Dancing shaman with a kingfisher's head.
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2004 Ghazals, Set Five

Ghazal in Code

by David Lunde

The CIA should not bother with code;
The ghazal is elder brother of code.

The butterfly's chaotic fluttering flight--
Delicate hinges of meaning like code.

Write on its shell with alum and vinegar,
The boiled egg itself bears the code.

Dragons, whales, landscapes, faces--
Must we force even clouds into code?

Geometric designs inscribed on our corn--
What makes us long for an alien code?

Old photos hold dear friends' young faces,
Their forgotten names an obsolete code.

Can we better predict the storms of our hearts,
Now we've mapped our genes, broken the code?

Ah, Dave, don't struggle with words;
Put your distress calls in code.

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Of Stars

by David Lunde

The Milky Way swirls, a wizard's cloak of stars;
Around we wheel on a slim spoke of stars.

Honor that most clever, most sapient ancestor--
When first he spoke, he spoke of stars.

Babylonians connected the dots: Capricorn, Cancer & Leo,
Scorpio, Aries, Pisces, & Taurus with a yoke of stars.

Earthbound too long, we chafe in gravity's chains;
But our planet, too, bears the folk of stars!

Stories tell of alien beings more advanced by far,
Even that we are nothing but the joke of stars.

What prospects has the stellar prospector?
Eyes blind with glory, poke full of stars?

What will you think at the end, silly maker of poems,
Still unknown, unread, ailing and broke--of stars?

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by Jill Williams

He storms into class with a dream in his head.
A man with a dynamite theme in his head.

He pictures himself on the cover, all right.
This tyro who's hired a team in his head.

He always has fame and a scheme in his head.
Induced by some weed and Jim Beam in his head.

He's got an untested regime in his head:
He's waiting to write till there's steam in his head.

For now he'll just skim off the cream in his head
And build up the low self-esteem in his head.

He'll float gently down, not upstream, in his head.
This wannabe wordsmith, a'gleam in his head.

No fair, Teacher Jill. He's extreme in his head.
What he needs is more academe in his head!

Ghazal for a Gazelle

by Jill Williams

Animals used to run free on these plains.
Wildebeests grunting their glee on these plains.

Wing-strutting ostriches wooing a mate.
That's about all we can see on these plains.

Lions no longer can be on these plains,
Gnawing a buffalo's knee on these plains.

Weaver birds screech out a plea on these plains:
"Leave us some space and a tree on these plains!"

All man does leave is debris on these plains.
Food for a desperate flea on these plains.

Park rangers pocket the fee on these plains.
Death is the sole refugee on these plains.

Williams, there's no magic key on these plains.
Care for a fresh spot of tea on these plains?

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by Joshua Gage

The farmer scans the horizon, asking "Will this drought cede?"
His father answers to his memory "Never doubt seed."

Lord, let me be a melon on your vine, green
without rind, without wet flesh, without seed.

Where are the lessons on the swell of the heart, bodies flush, and breath?
Instead we are taught pistil and stamen; about egg, and about seed.

The devil tempts through the desert. Curl, untouched, like a cactus flower.
Wait for Divine Rain, spread your arms, and shout seed.

At death, scatter the Prophet across the river. Plant him deep
in the ocean of God that a lotus may bloom from this devout seed.

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Editor's Comments

David Lunde's two ghazals give us both intellectual and esthetic pleasures. "Ghazal in Code" takes up an important meme of the late twentieth and earlier twentieth centuries: code as the play of signification and interpretation, we humans' need to find pattern, meaning, in all our experiences. All things--natural, imaginary, made--are saturated with code, with meaning and, therefore, with desire.

"Of Stars" continues, really, the theme of code, directing our need for pattern up and out. (We've always had our eye on the heavens, of course.) This ghazal also embodies Lunde's commitment to science fictional poetry.

Jill Willians' "Wannabe" depicts a student whom any teacher has known. (Of course, none of us ever wore this guy's boots (sandals, Converses, whatever). Using the qafiya, -eem, in all but one line reinforces the effect of--squishiness? vagueness? pretension?--of the wannabe And please note how the maqta questions the harshness of the preceding shers: "No fair, Teacher Jill." The maqta provides the poet an opportunity to boost the poem up to another level, to interrupt the poem's vector with another direction. This doubling-back, reflexive use of the signature couplet is one of the most appealing aspects of the ghazal.

"Ghazal for a Gazelle": Don't we all live "on these plains"? Doesn't the debris come from each and all of us? Do you think the last sher's resignation speaks of despair or hope?

It's good to present another of Joshua Gage's ghazals. This one previously appeared on . The ghazal catches me right away--the radif and theme speak to my farm background. Note Gage's adroit use of different parts of speech in the qafiya: noun, preposition, verb, adjective.

Without scanning this ghazal syllable-by-syllable, I do find the line-lengths effective: flexible and precise, with clear images and no extraneous syllables.

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