october, 2016

otata 10

tokonoma

With hesitant compassion she leads me to a large white rose whose deepest heart is being devoured by a scarab.

“Why don’t you shake it off, why don’t you get rid of it?” I ask her

“The rose is done for by now,” she answers. “And if the scarab does not get enough of this, it will go looking for another.”

I sense that her compassion is divided between the insect and the flower, just as the heart of St. Francis included the famished bird and the pecked worm, the burning fire and the burnt garment, the ailing flesh and the herbs crushed to heal it.

I halt before this spectacle of devastating passion.

The insect is nailed into the flower’s sweetness with a craving which resembles both perdition and rapture. It is dazzling, like a gold lamella shining through a polished emerald. It is a stupendous jewel and a savage force.

It is forgetful of everything, oblivious of all risk, all surprise, all threat, submerged in its delight as in a crime that fears no punishment.

I sense again, as in my early youth, what there is of the divine in thirst and hunger

The entire heart of the rose is spoiled and, surrounded by a crown of still intact petals, appears yellowish like a trace of honey.

The sore oozes nectar, the murder is sweet.

Who feeds on beauty grows in beauty.

I would like to linger and catch the instant when the scarab will extend its wings outside its carapace and fly away along a ray of sunlight.

Gabriele D’Annunzio, Nocturne

Raymond Rosenthal, Trans.

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part i

John Levy, Mark Harris, Joseph Aversano, Mandy Haggith,
Bob Arnold, Bill Cooper, Jean Morris, Sabine Miller, Hansha Teki, Don Wentworth,
Sonam Chhoki, Elmedin Kadric, Susan Hankla, Mike Montreuil,
Tom Montag

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part ii

otata’s bookshelf

Johannes S.H. Bjerg
Rainflames
Regnflammer

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John Perlman
The Keys

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Ξ 

 

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part i

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John Levy

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through the metal fence a young woman stretches
her arm to touch the rhinoceros back as her son

eyes rhino expanse and a mother’s reach

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shadows photographed crossing

the street in 1950

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What happened to that one? A child’s
question walking through
the cemetery.

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[Editor’s note: Poet John Levy and Painter Don Cole’s collaborative volume Float among what sails & spiralsis surely among the most stunning books of the year. You can find — you must see the video of Levy reading his poems drawn from Cole’s paintings here.

Ξ 

 

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Mark Harris

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sea wrack
an old god sleeps
in a cast off shell

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curtains of light
the wave inside

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flowers

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a dust mote’s re-
volving in the spotlight where
the bodhisattva sat

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starlings twist into

an apparition of
the end

 

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leaf light
bluebottle flies rise
from a hollow mole

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plums
one pale dawn

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gone

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(light in the open doorway breaks)

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[Editor’s note: Mark is the publisher of elegant chapbooks under his Ornithopter Press, most recently, Peter Yovu’s stunning Imago, which can be found here.]

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Ξ 

 

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Joseph Aversano

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covered up
by fig leaves
the fall

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a bird note
quotient of
the blue

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stars under which
the horizon falls
away

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the next village in the dark a bark

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saint’s shadow as long as the saint

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a lifting foot
fall gravity’s
weak

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crying into this world on out

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heaven’s river coursing rain

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earth’s core flaked obsidian

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a coconut
falls to
the beat

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the warpaint
clogging
pores

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a quiet the sirens have left

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the fronts
shifting
light

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moon so the this worldly

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Ξ 

 

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Mandy Haggith

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this is not Japan
but the cherry blossom begs
a three line poem

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a hazel arrow courses

curves between birches

sparrowhawk!

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Fallen hazel leaves

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spines up under trees
books discarded on a wet tiled floor
by interrupted readers

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Gold

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who
needs silver
when there are
so many
shades
of
g
o
l
d
?

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hazel

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a nut in my hand
a tree in my mind

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in the current
a salmon waits
for hazel wisdoms
to fall

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a tree made the nut
the nut will make a tree

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in the woods time bends
its arrow-shaft
loops

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life to life
fungus to fungus

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Oaks

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eggcups propping up the pastry sky

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now you’re gone

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there’s nothing
to prevent
the clouds caving in

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nothing to stop the fields flapping

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[Editor’s note: Go to Mandy Haggith’s website]

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Ξ 

 

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Bob Arnold

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The Woodcutter Talks

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Long before the great ships at sea
There were the deep inland forests

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I stand in one today knee-deep in snow
10 degrees with a wind

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My saw shut down
Oil freeze to bar and gloves

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Listening awhile to the ships at sea
The long groaning waves

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High high
Above me

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[Editor’s note: Click here To order the complete Woodcutter Talks from Longhouse
and do not neglect the late Jim Koller’s edition of Twenty-Eight Poems &
Two Interviews
, available as a free pdf here.]

