I found his grave and put a poem from "Chopin with Cherries" there. I went to the church where his Funeral Mass was held, with Mozart's Requiem (St. Madeleine) and I wondered about his empty chair and white evening gloves at the Bibliotheque Polonaise near the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The purpose of my trip was to give a paper about Maria Szymanowska, a Polish virtuoso composer-pianist, who preceded and inspired Chopin with her brilliant style, etudes, mazurkas and songs... Szymanowska (1789-1831) died young, too; Chopin was 39 when tuberculosis finally defeated him. Szymanowska - at 42 - went quickly, of cholera in St. Petersburg. But first she managed to enchant Goethe, who wrote for her a poem entitled "An Madame Marie Szymanowska (Aussohnung)." Known as "Aussohnung" (Reconciliation) it was included in the Trilogie der Leidenshaft, inspired by the sixty-year-old poet's tragic infatuation with a young girl, Ulrike. Szymanowska's music, her empathy and beauty helped the aging poet return to his senses. (I write about recent research into her life and work discussed at the Maria Szymanowska Colloque in Paris in my "Chopin with Cherries" blog).

At the conference, I presented the first version of my poem about Szymanowska. After making some changes, I read it for the workshop of Westside Women Writers group and I received comments from Millicent Borges Accardi, Kathi Stafford, Georgia Jones-Davis and Sonya Sabanac. Here's the third version of this work in progress. I want to capture her life as I see it - she was dazzling, inspiring, enchanting, and disappeared all too quickly.

The Shooting Star

Reflections on Maria Szymanowska (1789-1831)

“He brought a horse to her bed, that’s why” – they said.
“No, he did not let her play. She left…”
“Not the only one, mind you.”
Rossini wrote: “Madam,
I equally adore your modesty and talent.”
“At least she was a mother – that redeemed her.
Three children, two daughters, that sort of thing.”
“Did she love them? Was she doting?”
“Didn't she leave them for three years
To play her music?”

“Did she travel alone?” Always with her sister –
Paris, London, Dresden, Marienbad.
Devastated by Ulrike’s youthful charms,
Goethe found comfort in Maria’s nocturnes,
Reconciliation in the kindness of her voice.
He saw Das Ewig Weiblich.
He wrote Die Aussöhnung.

A Roman Goddess?
Wearing the latest London fashions?
She was the Queen of Tones for Mickiewicz,
the Polish bard. A friend of Prince Vyazemsky.
The Court Pianist of the Tsarinas.
A Warsaw brewer’s daughter,
She rose to royal heights,
Shining with the brilliance of her art.

She was elegant, refined
In her pristine muslin gowns,
With sleek belts and jewels.
Her satin slippers dared to
Outlive her by two hundred years.
They sit on a shelf, laughing.
She’s gone. Her daughters,
orphaned in a fortnight of cholera,
Are gone, too. So are
Their daughters’ daughters.

What remains of this dazzling life?
A gold bracelet with a cut sapphire?
A handful of songs, etudes and dances
Scattered along the way? Sweet melodies
Frozen in the air above vast plains
Of snow drifts and tundra?
The sparks of a shooting star
Falling across our dark winter sky?


Lithograph based on a portrait by Maria Szymanowska by Jozef Oleszkiewicz, 1825. Framed print from the collection of Bibliotheque Polonaise in Paris.

Maria Szymanowska's satin evening slippers and an image of Warsaw's Grand Theater of Opera and Ballet. Paris, Bibliotheque Polonaise.

Portrait of Maria Szymanowska by Aleksander Kokular, Rome, 1825. Copy, original in the collection of the Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature, in Warsaw, Poland.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

From Grief to Thanksgiving

I have written a lot about death and sorrow - too many poems, I think. It is what I lived through, not just the death of the loved ones, the loss of the family, of home – also the worst death, the death of hope, the death of the soul itself. Those of us who have extended, loving families may not understand the sentiments of my poem, “For Sale.”

For Sale

© 2009 by Maja Trochimczyk

Can I sell my life at a swap meet?
I do not want it. Nobody does, who knows.
Tattered, it has big holes
Where happiness used to be.

Can I sell it, then? Or trade it, at least,
For a better, less worn model?
You know – four kids, a minivan,
Home on the golf course.

Not this broken set of mismatched
Memories, fit for a thrift-store shelf.

My mother had a suitcase
Full of fabric pieces she cut to shape
And never made into dresses.
A seamstress’ cemetery
Of abandoned dreams.

The hue was not right,
She said.

The life she gave me was not right either
It faded into a dark, hollow green
Losing its luster in one country
After another, as I moved on
Hauling my treasures –
A stack of papers, ready
To go up in flames.

Can I sell it on E-Bay?
Or just give it away
To a more worthy keeper?

There are so many of these signs now, littering our streets. And nobody’s buying. What do you do after you lose yourself – to grief (as I did), to drugs, or despair (as so many other still do)? One way out is to look closely at the world around you, to actually see the fuzzy petals of the iris, to forget about the existence of everything else just for an instance while contemplating the strange beauty of a flower, bewildering in its fragile complexity (“Black Iris” reproduced in the previous blog). Still, it is tempting to see the desert landscape as saturated with sorrow, while waiting for the new life of rain.

The Waiting

(c) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

Nothing but rocks grows here
On this plain of sharp yucca leaves
And sand –

Lavender hills draw sorrow
From the air, waiting for the clouds
To burst open –

Heavy with rain, they bring
A promise to each seed, hope for the roots
Of new life –

Another way of moving beyond grief and ennui, feeling too tired to live, is to learn the two key virtues that saints master and mere humans sometimes reach: compassion and gratitude. Since November is the month of Thanksgiving, and I’m immensely grateful for the beauty I have seen this year in the High Sierras, in Paris, and, of course, in Sunland, I think it would be good to end with a thanksgiving poem of sorts, inspired by a Buddhist amulet box, with a mini-Buddha inside (“A Box of Peaches”). If you want to hear me reading it, call the Pacific Asia Museum, 626-628-9690, and dial 455#, to hear me and Rick Wilson on the flute. It is also posted online by Poets on Site. I thought it would be nice to illustrate it with a picture of a very happy apple.

