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$500 Ethiopia


Revision #1

Mother, will you soon send $500?
I wish we could share a ratatouille
lamb plate, huddle like spies over
hot masala; devour the guinea
squash of my boyhood memories.

I drive a cab along the waterfront,
the ocean reminds me of our sea
green zucchini, named courgettes
in New York, the best from Italy,
but i know you will always hate
the Italians for Mussolini's
invasion of Ethiopia 60 years ago.

Once, I cleaned our dram shop,
in a drunken voice you called
to your dead mother. My soul hides
a blunt question:

grandmother, raped by soldiers?
Is that why you and I are so fair
and hatred forges from your heart
a swollen Sahel dust storm?




Original:

Ethiopia, Mon Amour

Mother, will you soon send $500?
I wish we could share a ratatouille
lamb plate at the ocean front.

I drive a cab, the mustard sunsets
remind me of food; aubergines
drape the moon; swarming clouds
of masala dazzled over guinea
squash, a sky of poured olive oil.

I think of our sea green zucchini,
called courgettes here in New York,
the best from Italy, but I know
you will never forgive Mussolini’s
invasion of our Ethiopia and always
hate the Italians.

Yes, as you say, President Obama
resembles Emperor Haile Selassie.

Years ago I cleaned our dram shop,
in a drunken voice you called
to your dead mother. My heart hides
a blunt question:

grandmother, raped by soldiers?
Is that why you and I are so fair?




Last edited by Bernie01, Feb/14/2013, 5:30 pm


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Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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arkava Profile
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


bernie, kat's reply to your other post brings home why this is a different sort of place. in most other places the post/reply cycle is like that in a real workshop. scan/comment/post. here, even if people take a long time responding sometimes, they really want to when they do. that makes it special in my book. another funny thing. members (lurkers) read your poem w/o commenting, which if you think about it, beats the vice versa hands down.anyway i wanted this to justify why i have not commented on the poem despite coming back to it time and again since you posted it. first day, thought of how beautiful the painting, the mindscape thorugh which N travels back and forth. went off again, read up on haile selassie one afternoon. another day, visited the board then went off searching war time atrocities and how in the fight for survival the survivors are not the luckiest or the fittest but just there. sorry for the aside bernie, and now that i look at it, my entire reply is an aside. but thanks for the poem.
 
arka

Last edited by arkava, Feb/7/2013, 11:51 am
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Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


Arkava---

once again your unconventional response charms and informs.

once again, i run to Kathleen to show her your comments, like a schoolboy taking an A report card home for a spelling test.

i have only this awkward way of thanking you, i imagined the Italian soldiers bored in Ethiopia fully capable of lethal mayhem, but at this moment violence is far from their minds.


Rebecca West ---Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


observation made so real it merges into speculation;

Rebecca West's vast, complex book Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is more than a timeless guide to Yugoslavia - it is a portrait of the author's soul and of Europe on the brink of war. Yugoslavia; In a cafe in Mostar - then a sleepy backwater but a boundary then as now - she went into a cafe:


"Young officers moved rhythmically through the beams of white light that poured down upon the acid green of the billiard tables, and the billiard balls gave out their sound of stoical shock.

There was immanent the Balkan feeling of a shiftless yet just doom. It seemed possible that someone might come into the room, perhaps a man who would hang up his fez, and explain, in terms just comprehensible enough to make it certain they were not nonsensical, that all the people at the tables must stay there until the two officers who were playing billiards at the moment had played a million games, and that by the result their eternal fates would be decided; and that this would be accepted, and people would sit there quietly waiting and reading the newspapers."










A neglected masterpiece of 20th-century travel writing.


bernie







Last edited by Bernie01, Feb/7/2013, 10:26 pm


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Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


Arkava---


i wondered how this prose would look in a conventional poem like format.

bernie


Young officers moved rhythmically
through the beams
of white light that poured down
upon the acid green of the billiard tables,
and the billiard balls gave out
their sound of stoical shock.

There was immanent
the Balkan feeling of a shiftless
yet just doom.

It seemed possible that someone
might come into the room,
perhaps a man
who would hang up his fez,
and explain, in terms
just comprehensible enough
to make it certain
they were not nonsensical,
that all the people at the tables
must stay there until the two officers
who were playing billiards
at the moment had played
a million games,
and that by the result
their eternal fates would be decided;

and that this would be accepted,
and people would sit there quietly
waiting and reading the newspapers.


Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
Rebecca West




Last edited by Bernie01, Feb/7/2013, 10:41 pm


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Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


Hi Bernie,

For some reason I can't explain, when I read the first line of this poem I thought of all those Nigerian email scams. You know the ones in which the emailer with a sad story writes to people and asks for money? That is not what you had in mind, I know, but that thought led me to wonder about an Ethiopian cabbie in NY asking for money from his mother rather than sending it her. Yes, that could happen. Finally, I am ready to read your poem!

All the food imagery, which is well done, makes me think of someone who is hungry. The association from zucchini to Italy to Mussolini is unexpected, but it comes across as being coversational and I think it works.

I had to look up Emperor Haile Selassie. My research was cursory, I admit, so I don't understand in what way he resembles Obama?

I like the last two stanzas, which contain more suprises for the reader. I especially like the lines: "My heart hides/a blunt question:" I think those lines are honest yet respectful of the both the grandmother and the mother, of the family's shared history and unshared but open secrets. They make me like and trust the humanity of the N, who is himself a survivor despite what happened to his family and his country.

