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Poems from the book ; ' Collecting Shells "


IN A SPANISH MARKET

In the market in Madrid I checked the stands
browsing; under a torrid sun; the red, orange, green,
purple and black fruits and veggies are on display.

A woman is mincing herbs in a blender; I watch her;
I ask for samples; she helps "the ladies to cook
a quick, fresh and tasty dinner, when they come home
from work" she said. She has in her possession
"a large number of exquisite recipes from her sage
great-great grandmother", she said.

Her table is full of basil, parsley, thyme, celery branches;
spinach, nettles, carrots and peas, apples and beans,
potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers are set aside.

She's mincing some herbs for a special
"soup of love and peace in homes".
"Garlic, onions also?" I asked. "Noooo!
These are for the lady of the house to add later if
she thinks it is appropriate", she's telling me smiling.

I bought a little jar of "the witches mélange",
as I called it in my mind, and went home.
Looks like the concoction is working: already
a handsome man offered to help me with my bags
on my way up the stairs, out from the subway station!

I tried the soup at home; "Not bad, not bad at all!
delicious!' I should recognize.
I'll go back tomorrow for her minestrone ingredients.



LIGURIAN STONE HOUSE

A luminous and bright day;
I wear my sunglasses; I enjoy my new apartment:
no blinds; just sky and sun – my new place, #609

Crossing the street for coffee and muffin
sitting at a table at Tim Horton's,
I dream about the old Ligurian place.
Following the sidewalk between bushes –
I do not know how long I walked
And found a house – a ruined Ligurian mansion,
I can hear the river, murmuring not far away;
Luxuriant vegetation surrounds the house
the tall plants turn out to be beans, raspberry
and rosemary; here was a kitchen garden
in long forgotten times

I enter the house; the smell of moisture,
made me sick - this is a cavernous place
Floors have missing boards here and there.
Pay attention! You can fall in the basement!
A door, steps, a door again; a padlock -
I just touched it and it fell down; should I
venture through? A corridor, no light,
my hand on the watery walls; more steps
and a little light in the end;
I speed up, run the last ten meters
A large space opens up in front of me…
a precipice at my feet -
how unexpected!

What if I stop renovating my apartment and
Give my attention to the old stone house?
With love I'll renovate every corner
Happy I'll be there, forever.
I stroll around the house, on the river bank
In the Ligurian light, empty of thought and worries
What if I go back to the old Ligurian house?

My coffee is cold and the sun set and
I return in my apartment
I have to renovate it, to make it "my place".



A HOUSE COLLAPSED AT POMPEII

The other day the House of Gladiators collapsed –
in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.
Some frescos on the damaged walls –
is all that tourists can see from now on –
The three days rain caused a landslide and
the old bricks gave way under the pressure.
Lost is the House of Gladiators to
the Italian Archeological Patrimony at Pompeii.

I visited this place last summer – one could peek
through the gates into mysteriously
hidden patios, tiled up with
marble and populated with fountains…
Brandishing his phallus at the entrance
a warrior guarded the residence
from thieves and bad spirits.
Imaginary roosters peek quietly the seeds
thrown down by the house owner
five minutes ago;
matrons in long dresses walk in the garden
holding their children by the hands…

Sitting on my balcony in Napoli
I wait for my friend Genoveva to join me
for a cappuccino and wonder
how all these things happened;
On the horizon the powerful giant,
the mighty Master of this place – Vesuvius,
is snoring under the blurring sun.
The giant rests soundly –
but for how long?

Unexpectedly, in the year 79 ad.
The Mighty Mountain breathed out
gases and ashes; the inhabitants in
Pompeii and Herculaneum were all poisoned.
Took 2000 years and the archeologists
opened up this place;
the petrified bodies told them unthinkable stories…

With me remains the hope that not every single house
will disappear before my next visit and
Pompeii will lay in peace under the sleepy eye
of the respected giant who rests soundly –
but for how long?



ROME

Buildings push one into the other
Churches – separated by obelisks,
Make faces to each other; stairs
run up and down, back and forth’
going nowhere;
Famous bridges throw themselves
over the Tiber, the blessed river of Rome.
A rounded castle – old fortress of darkness
with a good name: Castel of Angels –
supervises the town

Forum Romano is nothing more than
A green pasture with sorrowful remains –
Temple of Castor and Pollux,
Arch of Titus and Septimus Severus Arch,
Basilica of Maxentius, Circus Maximus –
The visitors can find them following the map;

On the other side of the street, in front of the
Coliseum, a living replica of a Roman soldier
Waits for us to take his photo and give him a dime;
Rome remains a friendly town,
A town you can conquer on foot
Unless a motorbike runs you over.

Strolling in Vatican’s gardens –
One believes he’s in paradise; carved in marble
statues remind the visitor he's within the old Rome.
Birds are singing – nobody hunts them now;
In the old times a nightingale on your plate
was a delight.

Down in the plaza a totally different view
opens to visitors. People are everywhere –
a dropped needle won’t reach the pavement;
The famous Saint Peter plaza with its
Magnificent Cathedral and Colonnade –
masterpiece of Bernini, invites you
to step in and catch your breath in
its pleasant shade.
A sandwich and a coffee will do me good.

I lie down gladly to watch the deep
blue sky; meditate.
Later I took the direction of Trevi Fountain
I knew a nice bodega where I can have a beer –
forget about visiting the old town today…



THE CONCERT IN THE FOYER OF
THE OPERA HOUSE

I am waiting in the opera house’s foyer,
listening to the murmuring crowd – one
can hear the Spanish dialect from South America,
Bulgarian and Polish talk –
Bathed by the afternoon anemic sun
I am waiting for the concert to start – today
Opera foyer is host to a ballet group.

