Better late than never! Week four of The Guardian Photo Poems is now live! Click on the tab at the top of the page (or simply click on the hyperlinked text) and then scroll down to read this week’s highlights from last year’s photo inspired poems including daffodils (shout out to William Wordsworth!) in London, a poem dedicated to my Italian grandmother from Italy, and the odd juxtaposition of Lake Van in Turkey and lunch duty in Pennsylvania. Be sure to follow the links to Wordsworth’s classic poem and a movie clip from The Greatest Game Ever Played.
Among the Jonquils
(With fond affection for Wordsworth)
Among the jonquils soft she lies
unseasonably at rest
beneath rejuvenating skies
upon the warm earth’s breast.
And sure her heart with pleasure fills
as only Wordsworth knows
who wandered o’er the vales and hills
removed from Winter’s snows.
The sun shines full upon her face
and all the world seems still,
yet I must seek a hiding place
from winds that bite and chill.
The soil is hard; the trees are bare,
though Winter’s hold is dimming;
sweet vernal notes from trumpets blare
with hope of new beginning.
So let us loll among the beds
of golden daffodils
if only there within our heads
its promised rest distills.
For Anna Mosca Tancredi Anastasi
Strong winds have blown the Efe Murat aground
Pinned to the sandy bottom
While crashing breakers buffet the hull
And yet again
In the churning Adriatic Sea.
This grounded cargo vessel
Draws my attention
To the beach of Pane e Pomodoro
My grandmother once walked
Hoping to be set free
From the unyielding winds of tradition
And the quicksand pull of the family farm.
When you set foot on the America (1908)
Departing from Napoli
Just eighteen years old
That October in 1922
Could any storm have stayed your passage
Or blown your five-foot-five frame off course?
I navigate between the tables
weaving around the small islands
of adolescent banter,
odor of cafeteria lunches mingled
with the faint scent of chemical cleaners.
High above, the cold fluorescent glow
diffuses over gray and white checkered tiles
and corpse-colored walls.
Gum wad constellations
stick to the ceiling
just behind the omniscient eye
of security camera.
The students see me only in passing,
a great blue heron
occasionally sticking rogue wrappers
that flutter from tables or trays
to swim about the floor.
Moments before I started my shift —
a lifeguard, if you will,
no whistle or flotation device
beyond this pen, this page —
I saw this photograph of Lake Van
rippled beneath a leaden sky heavy with clouds,
the banks effaced in white,
and a solitary tree abloom with snow,
save for the man in Carhartt brown
It lingers in my mind
then touches a scene I recall
from The Greatest Game Ever Played
of Harry Vardon concentrating on a shot:
he expunged all the people, the noise,
the distractions of the course
until nothing remained but him,
the ball resting obediently on the tee,
and the hole, clearly visible in the distance.
Something pulls me back to reality,
then ever so slowly, these faces
disintegrate and blow away like snow,
their voices modulating into the muted
breath of wind over winter lake,
and I shiver with a sudden chill
as a distant yet familiar bell
calls someone on to class.
*Note: Some believe that Lake Van is the site of the former Garden of Eden