A Box of Peaches

© 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

You locked your Wisdom in a gilded box
Placed dainty copper flowers
Where metal bars cross, to hold them

You made a window for Compassion
To look out onto the silent world
Glowing with the Unseen

Would the talisman of the Smiling One
In your pocket save you? Draw luck
To your game of cards?

Let it be. Let the ancient words fall
On a carpet of bronze petals on your path
Dappled with tree shadows

Walk slowly through the magic
Orchard filled with an avalanche of peaches,
Ripening in scarlet sunrays

Stoop down to pick one, feel its warmth
In your hand, taste the mellow richness
Beneath the fuzzy, wrinkled skin

Say to no one in particular
The sun maybe, or the tree, or this late hour –
Thank you, yes, thank you very much


Once, just once, I visited such a Buddhist orchard, filled with overripe peaches and the golden glow of afternoon sunlight. The friend who took me there died merely three weeks later, so I never wanted to go back. It is enough to look at pictures. But, at the end, the best thing to do is to count the blessings, the little ones, and the big ones. The time we have here is borrowed, we have to give it back, and to give an account of how we spent our capital of gifts, abilities, families, friendships, talents...

I must say I am very grateful this October: so many nice things happened to me. I received amazing signs of public recognition - as a community volunteer and activist. All these endless hours of working without pay and, often, a proper "thank you" have been rewarded by the kind words of the entire City Council of Los Angeles, City Controller, City Attorney and City Clerk.

Councilman Richard Alarcon sponsored a resolution that recognized my 15 years of volunteering on behalf of Polish-American community in Los Angeles, and my contribution to promoting culture in the local community of Sunland-Tujunga as the area's Poet-Laureate. The recognition, associated with the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Modjeska Club, was also recorded in the city documents, keeping track of such honors for countless community groups and activists. For someone who arrived in California merely 15 years ago, this is a great joy!

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich added his Commendation, and I can finally bask in the joy of being truly appreciated for all this volunteering that I have done, often questioning my sanity. Who does so many things for free? Would these recognitions, once for all, prevent a return to the doom and gloom of "I want to sell my life at a swap meet"? Maybe not, but they will certainly look great on a shelf in my office.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On Visiting Chopin's Tomb in Paris

The curiosity about Chopin's death appears almost morbid today, when the cult of fitness and health has placed all disabled and sick on the margins of society. As Franz Liszt writes in his biography of Chopin, the hagiography, rather, setting the tone for the legend of the feeble, tortured body and the elevated, spiritual, noble, suffering mind: "None of those who approached the dying artist, could tear themselves from the spectacle of this great and gifted soul in its hours of mortal anguish." And a spectacle it was. As Liszt claims, Chopin planned things in advance:

"By a custom which still exists, although it is now falling into disuse, the Poles often chose the garments in which they wished to be buried, and which were frequently prepared a long time in advance [...] Chopin, who, although among the first of contemporary artists, had given the fewest concerts, wished, notwithstanding, to be borne to the grave in the clothes which he had worn on such occasions [...] He had linked his love for art and his faith in it with immortality long before the approach of death, and as he robed himself for his long sleep in the grave, he gave, as was customary with him, by a mute symbol, the last touching proof of the conviction he had preserved intact during the whole course of his life. Faithful to himself, he died adoring art in its mystic greatness, its highest revelations."

Then, he decided on his burial - the Mozart Requiem at the Church of the Madeleine, the body to be interred at the Parisian cemetery Pere Lachaise, next to Bellini and Cherubini, and the heart, submerged in brandy, carried under the skirts of his sister back to Poland, to be enshrined in a pillar in the Church of the Holy Cross on the Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street in Warsaw, not far from the place where he spent his youth.

Before burial, came Chopin's last days and moments, so fastidiously and admiringly described by Liszt:

"From week to week, and soon from day to day, the cold shadow of death gained upon him. His end was rapidly approaching; his sufferings became more and more intense; his crises grew more frequent, and at each accelerated occurrence, resembled more and more a mortal agony. He retained his presence of mind, his vivid will upon their intermission, until the last; neither losing the precision of his ideas, nor the clear perception of his intentions. The wishes which he expressed in his short moments of respite, evinced the calm solemnity with which he contemplated the approach of death.

As Liszt had it, everyone was blessed and raised to the heights of a spiritual realm by the very proximity of the dying "seraphic" artist: "—every knee bent—every head bowed—all eyes were heavy with tears—every heart was sad and oppressed—every soul elevated." After the final blessings, the agony began:

"A convulsive sleep lasted until the 17th of October, 1849. The final agony commenced about two o'clock; a cold sweat ran profusely from his brow; after a short drowsiness, he asked, in a voice scarcely audible: "Who is near me?" Being answered, he bent his head to kiss the hand of M. Gutman, who still supported it—while giving this last tender proof of love and gratitude, the soul of the artist left its fragile clay. He died as he had lived—in loving. When the doors of the parlor were opened, his friends threw themselves around the loved corpse, not able to suppress the gush of tears."

To remove the sanctified sheen of Liszt's verbosity let us read what Anne Woodworth wrote about this very moment in her poem published in the Chopin with Cherries anthology:

At the “Hour of Twilight”

– after reading Franz Liszt on Chopin’s death

Anne Harding Woodworth

Franz will write it all down:
that I swooned, that I asked for flowers
and music. Trouble is, I don’t know any Franz.

Tens of friends waited
in the anti-chamber. Trouble is,
I don’t have even four.

And a student held my hand,
because he wanted to return my affection
except that I’ve never had a student who loved me.

I do have a sister. I have two, but they wouldn’t think
of being prostrate at my bedside.
So who will hold my hand?

Where is a Franz who will unabashedly
describe my pillow? my sweat? my bitter suffering?
the unknown shores where next I go?

Of course, it’s true:
I don’t believe I’m going anywhere,
nowhere beyond nothing, that is.

Sing, Countess. Sing, my compatriot.
Trouble is, I’m not Polish. I don’t know any singers,
at least not one who can attain profound pathos.

And there’s no one to roll the piano I don’t own
to my bedroom door. Oh, Liszt, where are you?
I am coughing so. And the pain . . .

