Issue IX, Volume IV : May 2013
Mari L’Esperance’s first full-length collection The Darkened Temple was awarded the 2007 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and published by University of Nebraska Press in September 2008. An earlier collection Begin Here was awarded a Sarasota Poetry Theatre Press Chapbook Prize. L'Esperance's poems have appeared in several literary journals and anthologies, including the Beloit Poetry Journal, Many Mountains Moving, Poetry Kanto, and Salamander, and have been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. A graduate of the Creative Writing Program at New York University, former New York Times Company Foundation Creative Writing Fellow, and recipient of residency fellowships from Hedgebrook and Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, L’Esperance lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ozu in late life
In their immensity, some nights
are the world. This night
as granite, nothing
to moor to
but the stars, silence
thick as temple moss—breathing,
by hour—crickets stilled
into dream by the cold.
In estuaries of thought
I forget myself—
on a low table
emit a burnished light.
They are all I need,
warm with whiskey,
trailing its blueness
in the grainy dark.
I forget myself—forget
moon in the willow, mice
in the wood bin, wind
that worries the shoji
as ash casts itself upon ash
in the dimming hibachi.
Oh, wintering reeds
at Engaku-ji, where
I have walked often:
make a place for me.
(The Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, who died on his 60th birthday in 1963, is buried at Engaku-ji Temple in Kita-Kamakura, Japan. His black marble gravestone bears only the Chinese character “mu,” which translates as “emptiness, nothingness.”)
The Poppy Field
What I remember: a shivering
sea of crimson—then
what we call sleep overtook me.
The bright world retreated,
slipped behind moving panels
of muted shape and color. What might
have been minutes: hours. Days.
Images from my life sailed in,
then out on rafts of light, rafts
of shadow—what hinted at truth
revealing itself between earth
and sky, though I could not see it then.
The road to the self is awash
in red, orange—spangled green
and gold. What might have been
is lost, or forgotten. What might
have been is a dream I left behind
among the drunken flowers.
In shadow of the ruin she continued, occupied
with what needed tending—, anything
concrete and outer—and forgetting—until,
from the understory of her life—where it lived,
mostly buried, having been banished there
at the rupture—she heard it: subtle hum—lulling,
a muffled furnace—from below, where it lived,
chinks of light pulsing among the loose rubble.
Something ancient and rooted stirred in her.
She knew what she had to do: no true life without—,
so she called to it—softly at first—and waited.
She called again, listened for it: then waited.
This went on. And in time, it called back—