Centos 1-5 – Doris Ferleger

(Marrying Neruda’s Love Poems with Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead mining disaster poems)

In love you have loosened yourself like seawater.
Or uneasy, wounded by me. 

In my body, bells,
dove wings with eyes tired

of my echoing country
and its thrust of live coals, of fluttering flag.

Hide me in your arms
with the living and the dead

walking tranquil in fire-dreams filled 
with velocities and misfortunes.

Lodge me at your back, oh shelter me.
Everything carries me to you, 

to our house
of the heart where I have roots

upon the earth and upon 
the winds and upon the waters.

(Lines from Neruda’s Love Poems and Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead poems)

When you go into me, crystalline,
this is the most audacious landscape:

your skin, a bell filled with grapes,
crosscut by snow, wind at the hill’s shoulder.

The hill makes breathing slow, slow breathing after 
you row the river of round hardness.

We shall always be, you and me,
sealed by fire.

And we shall always be strangers.

(Lines from Neruda’s Love Poems and Muriel Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead)

If each day
or is it only now—

because there is a dark room and a broken candleholder
and its warlike form, its dry circle—

a flower appeared like a drop—
flower of sweet total light—

how triumphal and boundless 
the orbit of white—
if each day 
or is it only now 

I surrendered to the broken candle-
holder of light

surrendered to the flower 
disappearing like a drop 

of night—how triumphal 
and boundless this orbit of sight—

(Lines altered from Lynda Hull’s Collected Poems)

Night sky, sapphire. Crescent 
brooch of white. Moonlight 

cracks against asphalt. 
Thick gray hair wraps her shoulders. 

To vanish and return 
transformed does not take 

dying. Takes the pain of staying 
the same one day more, 

takes peonies exploding. 
Why must it take so long 

to value the fog and the quick dark?

(Lines from Muriel Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead)

In me nothing is extinguished or forgotten.
At night I get up to catch my breath.

Yes. There is difficulty breathing.
I am trying to say it as best I can.

The commerce of silences and mysteries.

Doris Ferleger is a winner of the New Letters Poetry Songs of Eretz Prize, Montgomery County Poet Laureate Prize, Robert Fraser Poetry Prize, and the AROHO Creative Non-Fiction Prize, among others. In 2020 she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Delmarva Review. She is the author of three full volumes of poetry: Big Silences in a Year of Rain (finalist for the Alice James Books/Beatrice Hawley Award), As the Moon Has Breath, and Leavened, as well as a chapbook entitled When You Become Snow. Her work has been published in numerous journals including The Cape Rock, Cider Press Review, Cimarron Review, DASH Literary Journal, Delmarva Review, El Portal, Euphony, Evening Street Review, Glint Literary Journal, Good Works Review, L.A. Review, Meadow, Off the Coast, Packingtown Review, Poet Lore, Rougarou, The Virginia Normal, Whimperbang, Whistling Shade, and South Carolina Review. She holds an MFA in Poetry and a PhD in Psychology and maintains a mindfulness-based therapy practice in Wyncote, PA.

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