And the love . . .
Where is my Franz who will record
the cliché of a final agony?

I have not written about Chopin's death; for me his music is far too alive. But I have written about death and sorrow - too many poems, I think. The worst death, the death of hope, the death of the soul:

Black Iris

by Maja Trochimczyk

Black iris
Purple iris
Three tongues licking the air
The infinity of golden fuzz
Three in one

Trinity inside
Trinity outside
Circling, endless

Oh, to dissolve
Into that velvet smoothness
become one with the tricolor blossom
one with the tongues
Licking the air

Oh, to fade
Into the molecules
Dissemble within the iris
Flower into un-being
Into seed

The association of flowers with paying tribute to the dead, so typical of the West, was amplified in Chopin's death chamber: "His love for flowers being well known, they were brought in such quantities the next day, that the bed in which they had placed them, and indeed the whole room, almost disappeared, hidden by their varied and brilliant hues. He seemed to repose in a garden of roses. His face regained its early beauty, its purity of expression, its long unwonted serenity. Calmly—with his youthful loveliness, so long dimmed by bitter suffering, restored by death, he slept among the flowers he loved, the last long and dreamless sleep!"

The flowers are still there, in abundance. I visited his grave at Pere Lachaise Cemetery on October 3, 2011, during a strangely hot Indian Summer day. The tomb was easy to find. That's where everyone was going. The cemetery office distributes maps with notable graves marked, from Heloise and Abelard, to Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Rossini. But there are no fresh flowers at almost any of them - except at Chopin's. The grave is taken care of by a local Polish Historical Society that decorates it with the national symbols (white eagle on a red flag), and vases for flowers. These are always fresh, brought to the grave by the stream of visitors. About fifty people passed by during the ten minutes we were there.

Afterward, I was asked for the location of Chopin's grave five more times on the way out - by an American, a French hobo (visibly drunk), an Italian couple, and a family with teenage kids. Some had flowers to leave at the people's shrine, I brought my poems and a cover of our anthology. I left it there for the grave-keepers to put in a makeshift historical museum, preserving notes, piano keys, and other memorabilia left for Chopin over 150 years after his death.

The intertwined themes of death, mortality and morbidity were associated with Chopin especially strongly at the end of the 19th century and through the early decades of the 20th century. Polish composer Zygmunt Noskowski (1846-1909) elaborated on the topic of the “typically Slavic” feeling of the unspecific, yet overwhelming, “sorrow” (“żal” or “żałość”) and nostalgia permeating Chopin’s music. This overriding expressive tone was associated with a general poetic quality in Noskowski’s 1899 article, “The Essence of Chopin’s Works:”

"Whatever we call the mood in Chopin’s works, be it “elegiac quality,” “longing,” or “sorrowfulness,” it is of primary importance to state that, above all, the purest poetry prevails in them and that the breath of this poetry captures the hearts in a way that cannot be described with words."

Strangely enough, Liszt attempted to do precisely that, "describe the ineffable in words" in his discussions of that most famous, and trivialized of Chopin's pieces, his Funeral March from the Piano Sonata No.

"All that the funeral train of an entire [Polish] nation weeping its own ruin and death can be imagined to feel of desolating woe, of majestic sorrow, wails in the musical ringing of this passing bell, mourns in the tolling of this solemn knell, as it accompanies the mighty escort on its way to the still city of the Dead. The intensity of mystic hope; the devout appeal to superhuman pity, to infinite mercy, to a dread justice, which numbers every cradle and watches every tomb; the exalted resignation which has wreathed so much grief with halos so luminous; the noble endurance of so many disasters with the inspired heroism of Christian martyrs who know not to despair;—resound in this melancholy chant, whose voice of supplication breaks the heart [...] The cry of a nation's anguish mounting to the very throne of God! The appeal of human grief from the lyre of seraphs!"

Seraphs or not seraphs, the music still moves us deeply, still resonates within us, still inspires. The YouTube comments of uneducated teens betray their helplessness under his sway:

  • "When this song is played while bright sun light shining through a big window. its simply amazing" (on Nocturne Op. 9, no. 2)

  • "Even when I'm sleeping its playing in my head!! Have to learn this!! Chopin rocks!" (on Prelude in D-flat major, Op. 28, no. 15, "The Raindrop")

  • "Full metal alchemist" (on Pollini playing the Etude Op. 10, no. 3)

  • "This is how music was meant to sound like, from the soul. Sounds that you can relate to and understand." (on Zimmerman playing the Ballade No. 4)

  • "Amazing how few notes can make you wonder in your thoughts.....ahhhhhh" (on Aszkenazy playing the Nocturne Op. 55, No. 1)

  • "Ok the first time I've heared this song, was because Jimmy Page did a cover of it and I must say this song is just like a sweet but really deep pain that is falling slowly and slowly as it's becoming more near to it's end...a very intense short piece of music indeed" (on Prelude Op. 28, No. 4)

    So here it is, for your enjoyment, Jimmy Page (I do not even know who that is, but apparently, he plays a guitar):

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZXG0fNUUXs&feature=related


    Photos (c) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk, including the tombs of Bellini and of Chopin at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

    Vintage postcards with scenes of Chopin's death, from the private collection of Maja Trochimczyk:

    Postcard with a caption in Polish: “Portrait of Chopin on his death bed, according to a watercolor by T. Kwiatkowski.” Published in Lwów: Nakł. Spółki Wydawniczej “Postęp,” n.d., ca. 1910.

    Postcard The Last Chords of Chopin, based on a painting by Fr. Klimes, Les derniers accords de Chopin. Published by BKWI (Bruder Kohn) in Vienna, Austria, c. 1900-1910.
  • Saturday, September 24, 2011

    One Hundred Thousand Poets For Change - Me Too!

    One of the poetry groups I love spending my time with, Westside Women Writers, had a scheduled meeting today, the last Saturday of September. We were to meet at Georgia's home, bring one poem each, do a workshop, you know, the usual. (We means: Georgia Jones-Davis, Kathi Stafford, Susan Rogers, and Millicent Borges Accardi, the founder and spiritus movens of the group). But then, Millicent, our fearless leader, said: "Wait, did you know this Saturday is the Hundred Thousand Poets for Change event? We have to do something." So that something we did was to read poems, of course, one extra poem each, on the topic of peace, or the transformation that is needed in the world to change its evolution from the current downward slide into chaos and violence.

