Poetry Month 2016: Janine Pommy Vega
Four Days Before Rumi Died for the Harvest Moon Collective, in memory of Fielding Dawson I could travel around the world sending you postcards: Nope. These people are not as free as you, either, but the law does not allow postcards. I could call you from across the country: I had a dream! You were in it! but there is no phone line to a bank of cells, just the telegram of a sixth sense set precisely in the present. Like Aymara natives of Lake Titicaca for whom the moment of sundown is always five o’clock, there’s no time for egos yours or mine they are luxuries in a prison it’s five o’clock, the sun is going down. Realists in the best sense you stretch out to embrace a word: freedom, for instance more than a sound, the thing itself like love reverberating with all the tremors of intimacy. No one in prison presents a poem stoop shouldered drowned in the rectitude of truth, romance flies out the window, the heart recognizes freedom in an emissary from a distant place in a lost tribesman from the human race. In the workshop of diligent hammers we send up smoke signals, some disappear some messages have been caught from far away. We gulp down freedom like a cat with a canary in our stomach, guards suspicious of smiles look at me perplexed: Where is that sound coming from? Your open mic poems celebrate what few in the life outside allow Like a denizen of the Twilight Zone I hop back and forth across a mirror What is that singing in your belly? the guards demand. What is that singing? Because they don’t know I can’t tell them Just a telegram, I say, a singing telegram from my next of kin. Eastern Correctional Facility, Napanoch, New York, December 13, 2001 [From The Green Piano] ~ From the publisher’s Web site: Janine Pommy was born on February 5, 1942, in Jersey City, New Jersey, and grew up in Union City, New Jersey. Her father worked as a milkman in the mornings and a carpenter in the afternoons. At the age of sixteen, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, she traveled to Manhattan to become involved in the Beat scene there. In 1962, Vega moved to Europe with her husband, painter Fernando Vega. After his sudden death in Spain in 1965, she returned to New York, and then moved to California. Her first book, Poems to Fernando, was published by City Lights in 1968 as part of their City Lights Pocket Poets Series. During the early-1970s, Vega lived as a hermit on the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian-Peruvian border. Out of this self-imposed exile came Journal of a Hermit (1974) and Morning Passage (1976). Following her return to the Americas, she has published more than a dozen books, including Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents (1997), which is a collection of travel writings. Her last book of poetry was The Green Piano.