YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

February 2009

VOL XVII, Issue 2, Number 190

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson

European Editor: Mois Benarroch

Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter

Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena

ISSN 1480-6401



   C. P. Cavafis
      The City


   Michael Estabrook
      Patti's earliest memories
         Lemon Cookies
         Secret Lives
         My Wife in our Hotel Room
         Every Single Day

   Felino Soriano
      The Afterward
      A Forgotten Noon
      Thematic Slip
      We'll See
      Choosing to Believe

   Deborah Cher
      Can I Steal Your Fractured Heart?
      A Long White Recorder
      The Salmon's Journey                                 

   Michael Lee Johnson
      Gingerbread Lady
      Harvest Time
      Charley Plays a Tune
      Nikki Purrs
      Rod Stroked Survival with a Deadly Hammer
      Mother, Edith, at 98

   Joseph R. Trombatore
      O Sole Mio
      The Road Trip
      Crash Test Dummy
      Tin Can


   David Sparenberg
         at 1 and 60


C. P. Cavafis

The City

You say: I'll explore other lands,
And conquer other seas foretold,
To find a city that confides
A better life for me to hold.
Yet all my struggling here compounds
The destiny that I have found:
My heart (so like a watchman's lamp)
Surrounds itself with this grave's damp.
How long, I ask, with subdued pride
Must my old ghost herein reside?
I look around, as far as I can see,
Surveying life's offensive misery:
The structure of my time' relay
Is darkness, mildew, and decay,
Where I have wasted many years
Walking into empty tears.

But don't believe it: you'll not go
To other lands, or seas you know.
The city pulls you to your knees,
And you will struggle in the same
Streets that gather life's disease.
Greeting neighbours by their name
And waking each and every morn
In the same tenements you were born.
Instead of leaving you'll return
Without a shred of hope to burn,
To build that boat you've striven for
To carry you away once more.
You are interned, is there no hope?
You always did your best to cope -
And through a window, closed too soon
The world is mastered from your room.

Translation: 23/05/86 K. J. Gerken

Michael Estabrook

I have a new mission in my life:
My apprenticeship as a poet over the past 20 years has prepared me for my latest 
project - The Patti Poems, poems (and some prose) about my wife. This project will 
be my magnum opus, what I will spend the rest of my life on. It is all I 
care about, all that is important to me. It (and she) has become a bit of an 
obsession. And, oh woe is me, it definitely has a mind of its own, pulling me all 
over the place, so far becoming a collection of 21 books. But well, so often 
we do these things simply because we must. Patti is my climb up Mount Everest. 
I must try my best to capture the pure, ethereal beauty of this most incredible 
woman, not only the most beautiful woman I have ever known, but the most beautiful 
person I have ever known. I'm not certain, quite honestly, if I am up to the task, 
that I have the talent and poetic apparatus to be successful, but well, what choice 
do I have really? Where is Dante when I need him? He has sent me off through 
Purgatory and into Paradise all by myself.

Patti's earliest memories


A cinder block garbage house behind
the apartments where people keep their
garbage cans. A damp place with spiders
in dusty webs in corners. But we
still loved to play the run-
around-the-garbage-house game
(ashes ashes we all fall down)
running round and round then dashing inside,
hiding behind the dented smelly cans,
(eyes on the spiders)
being found, screaming, running out and
around and around the house again.
(Mom smiling the whole while,
hanging clothes on the clothesline.)