    So it would be peace poetry, anti-war poetry, environmentally-friendly poetry, activist poetry, involved in fixing the evils of this world. The trouble is I do not write this sort of stuff, at least, not obviously so. The closest I get to war themes are my poems for the paintings and art of Manzanar - inspired by art created at the annual Plein Art Workshops of painters conducted at the site of the former detention camp for Japanese Americans and in nearby mountains. The artists have a group show at the APC Gallery in Torrance, curated by artist and gallery owner Ron Liebbrecht. Poets on Site come to write poems and a wonderful book gets published.So every hear, I get closer to the heart of Manzanar, step by step. At the beginning, I studiously avoided the topics of barbed wire and watchtowers, focusing on sunsets instead. I thought that poetry should be more subtle, more ethereal, more of the sky than the earth, and then I found this digital collage by Beth Shibata, photographer and poet, connected to the topic of Manzanar through her Japanese-American husband.

    Entitled "What we saw, what we dreamed," Beth's piece is a stark photograph of sharply outlined bare mountains and a pink sky above filled with paper cranes. I thought that they were dancing and called my poem "Skydance." I also dedicated it to Henry Fukuhara, the blind painter who was imprisoned at Manzanar as a child and established these workshops 14 years ago to help heal the wounds through art and keep the memory alive. Henry's friends, Ron and Beth, are doing exactly that, as the workshops and poetry writing goes on.


    ~ to Henry Fukuhara and the prisoners of Manzanar

    the mountains rose and fell
    with their glory useless –
    trapped in time they did not
    think they’d make it –
    days so long, stretched
    to the horizon, mindless

    and the sky danced above them
    avalanche of paper cranes

    it was not a time for joy
    the landscape said –
    bleak, unforgiving,
    it was not that time yet –
    in gaps between minutes
    a shadow rose, a breath

    and the sky danced above them
    spring dreams of paper cranes

    contours remembered,
    felt in the fingertips
    filled the world with color
    faded pastels, knowing,
    pale rainbow, hues
    of distance, peace, serenity

    and the sky danced above them
    paper cranes, oh, paper cranes

    What is a paper crane for? In a Japanese tradition a thousand origami cranes, held together by strings is a wedding gift; apparently after making a thousand of cranes a real crane will come and grant you your wish. They mean that your wish will come true and that you will a very long and happy life. Beth Shibata's artwork places these strings of cranes in the sky, like semi-transparent shadows they are a wish that a wish would come true.

    But is this my wish? I'm not Japanese, I'm barely American, having become a citizen only in 2009, after having lived here since 1996. What would my wish for change be? I am not one to speak up about politics, to go to demonstrations. I've learned my lessons from a childhood spent in communist Poland, where you had to hide what you thought, never admit to what you knew, and, in general, make yourself invisible, so you would not be noticed by police and get into trouble.

    I know it is impossible to change the system when you need to change it. It will, eventually, evolve, like a dinosaur, moving slowly through time, too slowly for an individual life. The only change we can make, the only transformation we can control is the personal one: we are all challenged to evolve on a spiritual scale, to become more enlightened, better people. I have written a lot of poems about this and will keep writing, but is it something to share in public? I wanted to read a different poem for A Hundred Thousand Poets for Change, a poem about the only change I can make, I can control: my personal quest for light.


    - to Theilhard de Chardin in gratitude for his visions of cosmic fire

    Brown, muddy, dirty –
    the river rushes down its course
    to the ocean. The rains pass,
    years go by, centuries, ages –
    silt into stone into sand.
    The circle turns – grinding, crushing.

    A spark in the cosmic fire
    I rise upward, striving
    to shine above the murky waters
    that have to flow down,
    pulled by gravity.
    I’m free to choose – right or wrong,
    good or evil. My anger’s gone,
    burned by the flame,
    that left only ashes
    falling into the darkness below.

    I ascend through constellations.
    Higher, lighter – regrets fall off.
    The weight of nightmares lifts.

    The crystalline sphere sparkles
    as I waltz into the ever greater,
    ever brighter blaze of holiness,
    spreading above the void.

    Tranquility expands, singing
    “Consummatum est.”


    The last words of my poem, "It is done," are the last words of Christ on the cross, in the old-fashioned Latin. I studied it for a year in high school and three years in college. I like quoting Latin, it is a part of my world, that unique sphere of ideas, memories, thoughts, dreams, and things I've done that marks my place in the world.

    My wish for the new world is simple: if everyone did what I'm trying to do, ascend into the light of love, there would be no wars, no violence, no greed, no theft, no betrayal. Maybe then people who run countries now would apologize for what their countries did to other people at other times. Just look at Japanese-Americans, how they were suspected of being secret enemies of the state, how they got three weeks to pack up their lives and go to live in some desolate place, with one of everything, one doll for the child, one pair of shoes. . . But then my Polish family when they were kicked out of their property in the land that was Poland but became Soviet Union, were given 24 hours to decide what to take and what to leave.

    They lost everything, except their lives and their heroic, noble spirit. Short on money, long on nobility - virtues grow in poverty, so maybe being poor is not so bad, after all? Why did my grandparents have to run, sell what they can, sew the gold coins into the lining of my mother's coat, see it ripped apart by the guide who was to take them to safety on the other side of the river Bug.... Why? Because Hitler signed a deal with Stalin in 1939 and Roosevelt and Churchill signed another one in Teheran in 1943 and again at Yalta in 1945. They sold Eastern Europe to the despot and murderer. They sold my grandparents lives, and those of millions of others.

    And what about the British Queen? The Polish pilots from RAF Squadron 303, who defended her country in the Battle of Britain, wrote a desperate letter to her in 1944, begging for British intervention to save Warsaw at the time of the Uprising against the Nazis. After the initial victory and through the 63 days of fighting, the Russian troops stood idly by and the city burned. Over 200,000 people were killed there, including 170,000 civilians; when the underground Home Army capitulated, the city was emptied of all residents and dynamited, street by street... Where is the Queen's apology for not intervening?

