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14 April 2020

The Spirit and Power of Poetry are Alive at NVCC

The Spirit and Power of Poetry are Alive at NVCC

During this unusual time of global uncertainty and disruption, Naugatuck Valley Community College, like the rest of the world, has adapted to flourish through online media and virtual interactions. Campus events have been restructured, cancelled or postponed. The NVCC tradition of Confluencia might have met a simular fate, were it not for the thoughtful ingenuity of Confluencia host and producer, Steve Parlato, Professor of English. Professor Parlato sent a "virtual Confluencia" campus-wide on the day that Confluencia would have been held. We are sharing it with our readers as a great example of the spirit at NVCC:

Hello NVCC Family,

It occurred to me yesterday that this evening, Wednesday 4/8, we would have hosted our second spring Confluencia in Danbury. While life has certainly taken a major turn since we planned this semester's events, I thought the least we could do is to send a poem from each of the gifted folks we've missed hearing this semester. 

Our March 11th program featured Hartford Poet Laureate and professor, Frederick-Douglass Knowles II; Middletown psychotherapist and poet, Karen Torop; and renowned Dominican poet and scholar, Sherezada Chiqui Vicioso. When COVID-19 struck, we'd booked one Danbury reader, award-winning Jamaican-American poet, Rayon Lennon. Below, I've included a poem from each of the featured readers, as well as one I wrote late last month. 

Though we remain socially distanced for the good of all, I hope you'll find a bit of community in these poems, a reminder of our shared humanity--in good times and in bad. I wish you and yours good health and safety, and may you discover a bit of poetry in the small moments each day. 

~ SP

From Frederick Douglas Knowles 

SONOGRAM

Grandchild,

I see you coiled in your sanctum

cultivating through sonic resonance.

Your embryo shaped in the soul of Africa,

yet the size of a raspberry. Your heart

beats like Lumumba's in the seed

of the Congo. Your mind bathes in a river

of Malian wisdom settling under the suns

of Timbuktu. Your sacral rest on a

Pretorian throne. Cape Verde

your pineal crown. Ethiopia

your Eden. Love your Kingdom.

What do you dream?

Your mother is beautiful. Born from

this lineage we will leave to you.

Your father maturates into manhood

(you will help him with this).

I will spoil you like a Baba. Teach you

how to fasten your breastplate, affix

your shield, and wield your sword

with precision. How to breathe

with a sonic boom. Model for you

how a warrior protects the Eden

they have not even began to utter

into being. Your Chi will cause

mountains to melt into mustard seeds

placed into your back pocket

to be planted in the fertile soil

of your grandchild's mind,

as I will do for mine.

Black Rose City 2011

*********************************************************************

From Rayon Lennon

THE EXILE FLIES HOME TO TROUT HALL, JAMAICA

I fly down and get off a country

bus to stand on the bridge, under

which I was baptized at nine, trying

to interpret the sunny language of the river

of voices in the air above the

water-hugged rocks and heat-ripened

breasts of girls who look up, hurling

stony insults my way. So I cross,

follow a yellow butterfly into the sunny heart

of town, where the colorful

wooden shop fronts are littered with the idle voices

of half-naked men, leering at school girls in baby

blue uniforms, while their wives labor in the surrounding

ugli fields of Mr. Sharpe, the good Englishman,

who built and named this town of no trouts, Trout Hall,

who once a year deploys his planes

to spray his neighbors and green alligator-skinned

uglies, hybrid child of the orange, grapefruit

and tangerine. Everybody knows his slogan: “The Affliction

is only skin deep, the beauty is in the eating.” Over

the cardboard church even the pigeons sound gospel

and I am moved by brooks as brooding

as the bible; traffic flows the wrong way

and the English missionaries’ sun-blocking peach

Baptist church is still empty, except for the cows

chewing mouthfuls of shadowy grass and the cricketers crying, “Out”

as wheezing, rust-colored cars line up to cross the pocked face

of the palm-sheltered bridge. A divine

wind blows out the sun as I slip into a crowded

bar and down Red Stripes until I forget

who I am and announce to God that I am

trying to write a fiction greater than God,

a poetry to define our world.