Dad ~~~ up on the hot dash of Daddy's big Dodge, my tiny feet dangling. I wished he would go, drive away with me up here on top of the world, all smiling, my dimples glinting. But I know he'll never go because it's too dangerous, he says, too dangerous, says he to me.
Tommy ~~~~~ Tommy, the kid next-door, already in school, brought out his class project for all the rest of us to see: a painted piece of cardboard - a mirror dusted with powder for a frozen lake and cotton for snow with a tiny figurine ice skater poised delicately there in the center. I can't wait to go to school and make something like that.
Lemon Cookies ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ After her meeting she had 3 or 4 of these delicious lemon cookies with the powdery white sugar on top like snow in the Himalayas leftover so she wrapped them up lovingly in Saran Wrap and placed them carefully, as if she were putting a fragile relic, the tibia of St. Jerome perhaps, back in its box, into the drawer next to the refrigerator on top of the other snacks, desserts, and baked goods. I don't like these lemon cookies, they're too tart for me, but my wife loves them. "Almost as good as my Nana used to make," she says smiling, brushing a precious crumb from the corner of her pretty lips. So I was saddened later that evening when after her bath she strode determinedly to the snacks, desserts, and baked goods drawer, yanked out her precious packet of lemon cookies and flung them into the trash can, cinching the belt of her bathrobe tighter, her jaw set firm.
Secret Lives ~~~~~~~~~~~~ She calls me at work, 8 in the morning, early for her, her voice sleepy still, soft and sexy, sounding like Lauren Bacall or Eva Gardner must've of sounded way back when. "Oh, it's you, I dialed the wrong number." You always feel a little let down when someone says that to you. "Well who were you calling so early in the morning when you are normally sleeping?" Slow response, she's not fully awake yet. "Just some work thing, see you later." And she hangs up leaving me wondering about what other life she might be leading, secret lives get exposed all the damn time.
TWO OR THREE LONELY LEAVES - ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ cling to their branches, reticent to release and fall to the ground. Below, leaves are being blown by cold winds across the lawn and I'm thinking again about being home with you. This good evening when the sun is done, gone down beyond the dome of the Earth, we'll be together, just the two of us, in our family room, watching a movie - The Razor's Edge, an old one from 1946, I am eager to see it again. I am also looking forward to brushing your hair or rubbing your pretty feet (whichever you want most) allowing me to watch the warm smile sweeping peacefully across your face like waves rippling across a warm lake during summer. It is all quite simply more than I deserve, in this the only life we have. If there is another life, a next life after this one, and afterlife, and there is a God of some sort ruling there, He (or She) will be very happy with me for having taken such good care of one of his or hers most precious and perfect creations all these years, or at least for trying the best I could, like those lonely, tenacious leaves clinging resolutely to life against the relentless tug of the winds of time.
My Wife in our Hotel Room ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I look up from my writer's notebook: "8-7-07 - Metropolitan Museum of Art - walked around the modern art galleries again: Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol, Willem de Konig, not sure I understand it all that well, but it's amazing, simply amazing, a fresh new way of seeing (and interpreting) the world." "Does your hair always feel different when you wash it in a place like this?" asks my wife standing naked and beautiful as a field of yellow flowers on the other side of our hotel room. I respond, "Yes, I think so." "Must be the water," she says, as she turns and drops her towel.
Every Single Day ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I want to be with you every single day of my life, want to see you, kiss you, touch you, hear your voice calling out to me, soothing my soul, day in and day out. Seeing you every day makes each day worthwhile, makes every day count and shine on the landscape of my life. Your presence pulls me through it all. When you are not in my day I find myself morose, anxious, depressed, irascible, unfulfilled and incomplete. So please never leave me, please continue to be mine every single day of my life or else it cannot be considered a life at all.
Felino Soriano The Afterward ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Animals welcome and clash; bathe, tilt within wounds, realize. The earth of things, the connection of basic intuition, the animal stride, its contoured visibility through stealth interaction with maze movement. Accolades, unaware until the finding.
Foursome ~~~~~~~~ Silence and I admired the lovers' intertwined fingers, a smoldering display of branches bearing fruit. They a walking motive, a conceptual blur to the blinded passersby dedicated to emotional content, capturing a cinematic moment within popular culture. The lovers far away: hummingbirds changing directions, silence explained love predicts an existence of manmade mazes.
A Forgotten Noon ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We landscape thoughts of mischievous and peaceful embodiment, copasetic layers toward memories calling atop mind waves, the intelligence of backtalk found before time's now, coherent beautified shapes, motions. Surrogate day, the light among many fading whispers.
Thematic Slip ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If truth is the projected mindset, the delicate avenues and patterns which can too weave into many facets of subjective deliberate factual subsequent, _the tongue plays villain counterpart, necessity to contemporary once antiquated revolving tragedy, syncopated alertness though invisible, the intangible thoughts crawl counteractive deconstructing language simultaneous within the mind's surmountable blemish.
