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The Poems Of Lana Orphanides: Birth And Rebirth

Lana Orphanides is the author of three poetry collections and has read her work to great acclaim throughout Connecticut. She is a member of the Connecticut River Poets and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives on Pine Island Bay in Groton with With her husband, Demetrios. The following poems are from her most recent book, "Searching for Angels."

– Rennie McQuilkin, CT poet laureate

 

The Annunciation

Surely it wasn't Gabriel

the archangel but Gabriella

spiriting through the window,

sitting close beside her

like a mother

or a sister helping make the bread,

spreading out the woven blue of cloth

in the dark, cool kitchen

among the hanging rosemary and the rue

and Mary tying on her sandals,

gathering her thoughts for what

no man could understand

but this angel,

whose message

came like wind

or blowing sand

across a distant desert

like a startling light.

Yet she could not see

the sorrow.

The angel did not tell.

Later would be time enough.

First Born

The body does not forget.

It remembers the child in the belly,

the first feeling of roundness,

the bold corner of a foot,

the milk spilling in the breast.

It stretches and folds and grows

limp. Rises and tightens and grasps

and lets go but does not forget.

Once I watched the birth of a calf as it

struggled out of its mother, she licking

and cleaning and the calf raggedly standing

just out of the womb, falling, resting, rising

once again. The mother too rising quickly

after this hoof-kicking, long-legged birth,

prodding and watching, no lying down,

no dreaming.

You too had long legs when you were born

though I hardly remember your coming out,

and I was not standing soon after

but you were clean and fresh as porcelain

and, in the peace of the dark room,

I felt that I was the one

who had come through

to the other side.

The Journey

There was something in the sky

a light for sure

no voice that we could recognize

still it drew us

We were waiting for a sign

We could not explain why we gathered those things

why we left that night

when it was so cold for a journey

There was no path

no sure direction

only light

We were tired certainly

tired of where we had been

what we had done with our lives

Time seemed to shorten

to compress and the only sound

our breathing

Occasionally we talked

Each word formed had more meaning

than the usual chatter

There was that light

that lifted something in our spirits

We all agreed

it made us stronger

not thinking of the end of the journey itself

but of this going

How You Visit

Sometimes, I hear your laughter in my own,

bubbling up from an underground

spring of sweet water, a trilling sound of a bird

I cannot name unless perhaps

it's a crowd of scarlet tanagers,

or that towhee-like bird

I heard in New Zealand

whose notes were impossibly high and clear,

singing, "Drink your tea, drink dear,"

the last sounds clinking as I climbed

to the Cathedral in the Rock.

But, I don't know.

You do not appear

in my mirror, your hands in their usual movements

of larks flying. It is as though we visit

for a short while but there is no conversation.

That you come in laughter amazes me

and after, I turn my head, sure

of the disappearing scent of your perfume,

and speech, then, seems too tied to earth.

Going In

Lavender and the soft haze

of sage, pale green capers,

and wild thyme

lined the path

to the sea. Below us

the beach

was a small, empty crescent,

far from the town,

the moonscape of mountains behind.

The weather was windy, and this our first swim

in the still cold Aegean.

I invited my mother,

dead then eight years, for the dip.

I asked if she'd like to dive with me,

warm me, sustain me, make me look brave.

She smiled, almost laughed

and gladly came diving.

Weightless,

all spirit, her long

swimmer's body

joined mine. Motion and essence,

we arched like a dolphin,

a sound wave

of coming and going.

In that moment as light

rolled into darkness,

ocean spilled into ocean, I was liquid and flowing,

I was past and present, future and never.

I was water and space and the taste

of salt. I was gone

and come back unafraid.

My Father's Breath

In the Greek church on the fortieth day after death, a memorial

service is said for the soul.

It is forty days since your death. A hemisphere away,

I find the monastery of miracles,

Saint Rafael and Nicholas.

It is dusk, an amber sky.

We park the car quickly and I

run up the cobblestones to the door. Locked.

Too late to light a candle,

send you safely on,

as if I, your fallen angel, have the power,

as if you, stark Catholic, in heaven

already, would care about the forty days,

the candle lit.

Across the way is the church of the monastery,

The Church of Magdalene. The door is open.

A dark figure of a woman stands just inside.

She is chanting, but it is the sound of evening birds,

melodic, joyful. No death dirge. She will chant for hours,

incense of myrrh surrounding her.

No place to kneel, no chairs,

I stand before

the icon of Magdalene,

dark with age and sorrow,

tears pulsing behind my eyes,

and light my candle,

just as a breeze

blows a kiss

across the flame.

Amen.

The Conversation

I said, God, where the hell are you?

and God said,

Wait,

I will

appear

blue

and yellow.

I will be square

sometimes

or perhaps oval with rippling edges.

I will be sometimes two parts or many.

I will melt magenta into white paper

and sparkle

or

disappear.

I will be

bubbles in the air or

molecules you cannot see.

I will be waiting

behind that blade of grass.

Winter Solstice

This is no ordinary time.

Reindeer

climb the skies,

fires

light the hillsides

and the bear comes in.

The air is sharp

and the sky is more

transparent now. Prayers travel easily through it.

From where we are we can see the Universe

just beginning.

From where we are

new islands are appearing,

the bare

trees

are sterling and gold.

In the shining cold

we hide under the covers

as though

spring will never return. But watch

how the earth tilts towards the sun,

swinging

in its spinning

blue space.

Watch how the light

chases the darkness,

the lilting stars

expand

and slide into morning.

Let's gather the winter colors around,

spin them

into magical white,

lean into the earth

and bend with it.

The dark sky will open.

All poems copyright © 2015 by Lana Orphanides.

CT Poet Laureate Rennie McQuilkin selects work for CT Poets Corner by invitation.

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