EGYPT, TUESDAY 8th JUNE, 2004
preparing for the Venus Transit
—Maria Rosales, Paradise, CA
Before the heat rises behind the mountain
birds give song to the blue morning.
The Nile is at peace.
The burden of all these hungry mouths
does not ripple her skin.
A new tribe is here
setting up tents
watching the heavens for signs.
A woman sits at home in her body,
alone in a throng.
evaporates around her
into the heating air.
She is collecting
tucking them behind her ribs
next to the heart.
Morning melts into the yellow Nile,
air jumps with anticipation.
Ra and Isis prepare to join.
—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento, CA
The man in the back, with his hair
faux punk, unintentionally knotted,
pranks us with a faint melody, holding
a shockingly buffed guitar; glued
to its flank, a photo of his mother.
She is waving at him, wearing pink.
These lumps, unrecognizable,
some go onto us, appear into us.
In the radiology waiting room
a horrified mother grandly spills
her coffee on the immaculate floor.
No one talks, but they have stories:
imaging of a post-op hip replacement
mammogram, a kid’s arm, dangling
the boy’s shrieks silenced
by the reverberation
of his own unending agony.
The way they identify you
is by clothing: black burka, face
half or not covered, female, don’t
know anything about them. There
is something wrong underneath.
Do you do your monthly breast exam?
A woman walks in, collects the
black burka, they walk past the coffee.
When they come to collect
the black woman, they call out—
coffee stain on left wrist
with two small people,
turban, like the way
Maya Angelou wore them.
Her name is:
after my great-grandmother.
A lady in pink comes to find me,
light blue eye shadow, a small pink
and gold symbol on her chest.
How does she know me?
She says her name: Fatima.
AT THE HOUSE OF GOLD
This is her first time.
She lays her naked life on the table.
Surrendered, without regret.
He treats her gently, all business.
Gift from friends earrings 18 carat,
family bracelet 14 carat,
a treasure she bought for her beloved
that languished in a drawer for years,
pendant 18 carat, clasp 14 carat.
The gaudy necklace
from her brother-in-law, the one whose name
no longer sits lightly on her husband’s tongue.
Surprise! 22 carat.
Calculator clicks, clicks, tally complete.
slips her hand once more into her purse.
Her mother’s cross.
She will never wear it,
this image of torture of a gentle prophet,
symbol of tyranny of her mother’s womb.
Year after year, another child hurtled
into a world where poverty is a curse.
The crucifix slides across the white tablecloth.
He raises it to his eyeglass.
Nine carats. She wonders
if what she feels is loss.
Perhaps the tiny arms
would reach out to her
if they were not nailed down.
AN ENGLISHWOMAN AT THE GRINDING ROCK
Rush Ranch, 2003
Sisters across a stone circle.
This is the center of the world.
Around us, the vast river of grass flows
in silken currents toward the hills.
The baked rock is a Dali painting
a moonscape cratered and pockmarked
where stone pounded stone. Weary shoulders stooped,
other women lingered here—how long ago?—
made marks, ground acorns, nursed babies,
flew East with the grass green wind.
My words inadequate for this sacred place.
Time only a concept,
measured in grass color, calf birthing,
the arrival of migrant hawks,
or sudden exclamations of lupins
on the flanks of tender hills.
The spirits are at peace here. They sing
with the redwing blackbirds
in the sighing eucalyptus, or wait
with the barn owls for dusk’s return.
The stones talk of women who came to grind,
of their history, not mine.
Unless I look beneath, to where my soul whispers,
strung in my brittle bone cage.
It calls me Woman.
Bearer of burdens, Keeper of the Fire.
Memory’s maiden. Spellbinder.
The stones talk.
—JD DeHart, Chattanooga, TN
Today I am retracing
my steps through old
sounds accompany my
I will make intentional
so part of the trip
Am I a closed loop?
No, I do not own this
description. I am
an ongoing chain,
an open hand, a word
that would sustain.
Why were these old
images important? Who
can say now.
I tried to be All
Things and many voices.
Farmer and doctor
Soon, my trying became
tired. I held up
a small mirror, like
Sara in Isak’s dream.
At last I saw it.
Then I woke to hardly
remember what I had
a little even as they disclose.
Or maybe it’s just me.
Maybe I am the actor
on stage and everyone else
is an honest player.
There’s too much to know
to share in a 30-second
We switch the scene, until
the play has ended.
The camera tilts up.
An enormous set.
The main character
utters a tiny phrase.
Cut somewhere else.
Tell me more.
The follow-up scenario.
Bring it home.
A sequel ensues.
Then we learn there is
Then we learn the contract
The clowns are all saddened.
The dancers were all
just special effects.
People are people.
Even on the screen.
We loved it at first,
the plates, busy young
people bringing us
But lately the meals have
soured. Was it always
Did we take some minor
suggestion and run with
it, ascribing beauty
Oh well. We will find other
offerings down the road.
Many thanks to Maria Rosales, Rhony Bhopla and JD DeHart for today’s fine offerings as we roll into November! For more about the Transit of Venus, check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transit_of_Venus/.
The new issue of Sisyphus (from the Bay Area’s Charles Entrekin) is available as sisyphuslitmag.org/. This issue features articles about conservation, minimalism, and sustainable farming. You may enjoy evocative poetry, thought-provoking short story, social commentary, and humor. If you subscribe, you may comment on any articles.
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