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Best Famous Carolyn Forche Poems

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by Carolyn Forche |

The Garden Shukkei-en

 By way of a vanished bridge we cross this river
as a cloud of lifted snow would ascend a mountain.

She has always been afraid to come here.

It is the river she most 
remembers, the living
and the dead both crying for help.

A world that allowed neither tears nor lamentation.

The matsu trees brush her hair as she passes
beneath them, as do the shining strands of barbed wire.

Where this lake is, there was a lake,
where these black pine grow, there grew black pine.

Where there is no teahouse I see a wooden teahouse
and the corpses of those who slept in it.

On the opposite bank of the Ota, a weeping willow
etches its memory of their faces into the water.

Where light touches the face, the character for heart is written.

She strokes a burnt trunk wrapped in straw:
I was weak and my skin hung from my fingertips like cloth

Do you think for a moment we were human beings to them?

She comes to the stone angel holding paper cranes.
Not an angel, but a woman where she once had been,
who walks through the garden Shukkei-en
calling the carp to the surface by clapping her hands.

Do Americans think of us?

So she began as we squatted over the toilets:
If you want, I'll tell you, but nothing I say will be enough.

We tried to dress our burns with vegetable oil.

Her hair is the white froth of rice rising up kettlesides, her mind also.
In the postwar years she thought deeply about how to live.

The common greeting dozo-yiroshku is please take care of me.
All hibakusha still alive were children then.

A cemetery seen from the air is a child's city.

I don't like this particular red flower because
it reminds me of a woman's brain crushed under a roof.

Perhaps my language is too precise, and therefore difficult to understand?

We have not, all these years, felt what you call happiness.
But at times, with good fortune, we experience something close.
As our life resembles life, and this garden the garden.
And in the silence surrounding what happened to us

it is the bell to awaken God that we've heard ringing.


by Carolyn Forche |

The Testimony Of Light

 Our life is a fire dampened, or a fire shut up in stone.
 --Jacob Boehme, De Incarnatione Verbi

Outside everything visible and invisible a blazing maple.
Daybreak: a seam at the curve of the world. The trousered legs of the women
 shimmered.
They held their arms in front of them like ghosts.

The coal bones of the house clinked in a kimono of smoke.
An attention hovered over the dream where the world had been.

For if Hiroshima in the morning, after the bomb has fallen,
 is like a dream, one must ask whose dream it is. {1}

Must understand how not to speak would carry it with us.
With bones put into rice bowls.
While the baby crawled over its dead mother seeking milk.

Muga-muchu {2}: without self, without center. Thrown up in the sky by a wind.

The way back is lost, the one obsession.
The worst is over.
The worst is yet to come.



1--...is the question asked by Peter Schwenger in Letter Bomb. 
 Nuclear Holocaust and the Exploding Word.
2--...is from Robert Jay Lifton's Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima.


by Carolyn Forche |

The Colonel

 What you have heard is true. I was in his house. 
His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His 
daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the 
night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol 
on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on 
its black cord over the house. On the television 
was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles 
were embedded in the walls around the house to 
scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his 
hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings 
like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of 
lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for 
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, 
salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed 
the country. There was a brief commercial in 
Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was 
some talk of how difficult it had become to govern. 
The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel 
told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the 
table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say 
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to 
bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on 
the table. They were like dried peach halves. There 
is no other way to say this. He took one of them in 
his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a 
water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of 
fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone, 
tell your people they can go f--- themselves. He 
swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held 
the last of his wine in the air. Something for your 
poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor 
caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on 
the floor were pressed to the ground. 

May 1978


by Carolyn Forche |

Poem For Maya

 Dipping our bread in oil tins
we talked of morning peeling
open our rooms to a moment
of almonds, olives and wind
when we did not yet know what we were.
The days in Mallorca were alike:
footprints down goat-paths
from the beds we had left,
at night the stars locked to darkness.
At that time we were learning
to dance, take our clothes
in our fingers and open
ourselves to their hands.
The veranera was with us.
For a month the almond trees bloomed,
their droppings the delicate silks
we removed when each time a touch
took us closer to the window where
we whispered yes, there on the intricate
balconies of breath, overlooking
the rest of our lives.


by Carolyn Forche |

The Morning Baking

 Grandma, come back, I forgot
How much lard for these rolls 

Think you can put yourself in the ground
Like plain potatoes and grow in Ohio?
I am damn sick of getting fat like you 

Think you can lie through your Slovak?
Tell filthy stories about the blood sausage?
Pish-pish nights at the virgin in Detroit? 

I blame your raising me up for my Slav tongue
You beat me up out back, taught me to dance 

I'll tell you I don't remember any kind of bread
Your wavy loaves of flesh
Stink through my sleep
The stars on your silk robes 

But I'm glad I'll look when I'm old
Like a gypsy dusha hauling milk


by Carolyn Forche |

The Visitor

 In Spanish he whispers there is no time left. 
It is the sound of scythes arcing in wheat,
the ache of some field song in Salvador.
The wind along the prison, cautious
as Francisco's hands on the inside, touching 
the walls as he walks, it is his wife's breath
slipping into his cell each night while he
imagines his hand to be hers. It is a small country.

There is nothing one man will not do to another.