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

Overflow (ghazal #1)

by Teresa Middleton

Candles flicker, reap abundance.
Shadows on bare walls keep abundance.

Kill a spider, and it will rain.
The sky will mourn and weep abundance.

Ping pong balls plop into glass bowls. Gold scales
shimmer under carnival lights--cheap abundance.

A tiger swims across a mud brown river,
seeks thick cover, easy prey, deep abundance.

Snails slide along the edge of a plastic pool.
Silver lines crisscross, seep abundance.

Moths flutter around a yellow porch light.
Barefoot woman with broom sweeps abundance.

A poet brews creativity in a thick white cup.
Fragrant images soften, steep in abundance.

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Juice Rolling Down a Chin (ghazal #2)

by Teresa Middleton

Terra cotta gypsies seek treasure vibrant orange,
crave meat and skin of citrus, desire succulent orange.

Transformation shimmers like polished brass.
Restless hunger shatters into shards of confident orange.

Split pumpkin and cantaloupe, scoop seeds with a spoon.
Slice persimmons, peppers, apricots--thick segments orange.

St. Francis leans among scrap metal and marigolds.
In full sun he offers chipped prayers to benevolent orange.

A spider waits among air bubbles, bits of bark and leaves.
Amber beads suspend time, trap fragments in orange.

Cigarette embers flash, roll under moving tires. Sparks scatter
across four lanes. Headlights witness accident orange.

A stranger gives tiger lilies to a poet with topaz eyes.
Streaks of pollen mark his nose. She smiles at coincident orange.

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". . . time"

by Alison Marshall

Her honour won't let her say it, even one more time.
It befriends ruin; no use in going there another time.

She is the shadow at the back of his mind.
Spiritual connections are manifest in their own good time.

She has paid her emotional debt and can't lose now;
simultaneous redemption is the promise of sacred time.

Why deny the cupbearer's gift of wine? Caging the heart
is like caging the mind, and prisons are no way to collapse time.

Face your temptations, companions of virtue.
Shine those merciful susceptibilities, while there's still time.

She's removing her veil! Will you slit your throat
or place your soul between those lips for all time?

Zaynab, go tell him I have bled another poem.
Perhaps the sun will shine on me again sometime.

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". . . him"

by Alison Marshall

Baha'u'llah, have you seen my dear one?
I can't catch even a glimpse of him.

Perhaps the blamer came knocking at his door,
tore him from his heart's desire and frightened him.

Perhaps he is too beautiful now
to think of me as a part of him.

He rests quietly in my heart, but my mind
is uneasy. It's lonely without him.

I'm bored with the trees, sky and sun. I want to hear
of the flicks and the delight that springs from him.

Can you see him, Lord? He is the graceful one. Tell me
how he walks, how he smiles; and of the dance in him.

Malakut is abuzz with talk of his light.
The houris beg to get to glance at him.

But my mind is wandering on the banks of memories,
and the quiet waters are still, in flowing thought of him.

Zaynab, the world is full of imposters;
I can see no one on the planet but him.

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Thoughts on Nakedness
(a bi-lingual ghazal with double-entendres)

by Tree Riesener

Even the flowers in their riot of shapes and colors will learn un-naked is now fiat,
make-up fine, disguises fun; scent now hidden, unviagrated thorns hors-de-combat.

The rose likes a gauzy little number with sequins. The zinnias go punk. Trees like the shaved
Bruce Willis look, dropping their leaves, victims of a sappy coup-d' état.

The League of Decency sells a TV Shroud--little holes cut out where heads appear
so you can avoid naked breasts, inches of skin, and everything else located en bas.

Don't be alarmed but you're all sitting there naked under your clothing, often in the company
of both sexes, eating cream cake, having tea, an undercover ménage à trois.

Under their habits, nuns, pre-enshrouded, wear push-me-up bras and lace-trimmed thongs,
on their way to naked; for those used to their habits, this is mardi gras.

Nudists order biology books in plain brown wrappers, study internal organs
and circulatory systems; when discovered, look up with a certain amount of éclat.

Tradition had terms of doubtful acceptance in Latin and Greek, for the masses,
but as for l'arbre, her philosophy and way of being is qui mal y pense, honi soit .

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Net of Jewels

by Tree Riesener

In the end, even clawing and screaming could not retain the net of jewels
memory's disguise slipped away like skin on the weeks-drowned dead.

We can fit everything into liquid, gas or ice, those universal templates,
gusty consolation for lost limbs and abortions resurrected as blissful brides.

Apostolic succession of womb to womb, preserved by Nushu speakers, moves
in the translucency of Antarctica's green ice by the grace of fearful Frankenstein.

A slap on the cheek or honey on the tongue, choices even through the placental drip;
hold on, this'll sting for a second but then you're gonna feel a lot better, believe me.

For lack of something moister, the unmoving desert sun sucks the sand dunes dry;
grave goods move smoothly on the conveyor belt out of the tomb into sunlit show.

Tinted drawings of oranges, more enduring than pixels, are yet destined for landfill,
along with grandmother's photo, my lookalike, in her coffin comforted by camellias

Up as down, trees strain toward one another attempting ring-world rootedness, but
only once did we chain across the continent, attempting on one day red-rover hands.

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Editor's Comments


I had intended to post this set of ghazals sooner. Unfortunately, things don't always turn out as intended. However, these six ghazals are definitely worth the wait. Both Alison Marshall and Tree Riesener's ghazals have appeared here in the past. Teresa Middleton is new to The Ghazal Page and to the ghazal. You'll find her poems rewarding, I think.

"Orange" notoriously has no full fhyme in English, There's even a comic strip named "Rhymes with Orange." Teresa Middleton found the solution to orange having no rhyme: use it as the radif in a ghazal. The result is a study in rich variations on the theme of this color, this fruit, this texture we encounter in so many places.

Even though the radif for "Overflow" is abstract (abundance), the poem is also rich with textures and color.

One of the fascinations of the ghazal is how the radif brings out shifts in the meaning of a word. A dictionary lists a set of general meanings. A word only has a specific, concrete meaning when used in a specific context. Each sher in a ghazal gives its radif a specific context. "Overflow" rings a number of changes on the abstraction abundance.

Alison Marshall's delicate ghazals are infused with spiritual and personal loss and sorrow. The rhetoric of her ghazals is more traditional than that of many ghazals in English. I hear echoes of Baha'u'llah in phrases like "companions of virtue." This echo is not imitation, I think, but the result of suffusion in a rich rhetorical world. Words may be conventional signs, but they become vehicles of feeling and depth beyond a structuralist's ken. The deep words shape and express our hearts.

"Zaynab, go tell him I have bled another poem": such a line, such an image, expresses the release and the pain of the creative process, and the intimate roots of that process.

It's possible that some of the entendres is Tree Riesener's "Thoughts on Nakedness" are triple, not just double. I especially enjoy the nudists reading biology and anatomy texts in plain brown wrappers. Many of us are uncomfortable with our skins, much less their contents. But this ghazal also raises issues of concealment, disguise, seduction, temptation, disclosure (or disclothing).

"Net of Jewels" is a rich and complex poem that I'm not prepared right now to say much about--except read and reread it. Each sher provides imaginative and cognitive challenges worth some time in thought. Or perhaps, time researching. As in, Nushu: What a google search turned up. This net of jewels seems perhaps a female rejoinder to Indra's Jewel-Net, as found in Hua-Yen (Kegon) Buddhism. That sense of interconnecting, interlinking, interchanging beings. A jewel-net of births. Of rooted entities spilling outside the templates intended to constrain them.

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