Last edited by Katlin, Feb/8/2013, 8:02 pm
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


K---



hey...thanks for your comments and especially the personal associations you brought to the poem.

i split a forum several years ago when i brought children directly from Darfur to a Boston tea party. Exploitation, some called it.

the children, so well mannered, so gentle even in this bizarre change of fortune; just what i have observed in a dozen countries---once borrowing a prized bicycle for me to ride and escorting me to my destination.

i felt a little better, but not much, when a newspaper reprinted the poem:


Thursday 19 May 2011


The Ballroom Dancers Of Darfur

by Bernard Henrie


They walk out of magazines
and radio speakers, children
from Darfur’s solemn bush,
little herons of the desert,
bones that bump the dancers;
hard feet on the parquet floor.

The dancers shuffle to a stop,
ladies in serene threes and fives,
men round as punchbowls gape.

The children drift with the music
like smugglers through the city,
the fine dust of blowing Sahel
caked in cheek hollows, razor thin
eyebrows, ochre coloured lips.

More arrive, exhausted travellers
mixing with country-club dancers;
they politely avoid chairs, blink;
they collect in corners, soundless.

I stumble over a dying cow, brown
as winter gloves, soft to the touch
peaceful, even elegant in this death,
dark eyes round as moulded clay.
The visitors quietly gather around.
A child touches my shoulder,
the hand pats like a priest at a grave.



President Obama always identified with old world manners, perfect attire, and a commandig but not imperial manner.

and so was Haile Selassie. in his young photos, the resemblance jumps from the page.

thanks again for looking this one over.


bernie






  

Last edited by Bernie01, Feb/8/2013, 8:06 pm


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Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


I think "The Ballroom Dancers of Darfur" is a strong, moving poem, Bernie. If you had posted it here, I would have wanted to nominate it for IBPC. I think the tactic of having the children show up among the dancers is well done and very effective. The whole poem strikes me as being carefully conceived and constructed, and by "carefully" I mean "done with care." I'm glad you got it published, and in a newspaper. Finding a poem in a newspaper doesn't happen much these days.

Thanks for the explanation regarding the Selassie/Obama resemblance.

Last edited by Katlin, Feb/9/2013, 3:14 pm
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


K---

i rarely do that, sneak in a second poem, but just thought it was important this time.

Also, illustrated to me how powerful---for good or otherwise---a poem can be.

the newspaper was in England. recently i sent four poems to a magazine associated there with Cambridge, you can imagine by delight and surprise when all four were accepted for June publication.

might want to look at the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore:

http://www.qlrs.com/default.asp

---now and then they print a poem of mine, but more importantly, the other work you see there in English from many corners of the globe, not just asia.

bernie
     



Last edited by Bernie01, Feb/9/2013, 3:27 pm


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Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


Hey Bernie,

I'm glad you snuck in that second poem. We have no rules against posting more than one poem in a thread. Once Tere posted a bunch of poems in one thread and some folks got confused, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing that, unless the poems are related and you want them critiqued as a group. Feel free to sneak in another poem when/if the conversation warrants it. It's all about the poet and reader/critter dialogue, so we try not too have too many restrictions as to how the conversation can proceed.

Thanks for the tip about the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. It looks good, and I bet others will want to check it out as well.
Feb/10/2013, 9:42 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
ineese Profile
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


Bernie,
Mother, will you soon send $500? >>>>>>>>>this line I don't feel lived up to the ones to follow:

>>>>>>>>these here, immediately draw in the reader,
gorgeous wording>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I wish we could share a ratatouille
lamb plate at the ocean front.

I drive a cab, the mustard sunsets
remind me of food; aubergines
drape the moon; swarming clouds
of masala dazzled over guinea
squash, a sky of poured olive oil.

I think of our sea green zucchini,
called courgettes here in New York,
the best from Italy, but I know
you will never forgive Mussolini’s
invasion of our Ethiopia and always
hate the Italians.

>>>>>>>>>>>not wild about the political
lines, but they are nice>>>>>>

Yes, as you say, President Obama
resembles Emperor Haile Selassie.

Years ago I cleaned our dram shop,
in a drunken voice you called
to your dead mother. My heart hides
a blunt question:

grandmother, raped by soldiers?
Is that why you and I are so fair?




Feb/10/2013, 10:31 pm Link to this post Send PM to ineese Blog
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Ethiopia, Mon Amour


Kathleen---

looked again at some original lines i removed from the poem. I wonder if you feel the $500 request is softened by these new, highlighted lines. I also removed the line comparing the late Emperor with P. Obama.

Mother, in my mind we share
a ratatouille lamb plate at the ocean;

now I drive a cab, the mustard sunsets
remind me of food; aubergines drape
the moon; swarming clouds of masala
dazzled over guinea squash, a sky
of poured olive oil.

One day the traveler comes home
bringing a bouquet of faux violets,
half-frozen stems of memory
like dry bents, the chirr (of what?)
The languor of grasshoppers green
beside our shop patio.


Please send $500; if possible,
500 leaves dirty and badly burned.


I think of our sea green zucchini,
called courgettes here in New York,
the best from Italy, but I know
you will never forgive Mussolini’s
invasion of our Ethiopia and always
hate the Italians.

Years ago I cleaned our dram shop,
in a drunken voice you called
to your dead mother. My heart hides
a blunt question:

grandmother, raped by soldiers?
Is that why you and I are so fair?


i often move the period of a poem just out of the contemporary---

new york in the 1950's. Paris pre WW II. this poem? was dated by the P. Obama reference, without that note the poem in my mind slides back into the 1990's.

thanks for your supportive comment and suggestions for the poem.



bernie

Last edited by Bernie01, Feb/11/2013, 1:42 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Feb/11/2013, 12:38 am Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 


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