Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Roses and Roses Without End

An insightful poet and photographer, George Jisho Robertson, who lives in London, England, posted a sweet set of rose photographs on Facebook, with many of the flowers captured chiaroscuro, their pastel colors contrasting with rich, verdant leaves of the rosebushes. George likes to blur parts of pictures and some of the artistically transformed photos are striking, appearing more transient and poetic than the real blossoms. (Other photos, changed into black and white, remind me of the portraits of the deceased on their tombstones, found in old cemeteries in Europe - no, I do not like those monuments of the dead).

The photo included here, of a "Chicago Peace" rose covered with raindrops (or, rather, as the case may be, drops of water from the sprinklers), looks like candied confection, a marzipan. It is delicate and pale, but it is not from misty England. I took it in my garden in Southern California, and posted in an album of 48 rose photos, called Rose and Roses, on my website.

A red "Mr. Lincoln" rose, with round water droplets spaced regularly along the edge of petals, reminded me of notes of music and I used that photo as a label for my "Chopin with Cherries" blogs. Other roses I saw through the lenses of my camera were completely covered in droplets of rain, shining like polished crystals or diamonds. My rain roses of the spring.

None of these roses, neither those in George's photographs, nor even those that are fading in the mellow fog of English countryside, have the tell-tale signs of Southern California heat: petals scorched by sunlight, shrivelling as they open. In the summer, all luscious, opulent blooms bear those heat marks. Their demise starts from the edges.

Seeing their struggles, one becomes mindful of transience and of the manifold and futile efforts we make to protect ourselves from our untimely demise - anti-wrinkle creams and lotions, injections, peels and masks... If all else fails, a lot of make-up. True, our lifespans exceed those of roses, but the efforts to transcend time are futile, all in vain. Inevitably, we'll fade away, just like these sun-singed roses!

You can see more scorched roses in my Rose and Roses album. The photo reproduced here was taken during the Station Fire, when all the mountains around were burning and the powdery white and gray ash kept falling down on my garden for weeks. There is an intense beauty in those last moments of a dying flower, don't you think? Like fireflies we dazzle in the summer, at dusk.

For the cover of a new edition of my first poetry book, Rose Always - A Court Love Story, which I was just inspired to revise, I picked what could be called a "royal rose"- bedecked in all its jewels of dewdrops and water reflecting the morning light. In contrast with the previous editions of this novella in verse, that featured up to 50 photographs of multi-colored roses from my garden and the Rose Parade, I decided to only use the dark red ones that have the texture of velvet or are lined with delicate veins like human skin. Astounding.

Rose Garland

I thought roses.
I thought rich, velvet blossoms.
I thought a red rainbow
from deep crimson to delicately pinkish.

The secret was underground
where the roots sustain
the multi-hued orgy of sensuous allure –
flowers opening to dazzle and fade.

The strength of the rose
is invisible – you see the blush
of seduction in each leaf and petal,

You admire their charms.
Yet, you care for what’s out of sight,
not for the obvious.

I thought your love.
I thought how you adore me.
I went deeper down to the source.

The rose, Sappho’s lightning
of beauty, breathes love,
laughs at the wind and wonders.

The mystic rosebush dances,
crowned with the royal
garland of fire.



The revisions of my book were quite substantial and required a withdrawal of the previous versions. As I explained in the preface to the new edition: "The original version, woven from lyrical poems and dramatic court excerpts, inexorably ended in a tragedy, implied by the focus on the vicious circle of crime, depression, and alienation. . . The agglomeration of literary tropes of love, with a multitude of quotations and allusions, counterbalanced the weight of darkness, with a glimmer of hope appearing at the very end. Yet, it was only a glimmer. In the three years since the book’s publication, the tragic mood has lifted. Darkness is no longer inevitable. A new hope arises from a slow process of transformation, searing experiences, and deepened self-knowledge. The spiritual evolution will continue after crossing the turning point on an ascending path of gradual enlightenment. The toxic shame and self-destruction are replaced by the quiet persistence of caring and forgiveness."

The transition is marked by some newly added poems, such as the Rose Window (found in the Valentine's Day blog), and the Ready to Wear, copied below (and earlier published in our local community paper, the Voice of the Village). I published this poem in the revised book without its title, in accordance with the volume's structure of 85 numbered lyrical poems, and 24 "lettered" (with Greek alphabet letters) excerpts from the story. The novella unfolds in stages: Wishing (Annunciatio), Seeing (Revelatio), Knowing (Dilectio), Feeling (Consolatio) and Being (Redemptio). The sections still feature paraphrases of actual court records that documented the circular flow of one tragic life, in and out of jail. But they are enveloped in and transformed by poetry. It may turn out, at the end, that the circle of crime and punishment may be broken... In my book, this miraculous deed is done by roses.

Ready to Wear

I’m dressing you in roses
so you don’t have to wear
the heavy sweatpants, block letters
across your thigh – PRISONER.

Scarlet blossoms are prettier
than the orange jumpsuit
and shackles on the way
to the courthouse.

Sheltered by poetry
you will not have to hide
in lies, deceptions,
color your hair black,
become an enigma
in sunglasses.

The blanket I wove
will protect you
from spurious rage
unneeded when the locket
of prayer opens
in an offering to the Unseen.

