YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

August 2009

VOL XVII, Issue 8, Number 196

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



   Marie Ocher
      Proper adjustments


   Jim Erkiletian
      Orpheus' Song
      For Euridyce:
      Such Good Songs:

   Roger Taber

   Adam J. Sorkin
      Poems by Mariana Dan
         The swan
         sacks of darkness
         my little ego
         magdalene or the glass bead game


   Marie Ocher
      The 3rd


Marie Ocher

Proper adjustments

Big blue veins
I wish they’d be any other color
but blue
But they don’t care, see -
Opposing your wishes
they grow and spread and take hostage
of the body
as it opens,
and the blue veins conquer:
We have always been"
the emperors,
We have always ruled
this waste-place,
and nobody else but us”.

Firsts ~~~~~~ Will you then admit? And babies are not different from And blushes are not different from And turning plates on dining floors Are not too different not at all And hands, they burst through thick earth-twigs And roots, and vanity, And many firsts. Lots and lots and lots.

Jim Erkiletian


It's no accident that the greatest tragic hero of the ancients is a poet/musician. 
How else do we explore the innermost reaches of our own collective psyche than by 
listening to our stories, our myths, the most powerful of which are sung.

Several gods play roles in the Orpheus story. Aphrodite, of course, the goddess of 
love and sensuality, and Athena, the goddess of justice and common sense, both have 
roles of prominence. But as in many tragedies, Hades, the lord of death, must make 
the final decisions. Most prominent, however, is Hermes, the trickster god of mystery 
and fate. For it was Hermes who invented the first lyre. But it was Orpheus who played 
it most beautifully. And composed on it.

Can a gifted mortal avoid falling victim to the jealousy of a god?

