Radio’s interwoven pair—Foley and Serrano, like guitar and piano, like Piedmontese and Siciliano, like tenor and soprano, like Paris and Milano—having survived Trump’s SOTU, are back, unimpaired, to offer their unique blend of whatchamacallit: poetry, music, commentary, what have you.
This is Nina’s first poem:
I began writing in 1968 at age 36, when I wrote a video drama with Roque Dalton for Cuban TV. Dalton (1935-killed in 1975) was an exiled Salvadoran writer living in Havana. My concern for his safety inspired my first poem in 1969, as he prepared to join the Salvadoran revolutionaries to liberate his country from the military dictatorship. At the time of the poem’s publication in an alternative SF newspaper, Express, I could only use his initials in the title and refer to El Salvador as “unknown terrain.”
TO ROQUE DALTON BEFORE LEAVING TO FIGHT IN EL SALVADOR
Mass media I adore you.
With a whisper in the microphone
I touch the mass belly against mine
like on a rush hour bus
but with no sweat and no embarrassment.
“Don’t die,” I whispered, in person.
Only the air and revolutionary slogans hung
“When I die I’ll wear a big smile.”
And with his finger painted a clown’s smile
on his Indian face
“Don’t die!” the whisper beneath the call to battle.
My love of man in conflict
with my love for this man.
Women die too.
They let go their tight grip on breath and sigh,
and sigh to die.
They say that Tania died before Che.
I saw her die in a Hollywood movie.
Her blood floated in the river.
I stand in the street in Havana.
There are puddles here
but few consumer goods to float in them.
Here the blood is stirred by the sacrifice of smiles
to armed struggle.
A phrase and an act.
They leave one day and they are dead.
“Death to the known order. Birth to the unknown.”
Blood. Blood. Blood.
The warmth of it between the thighs
soothes the channel
the baby fights and tears.
I stand by a puddle in Havana
a woman full of blood
not yet spilled.
Can I spill blood by my own volition?
Now it flows from me by a call of the moon;
The moon …
a woman mopping her balcony
spills water from her bucket
on my hair, my breasts
and into the puddle.
The question is answered.
And this is Jack’s tribute to the late John Oliver Simon, written immediately after Simon’s announcement that his cancer had returned and was inoperable—and that he had fallen in love.
FOR JOHN OLIVER SIMON, AFTER THE NEWS
Tears for John Simon
Tears that the disease
Should summon him
Tears for John
At my wife’s death
I hold in my heart
And will hold in my heart
Until whatever form Multiplicitous Many-Fingered Death
I have traveled the road
A little ways—
As I listen I recognize
The Cancer Road,
The things everyone does
When they have cancer.
John is standing at—or a little beyond—its outset,
Beginning to know
The dark thing within him
That will take him
From the world.
You will be remembered
By me, by everyone you knew or touched
For the words you shared
For the eleven syllables
For the crossing of linguistic boundaries.
I remember your birthday gala.
Death is the price we pay for that birth,
All of us,
Now or later.
“We owe God a debt,” said the Elizabethans,
Pronouncing “debt” as “death.”
I will remember you, saying
Goodbye, good luck,
Fare forward, fare well in whatever realms
“Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.” *
* Donne, “Hymn to God, My God, In My Sickness”