    Polish people are resilient, they know how to rebuild and rebuild again. They decided to remake the old Warsaw based on 18th century paintings by Bellotto Canaletto. The Old Town came to life, filled with cafes and jewelry shops selling Polish amber and silver. The Royal Castle remained in ruins for more than twenty years. I used to walk by on the way to my music school three times per week right by its last standing wall with one window opening into the night sky. The rest was a pile of grass-covered rubble. Now, the Royal Palace is again magnificent, even better for being made new.

    What can the poets do to change the world? Remember, inspire, and love.


    Poetry and Photos of California sky (c) 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk
    Beth Shibata's "What We Saw, What We Dreamed" (c) 2010 by Beth Shibata

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Poetry Audio Tour of the Pacific Asia Museum

    When you are tired and have a headache - write a poem. When you are happy you do not know what to do with yourself - write another poem. When you look at a beautiful piece of art - write a poem again. Then, burn the first poem, hide the second, and record the third...

    This is how we - over 30 California poets - have created the amazing new Audio Tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.

    This Poets on Site Project was created under the guidance of the Museum's Education Director, Amelia Chapman, and thanks to the good graces of the indefatigable poets and artists, Kathabela and Rick Wilson - who organized, coordinated, and recorded the entire set. The poets have completed describing over 50 artworks from various Asian countries that are currently presented at the Museum. Their voices are accompanied by Rick Wilson who plays some of his amazing flutes from around the world. The instruments are named after each poem on the recordings.

    All the poetry stops are now uploaded by the museum and can be heard on the phone from anywhere! How to listen? First dial 626-628-9690 then the number and the number sign, #.

    The exhibition and the audio tour stops are divided into several categories, as follows:

    The Art of Daily Life
    • Tibetan Rug - Nora DeMuth, Sharon Hawley 404#
    • Tibetan Table - Kath Abela Wilson, Monica Lee Copland 405#
    • Rhini Horn Cup - Kath Abela Wilson Pauli Dutton 406#
    • Thai Bowl - Constance Griesmer 407#
    • Thai Bottle Vase - Constance Griesmer 408#
    • Vietnam Charger with Myna Birds - Constance Griesmer, Pauli Dutton 409#
    • Bilim (Bilum) Bag - Taoli-Ambika Talwar, Erika Wilk, Mira Mataric 410#
    • Ink Box and Stand - Taura Scott, Kath Abela Wilson, Pauli Dutton 411#
    • Horseshoe Chair (China) - Pauli Dutton, Alice Pero 412#

    The Beauty of Nature
    • Eagle in a Snowstorm - Sharon Hawley, Chris Wesley, M. Kei (read by Just Kibbe) 415#
    • Persimmon and Pine Trees by a Stream - Christine Jordan, Erika Wilk, Deborah P Kolodji 416#
    • Plum Blossoms in the Moonlight - Nora De Muth, Janis Lukstien, Kath Abela Wilson 417#
    • Mt. Fuji in Clear Weather - Kath Abela Wilson, Nora DeMuth, Liz Goetz 418#
    • Landscape after Snowfall - Ashley Baldon 419#
    • Ducks and Lotus - Christine Jordan, Ashley Baldon, Deborah P Kolodji 420#
    • Monkey Performing the Sanbaso Dance - Mira Mataric, Just Kibbe 421#
    • Origins of Life (Korea) - Janis Lukstein, Sharon Hawley, Taoli-Ambika Talwar 422#

    Wisdom and Longevity
    • Yam Mask (New Guinea) - Cindy Rinne 426#
    • Incense Burner - Nora DeMuth 427#
    • Fukurojin - Nora DeMuth 428#
    • Shou (Longevity) - Richard Dutton, Ashley Baldon, Joan Stern 429#
    • Canoe Prow (New Guinea) - Cindy Rinne 430#

    Religion and Faith
    • Bodhisattva in Yab-yum Embrace - Genie Nakano 435#
    • Vishnu and Garuda - Ashley Baldon, Christine Jordan 436#
    • Daoist Priest Robe - Nora DeMuth, Pauli Dutton 437#
    • Buddhist Five-point Crown - Genie Nakano, Mira Mataric 438#
    • The Goddesses Durga and Kali Fighting the Demon Hordes - Pauli Dutton 439#
    • Kensui (waste water bowl) - Peggy Casto, Kah Abela Wilson 440#
    • Le Genie San Noms. Corée - Mel Weisburd, Monica Lee Copland, Joan Stern 441#
    • Bodhisattva (Tibet) - Sharon Rizk, Nancy Ellis Taylor 442#
    • Yamantaka Mandala - James Won 443#
    • Bodhisattva (China) - Susan Rogers 444#
    • Buddha (Pakistan) - Maja Trochimczyk 445#
    • Seated Buddha (Korea) - Susan Rogers 446#
    • Lohan and Attendant - Radomir Vojtech Luza 447#
    • Goblins and Ghosts - Liz Goetz 448#

    Status and Adornment
    • Courtesan Reading a Letter - Deborah P. Kolodji, Monica Lee Copland 450#
    • Kogo (Incense Box) - Sharon Hawley 451#
    • Netsuke: Mask of Danjuro - Mel Weisburd 452#
    • Netsuke: Pomander - Mari Werner 453#
    • Netsuke: Horse - Joan Stern, Mari Werner 454#
    • Gau (Protective Amulet) - Maja Trochimczyk 455#
    • Female Figure - Mel Weisburd, Beverly M. Collins 456#
    • Prince (India) - Kath Abela Wilson, Genie Nakano 457#
    • Charger (Celadon) - Alice Pero 458#
    • Charger (Qilin) - Mel Weisburd 459#
    • Marriage Bowl - Rick Wilson 460#
    • Earrings with Crab Motif - Susan Rogers, Nancy Ellis Taylor 461#
    • Pair of Sleevebands - Erika Wilk 462#
    • Pair of Bound-Foot Shoe - Chris Wesley, Taura Scott, Nora DeMuths 463#
    • Ji-fu (Man’s Semi-formal Court Robe) - Maja Trochimczyk, Mari Werner 464#
    • Head Ornament (New Guinea) - Cindy Rinne 465#


    I wrote three poems for this exhibition and like the most "A Box of Peaches" (no. 455#), but its "thanksgiving" theme makes it more suitable to the month of November. Of the other two, "An Embroidery Lesson" focuses on an ornately decorated courtier's robe, called Ji-Fu. The same robe has also inspired Mari Werner to write about embroidery. Here is my poem.