Orpheus' Song Listen to my song of pain and tragedy of birth Of the greatest musician-songwriter to ever walk the earth Orpheus was a child of Greece, three-thousand years ago Who played the lyre which symbolizes music to all the world And still we use for ³words that must be told in song² The term ³lyrics² that to which his lyre did belong... He set out from Athens in his twenty-second year To tour throughout the city states of his country so dear To sing that unity through love can conquer death and fear... His journeys took him further west, by pipes and cloven hooves To the seven hill tribes led by twins, children of wolves And some say he had made his way to islands further west Where the sun shines through the whole night long in the wake of Odysseys Then sailing back to Greece to find his songs were widely known Throughout the warring city-states his peace message had grown, His home city of Athens, after welcoming him with feasts Sent him to tour the dying civilizations of the east To make of him the very first ambassador of peace... Orpheus traveled five more years where Egypt¹s great Nile flows And north up into Persia where the Euphrates river rolls He saw the lands of India where the ancient wisdom lived And discovered spiritual messages among the ancient Nepalese He saw there¹d been great forests in the lands through which he trod Most reduced to charcoal in service to the metal-smelter gods He played in palaces for kings and in the village squares And spread the fame of Greece and new ideas bourning there Until his return to Athens in his twenty seventh year... And so he found himself back home his star still shining brightly To play and sing in homage to Athena and Aphrodite And there he met Euridyce, Athens¹ fairest flower And knew when first he met her eyes that he was in her power Euridyce, already known by the age of sixteenth years The most compassionate and caring of the city¹s dears An invitation to her house was Orpheus¹ request Her father soon accepted him as an honored guest With a pallet one wall separate from his lovely daughter¹s nest... A small window opened between the two and all that night They talked of what was dear to them and how as lovers might While Orpheus knew the joys of love, of princesses in Tibet Of sad-eyed beauties of the temples for Isis and Set Euridyce was innocent as a woman of Athens should be A virtuous daughter of a proper father, as pure as the Aegean sea Orpheus knew from the very first she was the only one Who¹d make his life of searching for his meaning to become The one to give his wanderlust its station in the sun... They talked and talked the whole night through until the rooster called And they hurried on their separate ways to their duties in the festivals And through the day their thoughts would stray to their quickly growing love And they found themselves longing for the next evening to come And the second night was like the first except they finally slept As the dawns light glowed in red and gold on storm clouds to the west And on the third day while Orpheus played at the Temple of Mysteries Death came in the form of the god Hermes and took Euridyce Away to the dark kingdom stripped of all that¹s sensory... In those days death was closer than to us it is today Orpheus went immediately to the entrance, far away Where down the thousand-and-one dark steps the River Styx is said To separate the land of the living from the kingdom of the dead He descended all the steps into the cave that lay below Until he arrived at the river bank with his lyre and his bow He sang and played until Charon came to hear such beauty in loss Then he suddenly jumped into the boat and asked to be taken across To the land of dead where he must face lord Hades at such cost... Charon explained that should Orpheus cross, he may not be allowed back again Lord Hades is greatly displeased at those who come calling before their time Orpheus ignored the boatman and rode across the meandering Styx Then he journeyed across the land of the dead to Hades great palace of mist And when he was granted audience, he argued with great erudition That the great lord Hades should understand the terrible human condition That it was unjust that Euridyce should be taken so young and unwed To never have known the joys of the living before being confined to the dead That it was unworthy of great Hades, to such unfairness be led... Hades listened then granted Orpheus, this tender plea of his mission That Euridyce should be allowed to return, but only on one condition He must not look on her until such time as they reach the living sunlight And so they crossed the land of the dead, her hand gripped behind him so tight Charon took them over the Styx, they climbed the thousand-and-one steps But at the top step, in the sudden sun light, she stumbled and lost her grip And in one fateful moment he turned and looked back only to see her fade Into the tunnel, back down the stairs he ran with a desperate haste But he found her already across the Styx and all his pleading too late... Old Charon said when he appeared on the bank, ³No more musical tricks And by Lord Hermes order Orpheus you are forbidden to cross the Styx,² So he¹s marooned in the land of the living, never again to see his love And Orpheus has never again played his lyre for the living people above He wanders the earth and some say he plays for only the wilderness now And this may be why sometimes if you try, if you get well away from the towns And well away from the farms and the houses that mean civilization is near Only where animals are wild and roam free, where uncut forests appear In the distance the most beautiful, saddest of music may reach your wondering ear... For Euridyce: I¹m going to write you a song, about love sex and sin About princes and pirates and thieves About how the wild northwind through your shining hair Can whisper a tune a free heart believes I¹m going to throw in a cuddle for flavour and fun And your smile for the melody line And if your damn cat gets himself off my lap I just might be able to finish in time I¹m going to write in the tune of your sparkling laughter That makes my poor heart seem