To my left, a young man talks with a grandfather
Who says he was born in 1917. He proclaims
his way to cope with life was by changing
his living place or city – every ten years or so…

Some people eat furtively their sandwich,
the informal concert is ready to start;
People clear their throats - then silence;
old and young stop talking, sitting quietly
on the steps of the Opera House foyer.
The handsome, black, luscious Steinway piano
is waiting for his master;
Last look in the programs and go!

A green street car passes down on the street
mirrored on the glass walls;
The performers come in; three girls,
four boys, align themselves ready to start;
A lady takes her place at the piano
and the dance starts.
The piano is the leader –
the lady pianist – a sorceress.
Precision in the beginning gives way
to sensuality and art towards the end.

The young dancers are butterflies
The music hangs in the air and
the dancers conquered by inertia,
fall asleep in different positions; but no,
one more turn around, the master
awakens them with a last powerful note,
everything is coming to a halt, again.

The last dance commences; walking
in their sleep, girls and boys move
quietly, jump in the air
and stop short at the last blast of the piano;

The audience explodes in applause.
We stand, look and smile to each other,
we had a good time
Charmed, swept away by music and dance
I ask myself if all this was not just a dream.



WRITERS ROTUNDA
IN CISMIGIU

Nobody is to fear in the bewildering night
Dusky flowers clothed in symbols of old
nostalgic leaves; among the people,
the sweet afternoon slips away; a bird
is whittling the same refrain over and over

The old fountain – water drips almost inaudibly;
The ruined house still there; the naked woman –
a statue molded in perishing clay survived.
The dusty jasmine and eucalyptus perfumes –
Dear to every poet, float, insinuating
bringing back my vanished memories…

My feet make the white gravel screech;
such an indecent noise! I took out
my high heeled shoe
I walk hard on the little stones now…
The chessboard patio is not far away;
shadows still playing at midday hour.
Doormen – behind the closed doors,
walk impatiently; a vast yesterday universe
with all dead things still there.

The lion keeps the ring in his mouth
as always; I disregard it and I entered,
my heart pounding – the two well known
mirrors set as ever on an angle
reflect endlessly my silhouette.
Is this another Borges story?
I am surrounded by particularly strong objects
plenty of memories – It suddenly
become too much for me.

I run outside into the blessing garden and
found the Rotunda; the poets enclosure
in Cismigiu – I was little when my father
brought me here the first time; then and now
the twenty-two poets watch me friendly
from their stone pedestals.

How could I forget all these years
to visit these old Adams in their Paradise?




COUNTRY MORNING


Mornings we get up early
In the country side;
On a late August day I threw
fresh water on my face;
I took my small basket,
A stick to help me climb the slopes
And I was ready for adventure –
my granny and I,
we went to our vineyard.
When the sky lightened
we got there;
Grandma laid a rag on the reddish soil
we sat down to eat the bread and cheese,
we brought from home
We drank cold water from a spring,
we talked –

Most of that time
my granny did the talking
Her stories – more fantast than one
can imagine, were adapted
to one listener only: me
Her stories – broken pieces from
the forgotten ages
made me laugh or cry
We ate glassy, transparent grapes,
Full of light and earthy wealth
We gather some in our baskets;
we eat some more and we
Were ready to return home.

The velvet’ flowers on the border
of the road called me to pick them;
Running to keep pace with granny
I didn’t know at that time
how happy I was.



THE AEGEAN SEA


With shores as Bruxelles’s laces and
The countless tiny islands
broke away from mainland
Greece is a heavenly universe

I am lying on the warm sand of
Ouranopolis beach, made of
crystal transparent jewelers;
the water caresses my feet;
the air is so fresh.

Aphrodite breathed over this shore and
The stones became rubies,
emeralds, onyxes, diamonds
I do not move or I’ will become
a statue in bronze – or cooper; or
a piece of pounce

I am not afraid – my witness is
The mighty sun – she’ll make me
shine as silver, or gold
or I will melt;
It doesn’t matter;
I am powerless and happy
on the Aegean shore,
under the Apollo’s spell
and Aphrodite’s wand…




A COTTON FIELD
IN MY CHILDHOOD


I made the list of things to do tomorrow
and content I went to fridge for a reward:
I filled up my bowl
with yogurt from the big pot sitting there
I eat, I think, open the
Donald Hall’s book on literature –
five hundred and seventy pages on fine paper,
and read Robert Bly’s nineteen sixty poem:
“Hunting Pheasants in a Cornfield”

Surreal; dazzling; transporting;
there I am in a cotton field –
in the year nineteen fifty-seven
on the hill not far from
my Granny’s little hamlet, Poroschia.

I am the captain;
I was empowered with responsibility; from
the top of the hill I scrutinize the horizons:
Far away bathing in the milky light
lays the town called Alexandria;
the train just left the station;
the smoky locomotive works hard
to get some speed.
I rest under the big, lonely tree
in the field of cotton; twisted and wise,
the dry and skinny apple tree
perseveres to stay alive and watch
the trains passing by, day after day.

I smell the dry earth; I hear my Granny
breathing heavily; her sun-tanned hands
gather the white cotton puffs
from the scorched, broken-open capsules
and stuff them in her apron’s large pocket.
From time to time she has a sip of water
from her carved wooden bottle
and shouts at me to come and have
a drink of water too…

I sit quiet under the old apple tree
thinking about my future;
I read Robert Bly’s poem and I smell
the dry day, the earth and the adventure:
I am “Hunting pheasants in a Cornfield”.





Poetry by Mariana Popa,
architect, Toronto
19 Jan 2016





Poetry by Mariana Popa    1/19/2016


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