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Dancing shaman with a kingfisher's head.
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July Issue

Ghazal (Spanish)

Brandy Bauer

I am abandoned from my country of Spanish,
the words cry out to me no longer in Spanish.

The last time my father clutched at my hands
aphasia stole his lost strands of Spanish.

In a terraced grove, we once sighed and watched
the Douro ribbon in the contours of Spanish.

The night sky quivered with the stars' holy breath,
spelling their names in galaxies of Spanish.

Now we find only the remnants of loss:
conquistadors' gold, rubble of Spanish.

The language of the sun-wrinkled faces in fields,
their poverty thick with stigmata of Spanish.

My lover undresses me, fumbling and brutal.
I'm tired of waiting, he tells me in Spanish.

I'm tired of dying, I tell him in English,
foraging for words, my long-squandered Spanish.

Only the embers remain of them now:
warming like brandy, fugitive Spanish.

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Ghazal (Kabul)

Brandy Bauer

A bleak season arrived when I alit at Kabul.
Plunged into nothingness, a skeleton, this Kabul.

Here in the street, festering water and dust.
Whose fires now choke the qanats of Kabul?

We kiss on the kilim embroidered with vines
which murmurs of pleasure long lost from Kabul.

In the city's dimness I number each star.
My beloved's shadows know only Kabul.

I weep for a history I cannot recall,
I am not who I was. I've become Kabul.

A boy waves esfand to force evil astray;
Eyes rimmed with kohl, a talisman for Kabul.

Steel tendrils of buildings, rockets at dusk
Where is that love song they once called Kabul?

Above us in cobalt, a delicate sky
Kites that spell warnings for the spring in Kabul.

In my chamber he half-sings, Brandy, for what do you mourn?
Listen: I came to you, countryless, you gave me Kabul.

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Wine Glass

Ahmed Masud

Touch your lip, to the lip, of my wine glass
Place a kiss, on the tip, of my wine glass

Drowned deep in Ink, the Page is Parched
Tell the Pen, to take a sip of my wine glass

Parting the Sea may be a work of Might
Dreamless isn't the kip of my wine glass

"Many-a-slip betwixt cup and lip"
Perilous is the trip of my wine glass

"Your sins are washed," wicked Ahmed cries
"Forgiven all, with a nip off my wine glass"

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Its rest

Joel Neubauer

How soft, how swift is muscle's strength dismissed in width upon its rest.
Wide spread my thighs as heaven's skies in shadow long and don its rest.

Eight minutes past its emanation birth, the sun is gone away.
Illuminations teach the universal paragon its rest.

Material simplicity presents the blest iconic face.
Pure grace to common stuff of earth, pure holiness is drawn its rest.

His form I see and wish for me; and pray my light as yonder break.
When earth for slumber's comfort quilt I grasp, pray come anon its rest.

Expansive rush unorganized: the cosmos voids by nonchalance.
By sure avoidance small, specific life holds on to pawn its rest.

He met a stranger's narrative and greeted it with bon voyage.
Her story met a stranger fate and guessed it had withdrawn its rest.

How Helios can know full day is mystery if sawn in two.
I know the partial truth I've met; and trust truth faithful on its rest.

Jot first and write the alpha verse; and then omega awnings tell.
Pass narrow on strong tensions' leg: and welcome eschaton its rest.

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Ghazal of the Black Water

Steffen Horstmann

Beneath trees shadows pool like black water.
Each point of starlight a jewel on black water.

Nights I pace the shore's rippled sands, watch
Circular currents unspool in black water.

When you are swept into the icy depths
Pray to dark gods who rule the black water.

Shadowy figures appear in dim moonlight
& with lances duel in black water.

Bodies plummet from a sinking freighter,
Vanishing in a whirlpool of black water.

Emerging from swells in a stormy ocean,
Rapids running swift & cool in black water.

Abode of the deity who summons thunder,
Kin to storms that fuel the black water.

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Ghazal of the Grasses

Steffen Horstmann

A fire's first sparks the wind will hone in grasses,
Igniting unheard as insects drone in grasses.

A wayward dervish stalled that was compelled
Against its nature to roam the grasses.

Seagulls hectored the phantoms of mariners,
Now lulled by the dust that had blown through grasses.

Searching always for what it cannot find,
The breeze's hands that comb the grasses.

Torn from their trees by a storm—
Cocoons the rain has sewn to grasses.

The rainbowed wings of dragonflies gleam,
Resting on stalks & poised to roam the grasses.

A cyclone raced across the shore
As if chasing sands flown from grasses.

It sleeps immersed in the rich, dark earth—
A skull beneath its tombstone in grasses.

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Editor's Comments


Brandy Bauer

Loss, exile, language, love: these themes in various linkages are universal in poetry from ancient times to the present. Brandy Bauer's two ghazals exemplify how these themes may be explored by the ghazal in English. She deploys the radif in each ghazal skillfully.

The lines of the ghazals lilt: try reading them outloud and let your voice almost sing them. The basic measure, as I scan them, is a four-beat accentual meter, although the last sher or two of "Kabul" runs to five accents. The effectiveness of the lines relies also on consonance, especially in the last two shers of "Kabul."

If you read these ghazals aloud, you may hear, as I did, the ghost of dactylic or anapestic feet: three syllables with the stress on either the first or the last syllable. The poems never break into the rocking rhythm typical of verse written entirely in anapests or dactyls. ("Hiawatha" anyone?)

Ahmed Masud

If you are tuned, as am I, to the placement of commas in a sentence, you'll notice extra commas in lines 1, 2, and 4. Ahmed told me that he had put the commas in as markers of rhythm; leaving them seems appropriate to guide the reader's eye and tongue. I hope you will notice some of the play of sound in "Wine Glass": the way "deep" (line 3) plays off the several "-ip" sounds is very nice. I especially like the "Page" "Parched" sequence: the vowel shifts slightly and the consoants "g" and "ch" chime well.

"Wine Glass" expresses traditional themes of wine, dream, inspiration, love, sin and salvation in translucent verse. The takhullus expresses well the tone of the poem--a wry, self-deprecating humor.

Joel Neubauer

"Rest" has associations with Paradise, that universal garden, and with the Sabbath, which many of us share even if by different names and on different days of the week. Reading "Its Rest" aloud, I am struck by the strength of its rhythms. One factor that contributes to that strength is an adroit combination of one- or two-syllable words with longer ones. Perhaps because of the several references to the sun, this ghazal also has a sense of space, openness, depth.

Steffen Hortstmann

To my ear, these two ghazals have a quick, percussive rhythm, created partially by the many sequences of syllables each receiving strong (though not identical) stress. The radif itself, "black water," is an example of this sequence. In English there are four levels of significant stress. "Water" receives the strongest stress, and "black" the next strongest. (That sequence of stresses marks an adjective-noun sequence.) "Black Water" has a mysterious, fantastic quality, of dangers that appear from dimness, night, and depths.

The syntax of the first line of "Grasses" is a bit tricky: "sparks" is a noun, and "wind" is the active subject of the sentence. Transposing the object phrase, "A fire's first sparks" to the first of the line creates suspense that resolves into the fire lit in long grasses. The last couplet (makhta) recall's Basho's haiku about a grassy battlefield. Fields of grass change and shift in the wind and light from the sky, yet they stay rooted in place. Grass becomes an apt, natural symbol for change and flow on a rooted ground.

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