Dancing shaman with a kingfisher's head.
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2005, Set Four

Of Cards

by Rachel Rawlings
At night I'm dancing at the ball of cards,
spinning in a silly folderol of cards.

With you asleep my eyes glow in the darkness,
kept open watching every fall of cards.

In darkness I can hear you stir and grumble.
Your mother's face is painted on a wall of cards.

Lately it's true I've been building a temple,
its walls and its foundations all of cards.

I know you know that I am not your mother,
though it is true that we both hear the call of cards.

You hear my end before I start to mumble,
caught by a surprising squall of cards.

The little screen goes dark, my fingers pull back.
Your rachelkat freed for awhile from the thrall of cards.

This "demi-ghazal" appeared in the record of the annual City College of New York poetry festival, but has not been truly published before now. [Author's note]

Guzzle

by Rachel Rawlings

My eyes entombed with sleep, I need some coffee.
I can't yet see the bathroom. Where's the coffee?

She takes the can out of the freezer and the water from the tap.
And when I smell the air has changed I know I'm loved, for she made coffee.

A bag of beans, organic but uncertain.
How much of what I paid was paid to those who picked the coffee?

The line's too long; I take the train. No cup in hand, I read.
I'm late for class. Be later. Be contrite. Just get some coffee.

This runs in my family. From a Chinese banquet hall on his daughter's first
birthday, my brother rushes out to find a cup of take-out coffee.

Summer's coming. When it ends, I will have ridden in its heat
obsessed with shedding winter pounds and gaining coffee

shaded skin (albeit three parts milk to two with some red syrup).
As the summer sweat pours down my arms, I will seep coffee,

eggs, bananas, meat. Along the hills of Brooklyn, dodging dogs
and children, dodging cars, smiling at everyone, I'm seeking coffee.

The Germans say "Not addict. Morphine-seeky."
When I stop to rest my muscles in Park Slope or Coney Island I'll get coffee.

On the boardwalk, watch the waves. They sound like steam
and final, gurgling drips; to Rachel's ear no longer H2O, a pot of coffee.

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Oldies but Goodies

by Taylor Graham

The same old love song repeats in stereo--
all-too-familiar, but now digitized in stereo.

Those lyrics, once fresh, new-minted, never-
before rhymed, are now reproduced in stereo.

The scratchy voice of love's sweet longing
is quite re-mastered to put out in stereo.

On 78 vinyl, the man you marry is a prince;
but after all the years, he snores in stereo.

Why must the human heart insist on looking
through binoculars, and listening in stereo?

A love-singer croons alone; married voices
rise to harmonize and then collide in stereo.

Infatuation plays its unrequited tune, a solo.
But we learn it takes two to love in stereo.

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Manzanita Ghazal

by Taylor Graham

Age twists the red-barked arctostaphylos
gathering shadows in this fold of the old year.

When sun comes through, toyon glistens green
with red berries, ornament of an old year.

I walk these paths cut through second growth
like children running, laughing at any old year.

The ways meander down to placer creek-bed,
flakes of gold in mud, dull as the old year.

How many miners' dreams have washed downstream
in winter storms of this or that old year.

And here's an aging poet, spine crook'd
in manzanita at this branching of an old year.

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The line "All eight moons destroyed but one," was meant to refer to Harlan Ellison's short story "Eruption" which was inspired by Jacek Yerka's painting of the same name. [Author's note]

Tonight

by J. E. Stanley

Just "call me Ishmael tonight."
I read only Shahid tonight.

Beowulf returns from myth.
Grendel will not feed tonight.

"I am . . . Shiva . . . destroyer of worlds."
Mass times squared light speed tonight.

Man's explorations will not cease.
We orbit Ganymede tonight.

Nothing will grow save moon blue flowers.
Dark gardens she will seed tonight.

All eight moons destroyed but one,
only the poets bleed tonight.

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Ghazal for Home

by J. M. Jones

At first I thought I would make the sky my home.
Then the wind grew colder; I would buy my home.

I went to the store and bought the finest stones
to lay stone upon stone, form walls for my home.

I placed stones in the walls like words in a poem
and finished, sheltered by the poem of my home.

My poem was a fortress, a windowless womb
with as much warmth and solace as my (first) home.

But all I had of the world was up above--
I longed for expanse, the horizon my home

in my mind as I brought the walls tumbling down.
Joshua, the poem's done. The world is my home.

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Editor's Comments


I have put Judy Kerman's "Tree Frog Ghazal" on a separate page because it seemed to ask for a different background than the default for 2005 ghazals. You'll find my comments at the bottom of that page.

Rachel Rawlings

"Of Cards" speaks to the computer-solitaire addict in me--I know how the images remain when the screen is dark and can even inflect dreams. Beyond, that, though, the radif seems especially resonant as the lexeme "cards" flips through a variety of layouts.

Rachel labels "Guzzle" a "demi-ghazal," perhaps because it lacks a qafia. (I haven't asked her.) There're also the run-on shers (the 6th, 7th, and 8th). Demi or not, "Guzzle" is an effective ghazal. Perhaps I think so because of my own coffee jones, but most likely not. Coffee is an addiction; fortunately, it's an addiction without serious social or legal costs, and one that may have health benefits to balance any debits.

Taylor Graham

If you browse back issues of The Ghazal Page, you will find several examples of Taylor Graham's fine poems. I see a common element in "Oldies but Goodies" and "Manzanita Ghazal," in that both present branching, bifurcation, as well as bearing fruit. (Bearing fruit is implied in "Oldies but Goodies" in the "married voices" loving "in stereo." Also, a motif of singleness becoming doubled runs through "Oldies but Goodies," matched by shadows, paths, and streams in "Manzanita Ghazal."

Both of these ghazals use the radif adroitly, without a qafia. Compare these ghazals with Judith Kerman's, which uses only the qafia, to see the different effects of the form chosen. Then look at Rachel Rawling's "Of Cards," which has both qafia and radif. Three different formal possibilities. For me, Taylor Graham and Judith Kerman's ghazals are not less ghazals the Rachel Rawlings, even if they use a subset of the full set of ghazal features. You, of course, may differ.

J. E. Stanley

For me, this ghazal is about what we see in the night sky as it is physically beyond our planet, as it sparkles in human mythologies, and as it reflects in literary works. The night sky is one of the major fields of human imagination. J. E. Stanley takes us from Genesis, via Melville, via Agha Shahid Ali, to Anglo-Saxon epic, to Hindu myth via Oppenheimer, to science fiction via Galileo, and, again, to science fiction via Harlan Ellison's story. Perhaps the imagination's historical, evolutionary course, makes a large spiral, with contemporary imaginations arriving at a self-aware form of myth.

J. M. Jones

If "Ghazal for Home" doesn't describe a spiral, then it traces an arc, or perhaps a less simple path of expansion / contraction, openness / closure, safety / risk. Think of each sher as actually a question: Is the sky home? Can home be bought? Are stone walls home? The womb? And if the horizon is home, is our home in transit?

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