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Monday, February 18, 2008


by Rochelle Owens

Ever on the surface appears a story
of Iberian days a state of mind
white sand from end to end
explaining the surface of the skin
a naked martyr standing pigeon-toed
opens her right hand pale yellow
the sand in the hollow of    her palm
the shade expanding more than
half-way organizing the lines between
atmosphere following the course
a space between words    etoile    horseshoe
evil-eye    taliswoman
And power a conjurer and truth a fissure
darkening yellowing on the bottom
   of her   left foot

Away from the traffic and pointing at
a hypothetical male a woman says a word
with a smile while her key ring slips off
slips off an index finger and before
another theft another theft in Calcutta    gaps
in the sequence of events
sequence of events a marriage between
pauper and wealthy woman from Delhi
and naught but sovereignty says a word
a word that you know    on the earth’s surface
seven continents rivers and deserts
the flexible long neck of a woman stretches
and an index finger waves    spiraling bands
of wind and rain and strong little legs
of    a pauper run little legs of a pauper run

Escape to spring from one continent    to
another and a sign says “keep out” those
who will not dance to a tune of their misery
to a tune of their pain their pain as perfect
as tubular bells tam tam gongs and sitars
to be no more of this story cut out of the
middle this story of Iberian days and naught
but sovereignty says a word a word that you
know dividing itself into head inchoate eyes
and ears that grind up sound for the word:    theft
is sound ground up becoming a gift and it is
a gift of a red stone red stone in a bean-shape
and the size of a fist and beauty is the arch
beauty is the arch of the foot of a pauper

The operating room and lights that beam
scan across the screen are the eyes and eyes
are organs of wonder wondrous organs and
the two eyeballs set in bony sockets Behold
the gift the gift of a red stone in a bean- shape
precious the intact skeleton    precious the skull
spine bones joints the form of the human body
and naught but sovereignty is the matchmaker
naught but sovereignty says a body is its parts
knowing which side his bread is buttered
as a surgeon on a safari or a trip around the
world    Behold the bread of kali!- –an abundance
of paupers paupers of inchoate eyes rattling
spiral seashells jingling bracelets    They are called
the bread of Kali because Kali devours them
and they are deaf from birth they are the deaf
paupers deaf to the flutes deaf to the sitars deaf
   to the tam tam gongs deaf to the tubular bells

Rochelle Owens is the author of eighteen books of poetry and plays, the most recent of which are Plays by Rochelle Owens (Broadway Play Publishing, 2000) and Luca, Discourse on Life and Death (Junction Press, 2001). A pioneer in the experimental off-Broadway theatre movement and an internationally known innovative poet, she has received Village Voice Obie awards and honors from the New York Drama Critics Circle. Her plays have been presented worldwide and in festivals in Edinburgh, Avignon, Paris, and Berlin. Her play Futz, which is considered a classic of the American avant-garde theatre, was produced by Ellen Stewart at LaMama, directed by Tom O’Horgan and performed by the LaMama Troupe in 1967, and was made into a film in 1969. A French language production of Three Front was produced by France-Culture and broadcast on Radio France. She has been a participant in the Festival Franco-Anglais de Poésie, and has translated Liliane Atlan’s novel Les passants, The Passersby (Henry Holt, 1989). She has held fellowships from the NEA, Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and numerous other foundations. She has taught at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Oklahoma and held residencies at Brown and Southwestern Louisiana State.