We'll See ~~~~~~~~~ The human admires vistas and cliches. Which though is more valuable to the psyche vis-a-vis implanting image-languages across its gullible tongue? Spoken later it goes to memory, tomorrow will understand the hanging on fire orange, its vernacular of gas and flame too far to linguistically ascertain by Braille or verbal connotation.
Choosing to Believe ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The swelling of reality stings the eyes, poured from multiplied palms of hurried fata morganas, atop the constant changing of neurotic methodologies: privileges born as intertwined innate shadows adhered to the sculpted senses of rising moments of becoming or descending.
Examination ~~~~~~~~~~~ "Why" was part of the anomalous inventory, attached to the speaking in solitude solitary spatial identity individual, whom spoke a foreign causational tongue, dislocated from aspectual grievances of societal normalcy, for his philosophy of independent opaqueness questioned that of the fashionable fallacies of regular proprietary, manmade thought. Others did not partake in the skill of listening, rode on the horizonal horse of distant gratitude, splaying forth simulated reality, believing the unanswered resolves the intellectual highness of unrelated happenstance.
Deborah Cher Can I Steal Your Fractured Heart? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ No time to pack at twilight Slip away quietly at dawn Steal a moment to smell the mulberry that suckled you With a squandered alphabet The home is waiting breathlessy, She is the beautiful prisoner Quickening your heartbeat Her siren song detonates your core The toys grow old and dusty Gnawed by time The beds grow cold and musty And the bare rooms tremble By the lemon tree, the pool is green, Life grows there, changing colours Beneath the captured tears, Pushing through to the surface Come for me Come inside from the deafening wind Brave, ardent husband to an abiding dream Can I steal your fractured heart?
A Long White Recorder ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Your hands Softly folded at a feast Gentle Prince of hearts Saturated with unbroken feeling Your mother Disguised as a boy On the segregated slopes Where your six pointed stars are buried At the magical palace in Tehran, Your smooth bronze fingers Play out the sweet yearning Of a long white recorder
The Salmon's Journey ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I Salmon tear upward Flesh against water From Ithaca The sea, the great bowl Draws them all away Crimson Sockeye and majestic King Plain little Humpie, sleek Silver and toothy Dog All hear the call Up the waterfall they fly, defying gravity; A million miracles reach the summit II In slow, dying ripples Bits of fathers flake away To feed the fragile fry Born to meet Poseidon
Esmeralda ~~~~~~~~~ I Esmeralda sits on her rocking chair Listening to short wave I brought a comb for her long grey hair We talk about her day She was a gypsy She was a dancer The archdeacon was jealous The hunchback loved her She sits: a giant Her words are falling Pieces of a star She sits: some kind of moon Bright and far as a waning lantern Her words ring like church-bells On a Sunday afternoon II She was a gypsy Played flamenco She was a dancer Had a lover Didn't nations go to war to save her? She liked to dance and have a good time But she was only beautiful, and kind. And there was no Paris. "Mother, when she died, what hurt most?" "Hearts." "Why didn't you say something? How could you stand there watching? And father, it was your fault too. You let them." They killed Esmerelda Threw her dripping heart to the ground It shattered like an urn of blood The executioner stared ahead Bells wept
Michael Lee Johnson Gingerbread Lady ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gingerbread lady, no sugar or cinnamon spice; years ago arthritis and senility took their toll. Crippled mind moves in then out, like an old sexual adventure blurred in an imagination of fingertip thoughts. Who in hell remembers the characters? There was George, her lover, near the bridge at the Chicago River: she missed his funeral; her friends were there. She always made feather-light of people dwelling on death, but black and white she remembers well. The past is the present; the present is forgotten. Who remembers Gingerbread Lady? Sometimes lazy-time tea with a twist of lime, sometimes drunken-time screwdriver twist with clarity. She walks in scandals; sometimes she walks in soft night shoes. Her live-in maid smirks as Gingerbread Lady gums her food, false teeth forgotten in a custom-imprinted cup with water, vinegar, and ginger. The maid died. Gingerbread Lady looks for a new maid. Years ago, arthritis and senility took their toll. Yesterday, a new maid walked into the nursing home. Ginger forgot to rise out of bed; no sugar, or cinnamon toast. -2008-
Harvest Time ~~~~~~~~~~~~ (Version 5 Final) A Metis Indian lady, drunk, hands blanketed over as in prayer, over a large brown fruit basket naked of fruit, no vine, no vineyard inside-approaches the Edmonton, Alberta adoption agency. There are only spirit gods inside her empty purse. Inside, an infant, restrained from life, with a fruity wine sap apple wedged like a teaspoon of autumn sun inside its mouth. A shallow pool of tears starts to mount in native blue eyes. Snuffling, the mother offers a slim smile, turns away. She slithers voyeuristically through near slum streets, and alleyways, looking for drinking buddies to share a hefty pint of applejack wine. -2007-
