Eating Poetry (XXXI) – Neruda’s Memoirs

Maureen Doallas, a friend of this blog – of many blogs, writers, and artists – proof positive that Twitter and Facebook are a benefaction, and a blogger herself at Writing Without Paper, is among her varied talents also a poet, whose collection Neruda’s Memoirs, if not written, at least published on paper, is just out from T.S. Poetry Press. You can find it at Amazon. Maureen has been featured once before in the Eating Poetry series, with her poem “Grief,” back in April of last year, but still drawing reaction just days ago, from commenter Cindee. Here is what I’ve had to say about Neruda’s Memoirs.

Maureen Doallas’s poems delight us with the play of words and impress us with their struggle, to make sense of nature and of our natures. Like “stars splitting the dark,” they shine on faith – “I can stand/ out/ I can stand/ in/ The test’s the same” – on the treasures of this world, and on their long-grieving loss. How to live in this beauty and with this loss is the poet’s concern, for “This land, it’s fit for nothing/ but beauty, and you pay to cross it.” In the end, which is only the last poem, after so sharp a focus on her subject and the poetry born of it, maybe she’s gotten somewhere hard and rare and true, shone from one nature on the other: “Hardwoods shorn of green/ will stand a reminder/ of what we only sometimes/ reach with words.”

Below is a selection of three poems from the collection.

Art Lecture 101

In a nursing home
nobody wants to hear
that old news
about Picasso’s Blue Period!

Blue’s a color
they get too well
after their last visitor’s gone.

Mondrian’s neatly divided
blocks of big strong
reds and greens and yellows?

Those won’t do, either,
sorry to say.

After a while,
minds tend to lose hold
of one compartment after another.

A reject, too.

So many circles,
like the halls they roam after hours,
once the meals are done,
leave them dizzy
going nowhere.

Well, how about Chagall,

Girls on goats,
houses high in air,
figures floating
with feet off ground!

they stir at last:

like the last kiss
they remember giving
the one they love.


What It Costs

No thing in life
is just
for the asking.

always follows
the first hard freeze.

break banks
with too much rain.

Sparrows leave
nests empty
when owls fly.

I can’t call dreams.


Border Crossing

Your eyes hold the memory of breath
held back at the crossing of borders:

the sucking in before the hush,
throat muscles tight and twinging

while lungs fill with the ticking fear
the guards always hear

just before you present your papers.
You soften their gaze,

hoping to hurry the line along,
mime the part of the person they want

you to be: not a woman,
not with child, not a scarf wrapping
your head filled with veiled visions
of dining on sweet plums and eggplant

just before shoes empty of souls
in the jam of market stalls

fate’s likely to make the morning’s news.
Yours is not the last name exclaimed;

neither is it the first that will be forgotten.
Your eyes hold the memory of breath

set free in a dream of fictions
whispered, the way truth gets stretched

across the boundaries of imagination
you’d readily give up to strangers,

the way you know you‘ll give up prayers
in the places where they work.

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