    An Embroidery Lesson

    Tonight we’ll count the clouds
    The blue splendor of courtier’s robes
    Awaits them

    We’ll take a long silk thread
    And wrap it with a filament of gold
    Until it shines like ocean sunrise

    We’ll catch the bright flames of the fire
    Of red-eyed dragons that prance
    And snarl on the hem

    Their talons stretch towards a mandala
    Resting above cobalt swirls
    Of midnight rain

    This, an unspoken secret
    The serpent eats its tail
    The end is the beginning

    Look, it moves across the sky
    Chasing a flock of gold-rimmed clouds
    Let’s count them


    Rick Wilson improvised on the following flutes from his personal collection:

  • Japan: A shakuhachi was used to accompany poems about Japanese
    objects. The instrument is a little over 21 inches long and made of thick, heavy bamboo. It is held vertically and sounded by directing the breath towards an straight edge carved out of one open end. The instrument is very expressive.

  • China: On the recordings of poems about Chinese objects, a xiao was played. This instrument is held vertically and has a notch carved in one end. It is made of bamboo; it is lighter than the shakuhachi, but longer. It has a mellow sound.

  • Korea: A Korean danso was played for the poems about Korean
    objects. This instrument is a notched end-blown flute like the xiao but is smaller and higher pitched.

  • India: The bansuri is a bamboo flute played transversely (horizontally) in India and nearby regions. A large bansuri of the type played in Northern India was used to accompany poems on objects from this nation. The instrument is mellow sounding and is played legato with frequent portamento.

  • Tibet: A small transverse flute made in Nepal, a type of bansuri, was used for poems on Tibetan objects.

  • Vietnam: A small transverse cane flute purchased in Hanoi, a sao truc, was played for poems on pieces from Vietnam.

  • Indonesia: A suling, a traditional flute from Bali, was played on the recording of poems from Indonesia. This flute is a an example of a duct
    flute, which produces sound like a recorder or whistle.

  • Thailand: A wide-bore recorder was used as a substitute for the Thai khlui,a duct flute, on the recording of a poem about a bowl from Thailand.

  • New Guinea: Flutes are not common in Papua New Guinea, and a bamboo mouth harp made in the Philippines is played, in lieu of the traditional bamboo models found in the former country, for the poems on New Guinean pieces.


    At the end, though, Rick Wilson switched from music to describing his beloved wife in a poem inspired by The Marriage Bowl (460#)- comparing Kathabela to an elegant, golden, and magical dragon. She recently celebrated her birthday, and I honored her with a little birthday-wish poem, also describing her magical abilities:

    For Kathabela

    Hail to the Queen of Many Hats!
    The Sprite with multicolored notebooks
    collecting treasures, pictures, smiles.
    Let's laugh with the pixie sprinkling magic dust
    on each minute and gesture. Let's hear
    the weaver of words, spinning poems
    out of tea cups, necklaces and clouds.
    Long live the Queen of Pentacles,
    presiding on the Throne of Earthly Riches
    over her court of jesters, knights, and lovers.
    Let's praise the wisdom of a sage,
    the charm of a dancer,
    and the devotion of a whirling dervish -
    hidden in her secret name, revealed
    in the kaleidoscope of her art!


    The pictures are from Japan (Kathabela and Rick Wilson), from the courtyard of the Pacific Asia Museum (with Erika Wilk, photo by Kathabela Wilson), from recording sessions at Kathabela and Rick's salon in Pasadena, and from another exhibition of Poets and Artists at Susan Dobay's Scenic Drive Gallery in Monrovia (at 125 Scenic Drive, by appointment only).

    Invited to contribute to the Poets and Artists Exhibition, I made two collages, one with a digital art piece and four "klosy" of wheat, illustrating my poem, "Tiger Nights." I made and framed this collage as a gift for Kathabela's Birthday (it is above her head in the photo). So here's a poem and an artwork, as a tribute to the spiritus movens of the Poetry Audio Tour at the Pacific Asia Museum.
  • Monday, August 29, 2011

    Living in the Moment

    Thanks to the lovely hostess, Elena Secota, and friendly poets and musicians the featured reading at the Rapp Saloon was very enjoyable. I even had a bass-guitar accompaniment to some of my poems, including "Look at me..." inspired by Ella Fitzgerald's version of Misty. Rocky played the melody during the poem's refrains and was silent during the narrative stanzas. It worked very well! The poem itself is published on this blog, as well as in the Loch Raven Review.

    My listeners liked it a lot, but the greatest impact on the audience was made by another, older poem of a more philosophical nature. I wrote "Memento Vitae" after the death of a good friend. The title, modelled on a medieval monks' maxim, Memento Mori (Remember Death), means "Remember Life."

    Memento Vitae

    Let's talk about dying.
    The gasp of last breath.
    The end. Or maybe not,
    We don't know.

    Let's talk about the last day.
    What would you do
    if you knew?
    Whom would you love?
    Would you find your dearest,
    most mysterious love?
    Or would you just stay
    in the circle of your own?
    Would you rob, steal
    or insult anyone?
    Would you cry?
    Burn your papers?
    If the fabric of your future
    shrank to one day,
    or maybe just an hour?

    Let's talk about living, then.
    The next breath,
    that will take you
    to the next minute,
    the next heartbeat.

    Just about – now.

    Soon after presenting my work to a very gracious audience at what should be called "Poetry Salon at the Saloon," I was on the way to the High Sierras for my first real vacation in years - without the internet, TV, or Blackberry. I was off the grid, wandering around lush mountain meadows and forests, while the Kadafi regime fell and Hurricane Irene was approaching New York.