Charley Plays a Tune ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ (Version 2) Crippled with arthritis and Alzheimer's, in a dark rented room, Charley plays melancholic melodies on a dust filled harmonica he found abandoned on a playground of sand years ago by a handful of children playing on monkey bars. He now goes to the bathroom on occasion, relieving himself takes forever; he feeds the cat when he doesn't forget where the food is stashed at. He hears bedlam when he buys fish at the local market and the skeleton bones of the fish show through. He lies on his back riddled with pain, pine cones fill his pillows and mattress; praying to Jesus and rubbing his rosary beads Charley blows tunes out his celestial instrument notes float through the open window touch the nose of summer clouds. Charley overtakes himself with grief and is ecstatically alone. Charley plays a solo tune. -2007
Nikki Purrs ~~~~~~~~~~~ Soft nursing 5 solid minutes of purr paw peddling like a kayak competitor against ripples of my 60 year old river rib cage- I feel like a nursing mother but I'm male and I have no nipples. Sometimes I feel afloat. Nikki is a little black skunk, kitten, suckles me for milk, or affection? But she is 8 years old a cat. I'm her substitute mother, afloat in a flower bed of love, and I give back affection freely unlike a money exchange. Done, I go to the kitchen, get out Fancy Feast, gourmet salmon, shrimp, a new work day begins. -2007-
Rod Stroked Survival with a Deadly Hammer ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or a pull of a lever, that one of the bunch in her pocket was a winner or the slots were a redeemer; but life itself was not real that was strictly for the mentally insane at the Elgin Mental Institution. She gambled her savings away on a riverboat stuck in mud on a riverbank, the Grand Victoria, in Elgin, Illinois. Her bare feet were always propped up on wooden chair; a cigarette dropped from her lips like morning fog. She always dreamed of traveling, not nightmares. But she couldn't overcome, overcome, the terrorist ordeal of the German siege of Leningrad. She was a foreigner now; she is a foreigner for good. Her first husband died after spending a lifetime in prison with stinging nettles in his toes and feet; the second husband died of hunger when there were no more rats to feed on, after many fights in prison for the last remains. What does a poet know of suffering? Rebecca has rod stroked survival with a deadly mallet. She gambles nickels, dimes, quarters, tokens tossed away, living a penniless life for grandchildren who hardly know her name. Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or the pull of a lever. -2007-
Mother, Edith, at 98 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Edith, in this nursing home blinded with macular degeneration, I come to you with your blurry eyes, crystal sharp mind, your countenance of grace- as yesterday's winds I have chosen to consume you and take you away. "Oh, where did Jesus disappear to", she murmured, over and over again, in a low voice dripping words like a leaking faucet: "Oh, there He is my Angel of the coming." -2007-
Joseph R. Trombatore O Sole Mio ~~~~~~~~~~ The mice are quiet tonight. Their dreams of cheese, like zeppelins, hover almost within reach. Flammable, on the verge of something quite magnificent; news worthy; possibly a Pulitzer. You can sense the high-pitched expectation, the hairs on your neck are standing. Cold-cut calculating as an Italian seamstress bargaining with the butcher; she knows what hunger is - having tasted the rust of needles, licked clean the stockings of tourists, played slap bass for coin at the bus terminal. One should never have hair as big as a headache. But in winter, when it rains, sheep get wet. When it rains, brakes squeal, cats are prone to seizures, kidney failure; lizards just blink, because they know. We are all waiting for our cue; cigarette burnsfor the projectionist to start the next reel. One day, remind me to tell you about my Grandma from Catania; how she came to find part of a rodent in her bottle of pop. Or the time I saw my very first Fellini - peacocks in a forest of priests; long fingernails, tapping on broken glass.
The Road Trip ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Never mind the razor & the roses. There will be plenty of things to play with, once we open our trunks; swimming & turtle hull. The ice machine seems to recognize you; has a list posted with everyone's bedroom nickname.. A paper umbrella hangs on the side of your glass; a slice of pineapple begins to brown. What a mess the landscape breathes - so much road kill in Texas. The Heron would love to expose the side Audubon never captured; flipping crawfish at interlopers driving by; listening for the crunch beneath a tire's track. Flamingos guard their diet to maintain that glorious pink glow. Quite quiet & altogether on the snowshoe; lurch & skip town. Beach blanket & a Barbie; white rabbit ice cream; Barn Owl singing a baritone ballad. This is not the time, nor place, for anything that's familiar.
Crash Test Dummy ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ No need for a shower tonight; your keyboard is stained black from so many, after hour reports. That hypnotic sound of typing all night, coffee cup rings; running water traffic jam; all that travel time has got you bad. You're in a rut. The endless skid marks of seat belt burns, like a fresh tattoo. The tunnel vision from all those brick walls; billboards no one slows down to let you read. The sudden stops & beyond - the dance of windshield & whiplash. You're like an old Tiny Tears doll on Antiques Roadshow without its original box; not worth as much in its present condition. There's another brick wall right around the next corner pal. This time pull over, raise the hood & just wait. You'll see. O you'll see.
Tin Can ~~~~~~~ Flat cake pan cake, usually green or red; never see the blue ones. Tires try their best to make diamonds on the pavement; I give them E for effort. Crows carry these off to their nests; make the Hen proud of Poppa. He brings jewels from other kingdoms; saves up just in case of a random ransom note; a distant cousin's bar bill; an elevator made of pull tabs. Never really sure which floor to ask for, just push buttons until the alarm goes off. Buttons & batons; that's what life is all about; on & off switches, with a party, here & there.. A slap, a burp, a laugh, a tear. A fragment in need of revision.


