Le altre lingue: Canada (le aree anglofone) – Robert Priest

Quarto capitolo della rubrica “Le altre lingue” dedicata al Canada anglofono. Il poeta selezionato da Antonio D’Alfonso è Robert Priest. Buona lettura.

Robert Priest (4)

Robert Priest, is the author of fourteen books of poetry, 3 plays, 4 novels, lots of  musical CDS, and one hit song.   His words have been debated in the legislature, posted in the Transit system, quoted in the Farmer’s Almanac, and sung on Sesame street. His 2008 book: Reading the Bible Backwards peaked at number two on the Globe and Mail’s poetry list. (ECW) Rosa Rose, a book of children’s verse, in praise of inspirational figures, recently won a silver moonbeam award in the U.S and was a book of honour in the Lion And the Unicorn prize of excellence in Children’s Literature.. His latest book of poems for adults is Previously Feared Darkness, (ECW). Missing Piece, book 3 of his young adult fantasy series, Spell Crossed will be published this summer by Dundurn press.

Robert Priest – five poems

Reading The Bible Backwards

Reading the bible backwards
Christ Jesus pops his nails
And comes down
To give the karma back to the people
Bearing the cross downhill
He shrugs off the scourging
Of his torturers
He escapes unscathed
From his backwards trial
Returned by Rome
To the Judas kiss

Reading the bible backwards
Christ Jesus says
Cursed are the meek
For the rich shall inherit the earth
He says turn the other cheek
Or I’ll turn it for you
The moneychangers
Throw backwards Jesus
Out of the temple
And he wanders around
Giving people leprosy
And causing blindness
Reading the bible backwards
Christ Jesus turns the adulteress
Over to her judges
He puts the resurrected
Back to death
But they rise again
Like bread

After that he leaves
The living living
And the dying dying
He moonwalks rapidly
Out of history
Back to Mary’s arms
In reverse birth
He shrinks
Through her womb
To the infertile egg
And beyond

For a while there is a star
That hovers
Then that too is gone


Cough Log

Key in ignition cough you can’t turn off
Stutter cough
Bubble cough caught in phlegm
Cough you have to tuck
Your lungs back in after
Scuff cough of file over nail
Sandpaper cough
Black flag flap cough
Wet cough of shale
Croak cough of the frog
Caught in the jaws of a dog
Bellows cough gallows gasp
Furnace cough
Raw rasp five foot fade out cough
Shovel scrape full in the face spatter cough
Clatter-cough coughing up matter
Hawking up data from the inner lung
Fist-splattering mad hatter cough
Ripping the lung
Belly cough that breaks a rib
Exploding cough that splits your lip
Cough like a band saw in birch bark
Scalding cough like steam from a radiator
Cough that rattles and spits — an ossuary
In a forest fire
Cough of ages cough our ancestors
Coughed in all the plagues
Coughs that scrape the lungs
Like last dishes in famine
Baby coughs
Hydra cough you can’t stop
Coughs like moths beating air to red shreds

First cough of the cold that kills you
Last cough of a flu
They said would never end


Poem for a Tall Woman

If you have ever seen the green in water that is forever flowing out to mystery and adventure then you know something of the colour of her eyes. I would not talk so foolishly but there is a space in me she steps into — a tall shadow, an absence that howls like a grave or a dead wind when she is not there. I am a fool for her, letting all of me be a mile-long night breeze if she is but a straw held up — a single golden hair I might rush over forever. I love Marsha Kirzner like the taste of my own spit, like my own blood in my veins, ready to melt in her heat like snow carried south and dropped in Pacific surges, my mouth dissolved in tropical mangoes and sweet papaya. She is another tall self I keep inside and lean on like a prop — a magic self that sets me whirling and dispersing — an anchoring self like a two-ton idol thin and heavy in the bed, me fastened to it like a small burnt lizard. Let me just hold this mantis woman in my arms, this tall beautiful fire with green eyes. Let me just lick the length of this green blade, this lightning filament of her love and I will sizzle with it, a long green furrow in my spirit where a jade lake reaches for the peaks. Her hand is a leaf that can calm the passage of a storm and yet it is a leaf that sings in its work like a reed made of Human flesh, a musical flesh of gasps and sighs — a high sweet strand of water like a violin string. Aaaah draw the bow down again my loved one across the heart, across the soul, draw the bow down again and play forever the long sweet notes of our love.


My father’s hands

My father had so many hands
He almost three
My father had so many hands
He had almost three
My father had almost three
But not enough
To touch me once gently

O my father had so many eyes
He had almost three
My father had so many eyes
He had almost three
My father had almost three eyes
But not enough to see me
Once perfectly

My father had but one mouth
And one heart
To lift those bales and bales
At the factory
My poor father of fists and fists
Beating at the wall
Beating at his brow
Beating at his children

My poor factory father
Lined and fat-bellied now
Tranquillized and happier
Made smaller by so many sons
The winds gave him only one
And they said
“Here — spin it
Make it the hole in rock
We whistle shrill through
Grit your teeth and count your children

He wonders what to do with
Hands now
Where to put them —
These tender lined things
That ache for sons
O my father we are here –
The prints of wanting
Emblazoned on us like
Radioactive brands

My father had so many hands
And he waves them now —
Ashamed a little
Looking puzzled as we leave
At the movement from his wrist
As if he wondered – what are they
When they are not fists


Ali Wouldn’t fight

Ali was the champ
Bam! Bam! Bam!
The best boxer ever
And man, could he dance.
Plus he was a joker
And he spouted poetry.
He was born Cassius Clay
But became Ali –
Muhammad Ali.
He laughed and he twirled.
He was the Bam! Bam! Bam!
Heavyweight champion
Of the world.

Now in those days
Blam! Blam! Blam!
There was a war
In Vietnam.
Blam! Blam! Blam!
It was a terrible war,
A terrible war in Vietnam.

And when they called
Ali to go
He refused,
He just said, “No,
I think I’ll stay here
Where I am,
I’ve got no quarrel
With Vietnam.
Why would I kill
My fellow man?”

If you don’t fight
Blam! Blam! Blam!
You’ll go to jail
Wham! Wham! Wham!
If you don’t fight
For Uncle Sam,
We’ll lock you up
In the slam, slam, slam.
But he wouldn’t fight
Blam! Blam! Blam!
He just said no
To Uncle Sam.
“I think I’ll stay here,
Where I am,
I’ve got no quarrel
With Vietnam.
I’m a recent convert
To Islam.
Why would I kill
My fellow man?”

Ali was charged
But he wouldn’t budge.
He was put on trial
Before a judge.
The gavel came down
Wham! Wham! Wham!
Ali was free,
An innocent man,
He didn’t have to fight
In Vietnam,
He didn’t have to fight
For Uncle Sam.

But he still couldn’t box
Bam! Bam! Bam!
They wouldn’t let him box
And they picked a new champ
And still there was a war
Blam! Blam! Blam!
And many people died
In Vietnam.

Ali had to wait,
This champ of the world,
Down by his sides
Those big fists curled,
Not till the war
Came at last to an end
Would they let him fight
For the prize again.
Back in the ring
How good Ali felt
When he fought George Foreman
And took back his belt.
He darted and danced,
Spoke poetry and twirled.
He was the king of not fighting
And the heavyweight champion
Of the world.

Yes, he was champ in the ring
And a champ times two –
Cause Ali was the king
Of not fighting too!

In copertina: Robert Priest (Photo by Allen Booth ©).