Apprentice's last touch *
Published by Visions International magazine
for Mother, who saw
Master, don't sleep.
I just touched up
on the canvas
and the portrait blinked.
It's not the candle flicker,
You told me not to change the cheeks,
but the mouth was a desert
and the eyes lost.
A daub of carmine woke them up.
Master, come see:
the painting now breaths, indeed
no oil mask, but a man - drawn to break free.
His eyes pierce through my apprentice robe,
my borrowed mustache,
my chopped braids,
my little ruse to learn your craft.
His thoughts come forth,
rub cheeks with fire,
No lad are you, girl,
so sweet your brush, so clean your call,
what muse your shadow feathers on my brow ablaze?
Master, please dream,
forget my prayer.
My name I'll empty and be gone.
I'll rinse all brushes,
press in alms of linseed oil and turpentine,
air aprons clean tonight
before sky blues are haloed blond.
My haste please do forgive.
Too little room is here allowed
near your future glory for my humble thirst
* At the beginning of the 16th century a mysterious apprentice, believed by some to be a muse in disguise, was rumored to have brushed by the studios of painters who were later to become masters of the Western Renaissance.
After visiting Unjusa
After visiting Unjusa
for me, Korea
is the sound of a bell: a dragon released
by people moving, toning, dancing together,
full hearted runners
toward one human core,
messengers in rocks dreaming, chisel faced
past to future
born of one thousand bows,
of heart and trust,
rounding the old
world tortoise back with bones and tears.
Perhaps pain and purpose were both lifted
when its body was vaulted to house
hermit, priest, shaman, offers
food for the hungry
so listen to the ondol river washing its hollows
- adjourn fear, converse with death –
ancient prayers, like roots,
guide searching souls, young minds flowering
inner mountains, vision climbs.
The land turns temple when evening furrows ash, silk, flesh and ink:
melting crown and saber alike.
This, for me, is Korea: human ore
flagging the valley
showing the way.
Note: The undated Unjusa Temple and sacred site is believed to have been raised prior to a 15th century mention on a geographic record
toning, dancing together : reference to the two Greek words khoros, khoreia – transl. in English: choir, dance
full hearted runners: reference to the two Latin words: cor, currere - transl. in English: heart, run
messengers: synonym to courier
Published by Gwangju News International Magazine
(Trial by fire and tears)
cracked in rooster’s beak
by his foe-sacked
kilns* where he had been…
Stolen: no doubt!
The fire limp
and hooves stamped in the clay
spoke of war’s price:
with their master potter,
that night, the village paid.
For he, prized prisoner,
to foreign lands,
far shores. Now villagers
-- chins hanging low--
his fate bemoaned.
Wind shaken stood his cottage,
door framed, his pale-eyed
wife held their son back.
“He is too little,” cried.
But, at twelve years old, the lad
had gleaned enough to dare and try.
He tugged her apchima for days.
“Allow me, eomeoni to light the kiln,
allow. To abeogi in my dream
last night I promised.”
She then smiled and wiped her eyes.
“Just one time, son.”
(Trial by water and earth)
So digging days long by the river
he found the soggy best,
scooped and lumped it back uphill
with hands like abeogi’s
--clay gloved by the yeast of earth--
forming, throwing it until just right.
One half he wheeled and then
its open twin in sameness joined,
made vessel whole
while at the seam, the edge em battled,
like his village struggled to survive
the war, close in: before and after. Heal.
In sleep then the boy slipped
with tired arms
on grasses spent and bent.
When dusk awakened ,
with hungry eyes
his pot he met:
like pregnant eomeoni’s belly now
the top had slightly sagged,
yet mattered not.
Next eve the wood sparked,
candeled ready, in the domed uphill,
then crackled hot.
(Trial by wind and fire)
the wind approved.
Its dragon tongue torpedoed
through the chambered kiln,
around the pot war waging
upon war itself.
All night the rumble raged
like furies at some shore,
fused, sealing powers’ trial
onto the mortal clay
by cinders bellowed
and translucent orbed .
As a new day the rooster open laid,
the villagers circled the son,
helped hoist his ware
out from hot smoke,
in wonder wiped its barrel size
and sagging --seen as proof--
to gasps gave way,
to tears of hope.
From ashes’ cover,
the youngest now
a master potter of their own.
* At the end of Korea’s Imjin War (1592~98)
apchima (Korean): apron
eomeoni (Korean): mother
abeogi (Korean): father
To Christoforo Columbus -- before dawn*
Published by New Millennium Writings - 2016 Anthology --
with Honorable Mention in the 39th NMW Poetry Contest
Christoforo, can you hear me if I whisper?
It is late and clad bones need sleep.
I know you’re watching though --
even if they think you’re dream ruled --.
Can you see me?
Si, si, la Donna ti visita. (1)
I commune with the seas now conquered, unconquered,
….wasn’t that what the waves called to you?
Some grow their crest high
land and never leave. Yet roiling waters do
christen when voyaged, imprint with another power
gust giving, restless, fraternal.
You heard them prattle and pray
over fish bones, wish bones,
fish bones, wish bones
….isn’t that what whitens us?
No wonder that pilgrims seek to root their faith
if they hold, a forest protects their halo, carries the cargo
across and if you knew the path of this pregnancy,
Christoforo, you may have not left
new world expectant, delivery, delivered
…wasn’t that how the sea curled around you?
When the shots aimed farther,
and treading, you asked where
Where are you, God?
stared at the compass dance,
West? then lost again, Where are you… where
where are you...are you
…wasn’t that what the tide was also searching?
Remember, Christoforo, I have but this candle
to carry us through the night.
Can you see flame forward
years bilge from shipping flesh, gun, gold, history rising
following smoke masts, enslaving, unslaving,
…..wasn’t that what the foams foretold?
They called freedom, but she was not ready to adorn,
shores, not your nor mine -- blood cannot be washed --
only birth righted, heart brushed
by deeper loss or gain, five hundred spokes or more
in years wheeling , decoding, encoding,
…did you see their scroll exacting the mist?
And what is left, right?
Peace, Christoforo, off-springs shall peruse these sands
cover your ears, fill in your footsteps --wine of pardon--
while pride on nightmares mounted
be loosened away, scatter and salt,
scatter and salt
…for waves to heave, deepen their sigh.
So rest now by the dawn’s oar
mio caro figlio (2) ,
I just needed to touch you,
christen you afresh
in ardour married calm, a rdour…marri ed…ca lm…
* Christoforo Columbus had been bed ridden with high fever for days, on the way back to Spain from his first voyage to the New World. During a stormy night, the young aid providing him with daily food and fresh water heard fragments of conversation and moans from the Captain’s cabin. Soon after, rumors spread on the ship about this as having been a visitation from his mother, who -- that very night-- gave her son, Christoforo, the strength to survive.
(Italian) The lady visits you.
(Italian) My dear son