at 1 and 60

I did not do enough,
although it was in my heart.
I wanted to enjoy
the warmth of life
more than to put out
the fires  of war.

I protested
but I did not sacrifice.
I marched
while the innocent and guilty alike
were burned by death from the sky.

Maybe if that child in
had not died of napalm,
the children of Iraq would
not now be
dying in my name?

Being an American,
I chose the ease of
what we call freedom.
I said, "No,"
but I did not make myself heard in
the power of compassionate
denouncement.  I said "Yes,"
but not always to otherness
and not with the strength and
reverence of beatitude.

When I die
war will not have
left the lovely Earth and
should I come back in
the perfume of a flower, likely
the petals will be
stained with freshly fallen blood.

What child's cheek
may yet come to paint with
pain the soft white of the lily?  What
lust may yet harvest
the agony of thorns,
while crushing the ecstasy of roses?

I did not do enough,
although I had set out
to make a monument of
War No More. 

There is my failure.
The teeming world of
tears that so easily tips
into fear and madness
does not need
these words alone. Rather,
a communion
where none are absent.  Where
there can be anger as
an emotional bubble but
not enemies and
not crimes of hate.

It is said that
freedom is not free;
but it is
death that is made wholesale. 
The axiom is propaganda.  Peace
requires the greater vulnerability.

I have done some:
having spoken
when others remained silent; having
stepped up on occasion,
while others withdrew.  But I have
not done enough.  I know this,
so do you. 

That yet another generation must
plant the seeds of healing I
have dreamed of and they,
labor for the season
I have not known.

Yet have I read, in
visions of prophecy,
that a tree will in twilight later grow
at the center of the circle of life; the
weapons of fratricide be
beaten down, the vineyards filled
with the royalty of angels.  Robins
singing and butterflies,
not boy-men crying
for their mothers' mercy.

to dance in that round in
footprints of a loving God!  To stand in prayer
blessed beneath that
earthly bough.

David Sparenberg
3 Feb. 2009


All poems copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is

YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts - Copyright (c) 1993 - 2009 by 
Klaus J. Gerken.

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