Callaloo 362 (2013)

************************************************************

From Karen Torop

MY MOTHER’S OPAL DROP

It’s horizontal now, attached to a fine
silver chain.  Taking out the opal
each time I visit, she says it will be mine
one day “because you like opals.”  I do

own opal earrings, a gift from my father,
still in their stiff paper box.  Her
opal rests in her dresser, in one of the drawers
I used to straighten for Mother’s Day or her birthday,

breathing the fragrance of her sachets, pressing the fleshy
sprayers of her perfumes, ordering the disarray of handkerchiefs,
nightgowns, whole and half slips, lacy bed jackets
we’d bought her for the breakfasts in bed we proudly, anxiously

brought her.  I folded feathery scarves, found
wrinkled photos of people I didn’t know,
and once a letter from my father saying he wanted
to have another child with her.  I liked it vertical,

dangling from a string of pearls.  I don’t ask when
he gave it to her or why, this mouth ringed with diamond
teeth, this single eye, this bit of sky.
One day it will be mine, this hard stone.

Fire in the Hand (2019)

***************************************************************

From Sherezada (Chiqui) Vicioso

HAITI

te imagino virgen

antes de que piratas precursores

te quitaran tus vestidos de caoba

y te dejaran asi

con tu senos redondos al aire

y tu falda de hierba desgarrada

apenas verde

marron timida.

Haiti

te imagino adolescente

olorosa a vetiver

tierna de rocio

sin esa multitud de cicatrices

con que te integraron al mercado de mapas

y con que te ofrecen multicolor

en las aceras de Puerto Principe

en Jacmel

en San Marcos

en el Artibonite

en un gran baratillo de hojalata.

Haiti

caminante que afanosa me sonries

interrumpiendo siestas de veredas

labrando piedras

asfaltando polvo

con tus pies sudorosos y descalzos.

Haiti qe tejes el arte de mil formas

y que pintas las estrellas con tus manos

por ti entendi que el amor y el odio

como tu

se llaman.

HAITI

I imagine you a virgin

before forerunning pirates

had removed your mahogany dress

to leave you thus

with your bare, round breasts

and your torn grass-skirt

barely green,

timidly brown.

Haiti,

I imagine you an adolescent

fragrant vetiver, tender with dew

without the numerous scars

displayed in the traffickers’ maps

and multicolor banners sold

on the sidewalks of Port-au-Prince,

Jacmel, St. Marc, and Artibonite

in a dramatic tin plate bargain.

Haiti,

traveler who eagerly smiles at me

interrupting the quiet of paths,

softening stones, paving dust

with your sweaty, bare feet

Haiti who can give art a thousand shapes

and who paints the stars with your hands

I found out that love and hate

share your name.

Translated by Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. 

*********************************************************

And for good measure, my latest:

Walking his cockapoo at the end of the world, the tall man thinks, 

This is not a poem.

Trudging over misted park hills, the small brown dog remains disdainful of warnings.

His canine rejection of social distance seems admirable, but

it’s really just another symptom—like sloughing icebergs and protective orders—

of excess testosterone. It’s instinct, wound DNA-deep.

This is not a poem, he declares,

to the clotted sky. No one to overhear, the park

blank of raised eyebrows, of wonder wanderers, of inquirers,

of nickel-bag buyers. Is it imagination, or has the ground greened sincemorning?

If this were a poem he’d notice, would remark, perhaps would

dare to extol that puddle’s acid-rainbow gleam.

But, seriously? It’s only leftover rain and

brake fluid, not worth mentioning here. No

more than that burst of robins—

like suede gloves or black tulips

spilled from a wind-whirled sack—

signals spring. Down the track

a crooked man circuits the abandoned

courts, hisses thin air, does not

pause, even for nearing sirens. Even

for that city rooster’s call, which, if this

were a poem,

would seem to them all—even the dog—

to be an omen.

 

 

 

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