to glow Going to give it the rhythm of your sweet idealism That causes our love for our people to grow I¹m going to write you a song about living and giving Healthy, organic and sound Being with you is like touching the sky Yet knowing we both have our feet on the ground Touching with you is like being the sky Yet knowing we both have our feet on the ground.... Such Good Songs: Social changes haven¹t ended where Psychic change began Like lovers in the evening mist They both go hand in hand Yet I don't understand the wars That tear our world apart Nor why it is such good songs Come out of broken hearts. Holding minds together Walking in the park Pretending on the bridge to be The captains of the ark We know our world is much more than The sum of all its parts But can¹t glimpse why such good songs Come out of broken hearts. Yet a broken heart can tell you Some things you need to know About yourself and life and which Directions you can go But it can kill a part of you Or turn a piece to stone Until you learn to live with it Your life is not your own. So if you shy away from letting Yourself get involved You think to stay inside yourself You¹ll have the problem solved We¹ll finish all those things that come From us, before we start And never learn why such good songs Come out of broken hearts. And never learn what good songs come out of broken hearts...
Roger Taber SWEATING IT OUT ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A soldier, an arm and leg in traction (truck blown up by a mine) reassured me he felt fine, just fine… while half-listening to pulp fiction; No regrets, he said, well worth any price he’d known he might pay for the thrills and kills every soldier sees but as Hobson’s choice As the audio story started to spread dark mischief in his one good ear, he leaned forward as if trying to peer into shadow lands of the dead; War’s is mother’s milk, he explained, to those with subtle convictions, like its paymasters and those politicians floating victory on the wind; The audio voice ducking and diving the whistle of a sniper’s bullet, the blind young soldier ducked a hit, beads of sweat a legend for living He was discharged, fighting off tears for all the world's nightmares
IN PRAISE OF PERENNIALS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I am the spirit of the wind writing poems for trees, turning leaves just as humankind turns select pages of history, Creation taking imagination to its heart and turning it into a religion, nurturing growth independent of home truths daring to question how best to raise born again geraniums I am the spirit of the wind, no sooner rocking a baby in its cradle and composing a lullaby than pitting sailors against an ominously moody sea as heartless as a 21st century pope towards its gay and transgender folks standing up for love and peace and demanding a place in the natural order due a common humanity I am the spirit of the wind treating the eagle and the dove with equal favour or cruelty, as Earth Mother has demonstrated since Creation took imagination to its heart and turned it into a religion, stunting growth, leaving home truths vulnerable to rust among last year’s geraniums Inspiring perennials, spirit of the wind last seen wrestling humankind
STRANGER THAN FICTION ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I’m as likely to arrive naked at the party and set tongues wagging as slip quietly away, everyone asking who I was, where I came from and wondering why I bothered turning up at all since I didn’t appear to have much to do or say, like some charismatic stranger stepped out of a dream I’m as likely to arrive, guns blazing at a showdown and set tongues wagging as slip quietly away, everyone complaining that I didn’t take their side against this or that antagonist or snivelling into handkerchiefs like lovers caught out playing cat and mouse with a passion that wearies of the game, leaves them home alone I’m as likely to arrive in royal fanfare at some local fete and set tongues wagging as slip quietly away, everyone agreed I could have put on a better show but supposing it’s for the best; Besides, who really knows what inspires us to action or inaction, given a fickle nature so often putting us at odds with each other? Call me life, shining love's light on the mind though its mortal shadow closing in behind
THE OPPORTUNIST ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I stay in heavy shadow so no one sees my face although they may glimpse me now and then as I close in the better to suss out how ready those I keep an eye on may be to receive the likes of me, whatever their expressed opinion I dare intrude on dreams, conspiring against the Sandman to undermine whatever kind intention possessing him to relieve stress, light up an all-devouring darkness threatening to obliterate any thoughts of love and peace, come early or late Yet, I am no one’s enemy, can even (sometimes) be a friend ready to lend a hand as men, women and children stumble through a world that doesn’t always understand differences between them driving divisions, pursuing what makes them human Call me Death, whose darkest ends find new beginnings among friends
THE OUTSIDER ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Through a misty window pane set in a red brick wall, I pass through now and again I glimpse familiar faces, strain to hear them call through a misty window pane A kaleidoscope of spring rain touching us all, I pass through now and then Oh, to catch up with love again, follow its trail though a misty window pane! A mirror to choice, loss or gain, (makes us look big or small) I pass through now and again Who turns down Memory Lane risks going into free-fall; through a misty window pane, I pass through now and again
WHERE THERE’S LIFE ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Treading lightly among lotus flowers risen from mud to show this world of ours there is beauty to be had, even where it may seem lies precious little more than the stuff of a slum child’s dream Opening my heart to those who dare allow the same, so they may yet discover there is treasure to be had, even where it may seem, at first sight, there’s nothing to inspire even a poor poet Offering sustenance to those who seek to strengthen a mind and body grown weak from treading heavily among weeds where nature meant to tell a different tale were nurture called to account Bring vision to those who would see into the murky waters of pain and misery where the dark is rising, Earth Mother but waiting (like us) to flower and produce fruit that is a poem called, lotus