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Ξ 

 

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Bill Cooper

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through holes
in the lobster trap
Orion

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rain loosening
each sunflower petal
new oboe reed

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hot cobbles
unfurling an anti-pipeline
quilt

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Ξ 

 

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Jean Morris

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Cupped

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Milk for their morning tea
is from a lemon-yellow jug.
Cupped between her hands,
its cool curves are like the fruit,
its glowing yellowness
a small warm flame
from brighter climes
and times than these.
It turns their milk
to buttermilk,
their cups
to buttercups.

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one on each table
potted lavender
with bee

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we trail towards
a small horizon

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looped against the light
bare branches cry

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the footpath clings
keeps whispering your name

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fallen pink petals

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their delicacy shocks
like parings from
a pale fleshy
underarm

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some kind
of pelargonium
red petals
so soft they’re
like velvet
so dark they’re
nearly black

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morning
space swells
and time recedes
light on a silver sea

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Ξ 

 

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Sabine Miller

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Motion Is Love

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Sat on an island
in the

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Pacific

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In a stuffy

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Dark room breathing

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Patches
of skin

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Flare and Fade

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Slept like
an animal

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Amidst

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On the seventh

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Day dissolving
into white light

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Into

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Which

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Forms come,
to love

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This spinning

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Disco
ball-of-a

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Whirled

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Moon Came to the Forge

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(after a photograph by Michelle Tennison)

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1.

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A hummingbird’s throat

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Feathers in
the shade

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2.

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Plasma, whisked
off the sun as

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A woman
in Andalusia

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3.

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Singing
The blood’s piped
glass

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4.

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Dahlia
if you

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Dance in
dark red
petticoats

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5.

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Pregnant gypsies

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Walking mountains

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6.

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The moon
in Earth’s exhalations

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Rose

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[Editor’s Note: Sabine’s Circumference of Mercy is available from Mountains & Rivers Press.]

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Ξ 

 

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Hansha Teki

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there and there
so near still
a mayfly’s was

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finger-felt
what the pine
had to teach

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in winter wind
all that’s left of me
escapes me

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Ξ 

 

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Don Wentworth

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one after
the other the ants
tell us so

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outside the polling place
two halves of a worm
wriggling

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fly
on the coffin lid
praying

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[Editor’s Note: Our little world might disappear were it not for Don’s review.
And also see his great first book Past All Trapsand his newest, With a Deepening Presence.]

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Ξ 

 

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Sonam Chhoki

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In dreams a bulbul sings to me of carnelian caves where the cobras play but it never shows me the way

crossing
the rope bridge to a shrine
Orion at dawn

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Some of what you read

a little of what you want
to believe
I am a mosaic
of imaginings

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Ξ 

 

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Elmedin Kadric

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just tomatoes and bread on a headstone

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two sides
the same
cold moon

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you choose black
winter solstice

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after all
the ant part
of you

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walnut money in his clenched hand

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Ξ 

 

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Susan Hankla

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Above cumulus clouds I levitate,
wearing just a shower cap and pearls.

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Ξ 

 

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Mike Montreuil

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able to communicate
and put words on paper
Superman

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Ξ 

 

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Tom Montag

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You do not

want to

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want. The
heart does

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what it must.

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Which is
grace.

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Which is
shape.

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Which is
grasp and

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grapple.
This woman.

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And so, yes, then
I head for home

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waiting for stars
to mark my going.

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The darkness slows
me. Emptiness,

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no, not so much.

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Ξ 

 

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part ii

otata’s bookshelf

.

Johannes S.H. Bjerg
Rainflames
Regnflammer

Click to read the pdf

John Perlman
The Keys

Click to read the pdf

 

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Ξ 
 

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Otata will come again
one day
late fall in the mountains

— Santoka as translated by Burton Watson

Otata mo aru hi wa kite kureru yama no aki fukaku

As Watson notes, “Otata was a woman who went around selling fish in the area of Santoka’s cottage in Matsuyama.”

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All works copyright © 2016 by the respective poets.

Address submissions to otatahaiku@gmail.com

—John Martone

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