Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Poetrypalooza Day 4 - Again For The First Time

Again For The First Time, Rosemary Catacalos
Wings Press
$16, 79 pgs

This is the Wings Press thirtieth anniversary edition of Again For The First Time by Rosemary Catacalos, first published in 1984 by Tooth of Time Books (New Mexico). Ms. Catacalos is the granddaughter of Greek and Mexican immigrants to San Antonio and this heritage has produced a rich brew. "Ariadne of the Treacherous Thread" appears in many of these poems and haunts the others. The author's words sound like time immemorial, like memory itself, bone-deep and connected through all of los ancianos who came before. Ms. Catacalos convinces me that the drums I sometimes hear are indeed real and that I can perform magic - that I am magic. If we listen to her she will help us learn how to live more appreciatively. And how to die: a respectful nod to time followed by a grin and a wink. True story.

My favorites:


                                                                          in memory of Sam Sinkin

A man dies suddenly and just as suddenly a certain
wave of the hand, the rumple of a linen jacket,
the simple drumbeat of his laughter, become
crucial in a way that yesterday they were not.
Now that there will never be time for that cup
of coffee we were always going to have and that
discussion of the Bill of Rights.
Now that I'll never get to ask you about the special
way this world fit together for a man who built
a western-wear factory and read more than most
and whose mother had kept her samovar boiling and
boiling in a strange country.
Now that what you have taken with you is yours
And what each of us remembers of you is ours,
this is what you have given me to keep:
The bittersweet cries of Yaacov's accordion
at Steven Ross' wedding feast.
Your hand softly beating time on the hotel tablecloth.
The faraway look in your eyes as you watched
us dance the hora, our arms and legs waving
like an ancient line of seaweed swaying on
the floor of the Mediterranean.
The way all at once your face shone as though
you were not only seeing us, as though you
were seeing peace and hearing the world's
heart pound for joy in this dance that
Jews, Arabs, Greeks, Turks, Armenians, brothers
in time and music, all hold in common trust.
The way at that moment you knew something,
remembered something that had long
been lost to this earth.
It was just then that Cousin Hana called to you
from the line of dancers, jolted you back
to this celebration in this hotel in Texas.
Sam, she cried. Sam! Come and dance!
Everybody dance!
I remember the playful wave you gave her
and the way your eyes almost shut
with sudden laughter. And you shouted back
I am dancing! You were dancing, Sam,
and now that it's become so crucial
we see you're dancing still.


The thread you say I've loosened idly,
reeling out, reeling in, to tease you,
confuse you.
No, please believe me.
This thread is not a game.
It has the same rhythm as my breathing.
I spin with it day and night
until the wheel leaves me dizzy.
I suffer and nearly go blind
with every knot and tangle.
My fingers bleed all over the loom
from so much trying. To make
this love I give
a fit cloth for the world,
something to wear proudly.

Rosemary Catacalos was the 2013 Poet Laureate of Texas.

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