    A week in the wilderness was a time of tranquility, rest, and spiritual revival. I listened to the breeze singing in the tops of the trees, as they whispered and sighed. I swam in the cold mountain lake every morning, leaving my worries "in my wake" - and I wrote a poem about it. Since it is still unfinished, here is a humorous testimonial to picking wild mushrooms among tall pine trees and delicate aspen.

    On Mushrooms

    In the forest of Christmas trees for giants
    I look for the shapes of mushrooms
    I used to know well – hiding
    In tall grass under the aspen,
    Beneath piles of pine needles and bark

    – the true one,
    The king of the forest, Boletus
    Rules in unexpected places
    Among birch twigs and Douglas fir
    Osaki, Kozaki – his second-rate,
    Still lovely cousins wait in the shade
    Among manzanita, wild currants and fern.

    I find bitter, colorful szatans,
    Pretending to be true
    Pale muchomory my grandma used
    To kill flies in a glass filled with sugar water
    Psie grzybki fit for a dog
    That would not eat them
    And twisted, tree-growing huba
    I do not know how to cook.

    My share of mushrooms?
    The toxic lookalikes of true ones!
    That’s all there is in this
    Enchanted forest for me.

    And this is why, my dears, I wrote
    And you read Confessions
    Of a Failed Mushroom-picker

    Picking mushrooms is a great activity, as it takes your mind off everything, since it requires all the attention you have to spot and claim the mushrooms hidden under pine needles or in the grass. Next year I might be more lucky and actually find some... Besides, I do have to swim around that rocky island in the middle of the lake, with just one pine tree on it!


    All poems and nature photographs (c) 2008-2011 by Maja Trochimczyk. Portrait of Maja and Rocky by Elena Secota.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    The Watermelon Festival and the Rapp Saloon

    When I last went to the Rapp Saloon, I thought that visit would be that, "last." I did not find the majority of the poetry I heard there, with an overabundance of one letter, "f," to be of much interest. I decided to skip driving that far for so little. However, I made a friend there, Elena Secota, who turned out to be a fascinating poet in her own right. She now hosts one of the weekly Friday Open Readings and books her own monthly features. I am very glad that thanks to her invitation, I will be able to re-visit the Rapp Saloon and see the changes that her high-class act has brought to this establishment. My appearance is planned for Friday, August 19, 2011 at 8:30 p.m. To honor the vibe of the place, I'll read a darker, more edgy fare than at the recent Moonday feature, where it was all about awakenings...

    1436, 2nd STREET, (between Broadway & Santa Monica Blvd)
    Santa Monica, California 90401



    The Magnificent Four, or the Village Poets of Sunland Tujunga: Joe DeCenzo, Marlene Hitt, Dorothy Skiles and yours truly, created and managed a new element at the 50th Annual Watermelon Festival, held at Sunland Park on Saturday, August 13, 2011, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Poetry Corner presented new, original poetry for children along with well-known classics by Shel Silverstein, A.A. Milne, and Rudyard Kipling (The Tale of Elephant Child). We recited English and Polish tongue-twisters and sang humorous rhyming children's songs. The model of a home-setting with children's chairs on a giant comforter, scattered with zebra pillows and stuffed animals, was created at a poetry event for the Puppetry Festival at McGroarty Art Center last year.

    Each of the four poets contributed something: Joe brought the baloons and comforter, Dorothy donated the gifts, Marlene lent us a mike, and I had signs, books, and more comforters and stuffed animals that I cared to carry from my car... Our fifth member, Barry Ira Geller, did not make it, though contributed to advance publicity of the event.

    Children came with their parents to rest for 10 - 15 minutes from the hectic pace and excitement of the festival. They sat quietly, listened, read poems from the books provided by poets, and picked up their prizes - colorful balloons and little toys. We planned on two hours, but filled out three - due to the constant ebb and flow of the audience it was hard to find a good time to pack up and go. We are happy that Beverly Collins once again brought her poetry to share in Sunland.

    I do not write for children and certainly do not write in rhyme, so I was especially pleased that Joe DeCenzo read from his Ballad of a Hawk and twice recited a very amusing, brand-new poem-game, helping children to learn the names of body parts in English. In his poem, the last word of each couplet is missing and children have to guess what it is..."head" or "chin" or "shin." I noticed quite a few children who were English learners and this was a very good lesson for them.

    We also had a couple of older children reading from our stack of books - picking poems they found funny. My contribution included poems "What I love in Sunland" and "On the Beach" for Father's Day, as well as two New Year's Haiku about the Year of the Rabbit. I also sang about The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly and recited tongue-twisters about the winsome woodchuck and the warbling warbler, and, my favorite, a Polish beetle rustling in the rushes:

    W Szczebrzeszynie chrzaszcz brzmi w trzcinie
    a w Trzemiesznie straszy jeszcze postrach oczu strzyg!

    Next year? More poets, and some limericks, I think... the G-rated ones, of course.



    The Poetry Picnic of August 6, 2011, went very well according to Benicia's Poet Laureate, photographer and organizer extraordinaire, Ronna Leon. She created lots of wonderful poetry posters and other materials to distribute at the event and through the Poem Homes installations in the community.

    My poem dedicated to Henry Fukuhara and inspired by a digital artwork by Beth Shibata, "Sundance" was printed in color as a broadside and I'm very happy to see this attractive poster at my home.


    NOTE: All photos from the Poetry Corner at the Watermelon Festival in Sunland, held on Saturday, August 13, 2011.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Tigers, Orchards, and Moonday (August 8)

    The famed Moonday in the Village Poetry Reading will feature myself & Lucia Galloway during the August event that will take place at a private home at 14839 West Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 on Monday, August 8, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. Moonday is a once-a- month poetry venue, co-produced by Alice Pero & Lois P.Jones. There will also be an open reading. See www.moondaypoetry.com for more details.

    A featured reading is a self-portrait; every time I have to pick a set of poems for a feature I wonder about "the type of a person do I want to present." Since I am a community poet, a complete and proud "amateur" (lover) of poetry, I do not have to follow the rigors and snobbery of the poetry world. I've seen enough of that in the academic music world to give the whole thing a pass. I often write and read love poems. These are welcomed very warmly, but too often misunderstood. Written in the first person, they impress some of my listeners with an idea that the poems are autobiographical and talk about real people and events that transpired in my life. While fragments of experiences and deeply felt emotions served as the foundation for each of these poems, the events as described in the poems did not happen.

