Thursday 5 January 2023

Two Poems by Antonia Alexandra Klimenko

Glass Nobodies

How I drowned
in my mother’s tears
alone and un-rocked
is the part of the story I leave out–
how we shivered and swayed
in the shadow of the storm
how hurricanes
had nothing on my father!

Shiver and sway shiver and sway
That’s what I did as a child
that and stare through glass

Did I mention
we lived in a house of glass?
glass windows glass ceilings glass walls
How they called it a greenhouse
How I called it a fish-tank–
no air no filter
seaweed for supper!
and green stuff growing all around!

People would have paid good money
back then
               just to stare
through our glass walls
Our Mother
swishing back and forth
in her Miami
salmon Beach chiffon

Did I mention
how re-lent-less-ly
sun and rain beat
on the windowpanes
how our father beat
daily on our dear mother–
our mother
Our Lady of the Aquarium
our mother
gasping for air
like a wail out of water

How we
lay weeping in each other’s blood
in each other’s blood
with Jesus
wading through our tears
with Mary
just above us
How Papa crossed himself
and all four corners of the room–
eye-cons in every corner

Imagine my surprise
at the age of three
I looked into blood-mirrors
and found my own reflection
And where was Mama?
who died alone at sea
who dove
through a sea of glass
who could see right through us

‘And, stay away from the mirrors” she’d warn
Ha! Good luck !
That’s always a caution
when a hurricane’s coming at you
one hundred miles per hour
‘’And stay away from Papa’’
Shiver and sway shiver and sway
Yes stay away from my father
and other unanticipated flying objects

Of Papa Who Sang in the Opera


The deaf cannot hear their babies cry
except inside
where locked forever
(clams in their half-shells)
they have rocked themselves to sleep
on a bed of dry tears

Our father died like that-–
alone in his belly
tossing in dream like some large deformed seal

His was a bitter cry
at the bottom of an empty kettle
of Death Blacker than Russian tea
blood brewed in silence on his lips
and hardened into pearls
His was an endless wail an ocean baritone
which they scraped off the roof of his mouth
and unplugged with a rub-a-dub-dub

Cancer they said while Time
clung to him like a raft
and we removed each year another dying oyster
Cancer they said while Pride
left him stranded on that scab
of mutinous betrayal

Our father died alone in his mouth
immune to the twentieth century
I am my own doctor! I am my own cure!
Give us this day our daily…
pain louder than darkness
truth stronger than liniment--
our father. A true Russian--
who came to America to survive the Revolution
and lost himself instead in contradiction

His was the only voice
His the only song
Pieta Pieta…
He is singing in Our grave

He should have been a conductor

ii ,

We buried him in deep November
brown hat brown suit brown shoes
of sorrow of sepia of sienna
of a thousand burnt photographs
fading into their horizons

of the shit linoleum
I scrubbed with a toothbrush
the day I was forced
to dig my own grave

for the crimes I committed
like living
A hole much smaller
than the ones in Papa’s head
than the ones in our stories
than the hole in my heart

We buried him above ground
one year at a time
lowering him slowly
into forgiveness–
tulips blossoming
into Soviet red wounds
mouth opening
into Stalin’s tomb
Arias by Tchaikovsky
in operatic fury threatening
to swallow us whole

Lowering him slowly
into forgiveness–
Our father His Holiness
who dreamt of Byzantium-

clouds fluttering like butterflies
between claps of thunder
A pinch of late Autumn blown by the wind
God threw in a handful of stars
The sunflowers looked on
bowing their heads

Sometimes deep in sorrow
I lie in his grave
Papa wanders
barefoot there
like Jesus Christ in Summer
The Devil too
in his black fedora

Antonia Alexandra Klimenko
was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary James Meary Tambimuttu of Poetry London–-publisher of T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Henry Miller and Bob Dylan, to name a few. his death, it was his friend, the late great Kathleen Raine, who took an interest in her writing and encouraged her to publish. A nominee for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, and a former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion, she is widely published. Her work has appeared in (among others) XXI Century World Literature (which she represents France) and Maintenant : Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She is the recipient of two grants: one from Poets in Need, of which Michael (100 Thousand Poets for Change) Rothenberg is a co-founder; the second—the 2018 Generosity Award bestowed on her by Kathleen Spivack and Joseph Murray for her outstanding service to international writers through SpokenWord Paris where she is Writer/ Poet in Residence. Her collected poems On the Way to Invisible is forthcoming in 2023.

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