Adam J. Sorkin Introduction to the Poems of Marina Dan ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Mariana Dan is the author of twelve books including three collections of poetry. She was born in Bucharest but has lived for almost thirty years in Belgrade, Serbia. Dan was educated at the University of Bucharest and received her doctorate from the University of Belgrade, where she now heads the Romanian department. A participant in the neo-avantgardist movement of the 1970s and 80, Klokotrism, Dan’s interests range from Romanian literature to the Romanian minority in Serbia. She is an important link between the Serbian and Romanian literatures. Angels at the Bus Stop (2006), the collection these poems derive from, is her most recent book of poetry. Poems from this book in our joint translation have appeared in Words Without Borders, Puerto del Sol, Subtropics, Per Contra, Tipton Poetry Journal, Absinthe: New European Writing, Rhino, Sou'wester and Salamander. Adam J. Sorkin recently published Memory Glyphs, a collection of three Romanian prose poets (Twisted Spoon, 2009), and Ruxandra Cesereanu’s Crusader-Woman, translated with Cesereanu (Black Widow, 2008). He was awarded the 2005 Translation Prize of The Poetry Society (U.K.) for Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge, translated with Lidia Vianu (Bloodaxe Books, 2004). He is the most active translator of Romanian poetry into English. Sorkin served as Regional Editor for Romania and Moldova of the anthology New European Poets (Graywolf, 2008). I have permission to translate and publish. Adam J. Sorkin Distinguished Professor of English Penn State Brandywine
Poems by Mariana Dan translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and the poet the swan ~~~~~~~~ light streams out of everything when the swan skims over the water to make its bed among the reeds I cry aloud and the echo brings back the song of the swan that wants not to be born
photosynthesis ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I’m in my bath – light streams out of things with my finger I cut the steam on the window in the shape of a swan across still water a white swan glides among the reeds to make its bed may angels keep watch by your side sweet may you sleep, lay down your head light streams out of things – I’m in my bath
sacks of darkness ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I float in a black cell everything I feel happens somewhere outside me – an angel’s hands carry me like a speck of food to the hill of the giant ants other angels come and go every which way bearing sacks of darkness in the shape of dogs and monkeys in which sack is light? in which darkness? in which hand does the angel carry me so carefully that nothing gets bumped, not even my shin?
my little ego ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ my body will never have need to materialize once more in the meadow my ego knits tiny sweaters for other egos about to be born my ego is a little dragonfly it flits over meadow and river wings glittering from the water on my saddle a baby about to be born out of words and sort of mine kind of an I
magdalene or the glass bead game ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ for m. eliade’s colleagues, past and future: swami sivananda, satyananda, sivamurti and niranjanananda how many illusions must still be unraveled: letters with knots, threads and strings, lullabies for worms that caress the roots of flowers and for people who unfurl lotuses of light and tears; I dream at night and under the midday sun while I peek through the keyhole at my own garden where a well is being dug, an inherent meaning in the very digging of it – maybe this night will be the beginning of the morning when I meet you face to face on the path of my thoughts’ broken circle, in the immaterial form of my inward specters, in the strata of sounds impossible to distinguish until furled into words. forgetting yourself, you live for the memory of those who open one by one the doors to rooms and tunnels, who express in the form of flesh and blood the changing contours of the scudding clouds. such are my words – a revelation of thoughts about life’s secrets. can the image in a fresco be true if it burns the appearance of circumstances into flakes of ash, into leaves trembling gray, but still secured to their stems? how many illusions are there still to peel apart so as to free the true colors to be painted? a gust of wind and thought blows away my fears, my teardrops – near the blue ocean it guides yachts and steamships upon the surface of nature’s hand. today birds peck at the grain scattered by your fingers – tomorrow their wings will be doors before the wind of the void. here is the key I know no name for – a unity vibrates burning in my every cell, and the glass bead game with children, with words, turns the world. the truest service is never obvious: I’m like the lobe of the ear through which one can’t hear, yet which is an instrument of hearing – I’m a glass bead that shines only when dazzled by brightness.


Marie Ocher

The 3rd

Goodbye, tremendous sull
It’s been an honor just to be near you
to smell your feet as you run, to breath your dust
as you’re descending.

Electrocution ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ To the chair, To the gas, to the gas, to the fire, To the gulling grip of the mass. be it shameful, be it rare. The all-consuming hell, And the flames, small, they turn Laughing jauntily, at our paralyzing roar, powerless, slimy, morose, The fire laughs, then so it goes A flair streams up the spine, To the head, to the mind, To the chair, To the gas, to the ground.


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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