    After one reading, a female listener came up to me all excited and moved by one of the faux romances I just read with great sincerity and conviction. She breathlessly asked: "And what happened then to the guy that gave you the ring?" "What ring?" I answered. There was no guy with a ring. There was no ring. Or, rather, there was one, but in a jewelery store window... Several poems that I selected for Moonday belong to this category, including two reproduced below. They fit the spirit of the late summer very well - the time of the Hollywood Bowl and outings to the countryside.

    Tiger Nights juxtaposes a strange dream with a re-imagined concert at the Hollywood Bowl, with Joshua Bell as the soloist. It is written in the first person, to strengthen the immediacy of the experience and the intimacy of the voice. The poem appears to be a favorite of editors and publishers, as it was selected to appear in The Epiphany Magazine (No. 6, 2011), along with my profile for the Poets' Cafe radio interview, posted on Tim Green's website, and on the announcement of the upcoming Moonday Poetry Reading. Of course, the incipit of the poem also appears on my Poet Laureate portrait by Ronna Leon posted in a previous blog.

    Tiger Nights

    Someone nailed gold-plated clouds
    to the hard, polished turquoise of the sky.

    Striated, like the stripes of a tiger
    I did not know I had for a pet

    until he bared his teeth
    at the dogs flowing through the air

    to corner him in my backyard.
    The blond fur glistened in shadows.

    Three golden labs growled
    at the cat the size of a calf.

    He turned. His stripes shone
    with danger. I woke up afraid.

    Now I watch the gold of the clouds
    change into orange, scarlet and amaranth

    in a quickly darkening cupola
    that rests on the hills

    above the Hollywood Bowl.
    Smooth tones of Joshua Bell’s violin

    glow in the air, escaping
    the relentless chase of the brass.

    Wind snatches notes from the bow,
    plays with their glossy sheen.

    Stars blossom on cloud-stems
    in bouquets, wild as tiger lilies

    you gave me that night.
    Danger lurks in your smile

    as you caress my ear
    with a whisper: “Remember?”

    To everyone thinking that "first-person" poetry is strictly autobiographical, I hasten to explain, again, that I went to the Joshua Bell concert described in Tiger Nights with my best friend, Elizabeth, who certainly does not resemble a tiger, did not give me any tiger lilies, and did not whisper seductive and ominous thoughts into my ear.

    The dream was as real as dreams are, but the tiger's smooth coat appeared to be beige and not striped at all, until I recognized the cornered, graceful creature as one of power and danger: the lovely animal turned its head at the dogs and snarled, becoming a striped beast. That was enough to wake me up. But the word "beige" is too plain for a dream poem, someone said, so I changed it to a more human "blond." The stripes on the sky, the stripes on the tiger, the tiger lilies... this fragmented imagery creates a surreal scene of uncertainty, filled with seductive charm and vague threats. The "gold-plated clouds" become real in a jewel sky as the danger passes, or, at least, seems to do so.

    The second "imaginary romance" poem, also a favorite with audiences and publishers, draws together scattered seeds of experience: a glance from a passing biker, a long ride between slopes of California's dry golden grass , contrasting with the deep green of the live oak during a trip to Lake Elizabeth, and the favorite melody outlined by the flowing voice of Ella Fitzgerald. No, it did not happen in my real life. Yes, it could have happened, as the poem is cobbled together from fragments of different memories. Instead of two contrasting images - as in Tiger Nights - I use a refrain that brings back the beguiling singer's voice to lift the biker's narrative high above the melting asphalt.

    “Look at me…”

    - after Ella Fitzgerald’s “Misty” and a Sunday drive to a peach orchard

    the dark honey of Ella’s voice
    filled the valley with a golden sheen

    The bike stopped at the red light.
    The biker looked at me intently.
    All in black leather, he did not seem familiar.

    the dark honey of Ella’s voice
    spilled onto the asphalt

    The light changed to green. I was touched
    by the brightness in his eyes as he drove by,
    turning his head, clearly off-balance. He stopped
    to gaze at my metallic Honda. I felt his surprise.

    the dark honey of Ella’s voice
    blossomed in an aftertaste of sweetness

    I knew he realized who I was,
    the woman he found irresistible again
    and again and again. I wonder if he told
    his girlfriend about our sunny encounter.

    the dark honey of Ella’s voice
    flowed over the wonderland –
    the dark honey, oh, the dark honey

    The country road led me towards live oak
    and grassy slopes, shining yellow and bronze.
    There was no hatred, just being alive
    after the storm. I was silent. I had nothing to say.

    The poem was published in Loch Raven Review (Spring 2010) and reprinted on the Poetry Super Highway website where I was a Poet of the Week in January 2010. The title comes from the first words of "Misty" as sung on that astounding collection of Ella's Blues and Ballads (Verve). The song, by Johnny Burke and Erroll Garner, ends with "I'm too misty, and too much in love..." You can listen to the version I love on YouTube. Compare it with other interpretations: by Sarah Vaughan, Julie London (with a charming alto and annoying twitter of flutes), and Ella Fitzgerald, again - with the Tommy Flanagan Trio. If you do not like singing, listen to Stan Getz, as delightful as any of the singers.


    The Moonday reading will include some other perennial favorites of mine, like the Rose Window, and one of the Chopin poems, and maybe The Music Box that I like reading with an actual music box. Of course, I will read some ekphrastic poems to paintings by California artists - I have too many to chose from... The difficulty with selection stems also from boredom; poems written more than a couple of months ago sound old and tedious to me. The most interesting ones are the ones I'm currently working on and I hope to revise and improve as a result of a public reading. But these ones are still unfinished.

    The most important reason for selecting a particular poem to read is the spirit of generosity - sharing poems with friends and listeners to enrich and brighten our lives. We are interconnected in a "noosphere" of minds that reach out and link together, raising each other to a higher level of awareness. I hope to do so, again, on Monday.


    Photos, digital collage "Tiger Nights" and poems (c) 2009-2011 by Maja Trochimczyk.