You cannot escape
His presence. Transparent,
opaque, you will blossom
after the light’s blade
cuts the bonds that trapped you
in the cycle of un-forgiveness.



Some of the original "rose" and "love" poems were included in this blog to celebrate Valentine's Day with a reflection on the nature of love, spanning a rainbow, from eros to charity. I tried to capture the essence of loving defined both as a feeling and an act. Thousands of poets and writers did that before me. Lyricists of country songs still do that, but "real" artists and creators of "high art" look upon the subject of love with disdain, as if new expressions of ancient and timeless romantic ideas were somehow found unworthy of a serious literary effort. Lucky me, than, that I am not serious. (Only by being entirely non-serious about myself, can I stay alive). For this abandonment of love and roses, you may blame post-modern irony and ironists if you want, or Adorno with his declaration that poetry after the ravages of the Holocaust is dead...

We can be dead with the dead, or alive with the roses, the choice is ours.

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RELATED POSTS: "What is Love? The Valentine's Day Reflections"

Love After Love: Poems For Valentine's Day

Look for the 2011 revision of Rose Always - A Court Love Story on Lulu.com.

The Rose and Roses Album was posted in October 2010.

All photos and poetry (c) 2008-2011 by Maja Trochimczyk.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, Everyone!

Yes, you can find love in the streets of Los Angeles. I did - here it is! In time for the controversial exhibition at MOCA, making graffiti into art. I must say I will not attend this exhibition, yet another at MOCA I found a reason to miss. To put it simply: I do not like graffiti Tagging, to me, is what it is: the equivalent of dogs urinating to mark their territory, stinking ugly. Still... that heart on the utility box was painted over in a boring grey shade and I really missed it while driving to work. The heart reappeared recently, but without any text, nor tags, just in red.

Making "art in the streets" inspired painter Susan Dobay to create a beautiful collage from a photograph she took in Budapest. A young violinist, in a drab navy sweater and skirt, plays music in the street, while her baby looks on from his baby carriage. The open violin case waits for donations, which are not coming in the drizzle. I found something magical in this moment, looking at the scene transformed by Susan's art. I wrote a poem, one of a series inspired by her art. It was published in our community paper last May. Another poem on a painting by Susan Dobay, the Awakenings appeared here not long ago. I have to re-post the melancholy Shelled Sunset. Here's a tribute to Susan Dobay's "Violinist in the Street."


Mama’s Music

(After a collage by Susan Dobay)

The milk bottle is in the bag
but little Leo is smiling.
He likes watching the street.
He likes the music Mama makes
with those strange things she holds.
He gurgles happily at the sound
of the coins dropped into the box.

He stretches his arms to catch a sun ray
shining on them from an overcast sky
above the cobblestones and a magic tree
that grew from the sweet melodies
flowering with star dust. Maybe it will drop
bright blossoms on her dark skirt,
make her pretty like the ladies that listen?
They will go home when it starts to rain.
She is happy just to have the music
flowing from under her bow –
andante, tranquillo, legato.

________________________________________________

Another artistic friendship and a shared artwork connect me to another Susan, a wonderful poet and all-together-inspirational-and-inspired person made of light, Susan Rogers. We wrote poems based on the same painting. Mine was called "Always" and found the sweetness of old country music in that sugary landscape. Susan thought about her Mom. She posted her poem on this blog once already, as a comment to my poem about Patsy Cline and her landscape of love. Here it is again, in celebration of Mother's Day.

With You Always

~ for Jane


(by Susan Rogers)

It was supposed to be
just this way-
a watercolor world
lit by the clear, clear light
that happens only after rain.
You are lit here too
and so am I.
You who gave me
all the words I know
to describe the world
have become that world—
the colors bursting into
names: “Look, the sky
is peacock blue,
the grass is apple green.
See the peaches
in the clouds, persimmon
in the nearby hill, olive
where the branches lean.”
I couldn’t yet walk,
but you wheeled me
everywhere.
The stroller was my chariot
and you— my charioteer
pointing out the poetry
in every object,
every phrase
until my world filled
with the sound of your voice
and my eyes knew,
my ear knew, my mind knew
the wonder that lives inside
all spoken words.
When I was almost grown
you told me the story
of how you described the universe
giving me my gift of words.
I laughed, but never properly replied.
I wanted to bring you colors

of rain washed air,
to walk beside you when you
couldn’t see the lavender
anymore in mountains,
or the mustard in fields
where dandelions bloom—
and describe for you how beautiful
the colors are in the after light of rain,
how everything seems deeper—
even the water soaked grain
on the bark of trees.
In the picture that I paint
we are walking up a path
in the late afternoon—
we are bathed in the clear gold light
that fills a sky with promise.
I am pointing out a tree
with avocado leaves
streaked with teal.
It has just rained.


In gratitude for my mother
who gave me the gift of words
and for Kotofumi Tsukuri who created them.


_____________________________________________

Photo of grafitti in Lake View Terrace (c) 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk.
Poem by Susan Rogers used by permission.
"Violinist on the Street" by Susan Dobay used by permission.
"With You Always" by Minoru Ikeda - from the collection of Maja Trochimczyk.