Friday, April 24, 2009

Ghazal 4/24

A poem that happened this morning after a rather restless night. The ghazal is originally an Arabic form that also has had some notable English language practicioners—my favorites are Adrienne Rich’s Ghazals: Homage to Ghalib & her Blue Ghazals. Other English language poets who’ve used the form include Maxine Kumin, W.S. Merwin & Thomas Hardy.

Ghazal 4/24

the willow’s limbs fidget in an April breeze from the west
& the sun is nonetheless blind white in implacable blue

so I have to ask why the dead & the lost come to visit
as I wander the night away in an old house up a staircase

a maple bannister a light in a cut glass fixture a cold white
light—the bedsheets creased & wrinkled into alphabets &

so I have to ask why we have travelled so far from the white white
magnolia blooms of another April & the granite statue of Christ loom-

ing at Swannanoa lugubrious & floating on another wind rattling
with laughter “like dice shook” I said—the breeze agitating the willow

voicelessly—in a supermarket parking lot far over the hills & the
rolling gnarl of bitterbrush & the rudbeckia’s buttery eruption—

we were going our separate ways & there was eye contact
unsettling across the blue cigarette smoke years the curtains carried

across a street to a house as dark as spruce trees en-
circling a Vermont backyard in an August green

dusk—the lost & the dead come turning their faces into the
breeze—the sharp white ripples across the wind-stirred pond

John Hayes
© 2009


  1. Oooh, I especially like "eye contact unsettling/across blue cigarette smoke." Very Leonard Cohen-esque, who is much on my mind this morning.

  2. Thanks K:

    That's right, you & T went to hear L Cohen last night-- bet that was a good evening.

    Thanks again.

  3. I like the whiteness - if the poem were a photograph it would have an overexposed, dreamlike quality about it.

    Your ghazal references got me googling for a good half hour!

  4. Hi Dominic-- glad I was able to set you a merry ghazal chase, & thanks for your take on the poem.

  5. Nice to see a ghazal -- and this is the poem you mentioned yesterday in your comment! I have to ask why the dead & the lost come to visit...Indeed. You have captured the sentiment completely and evocatively.

    Thanks, John.

  6. Thanks T:

    I've wanted to go on a ghazal spree for years-- since I read Rich's ghazals back in the 90s. Maybe now's the time-- we'll see.

  7. that is really very lovely. when I got to "so I have to ask why we have travelled so far from the white white magnolia blooms of another April"... my heart and my eyes felt that nice kind of sad ache. very musical too... do you ever strum on your banjo or use another instrument when you are writing a poem?

  8. Hi Rene:

    Thanks for those kind words. No, I don't bring music to bear when writing, tho I guess I do have a pretty fair ear for verbal sound. Very glad you liked it.

  9. my favorite line too, is " cigarette smoke." I also like Vermont backyard...

    Like Dominic, I'm going to have to go google ghazal. I wonder if my father was aware of it. He was a grand poet!

  10. P.S. - he'd mastered what he said was the hardest poetry form - the French Sonnet. HIs discipline, as does yours, inspired and amazed me.

  11. Hi Jen:

    Thanks, I take that as very high praise & it's much appreciated. As I mentioned in my comment to the 4/25 ghazal post, my use of the form is a bit impressionistic, as I mainly am thinking in terms of the two-line stanza & the theme of loss.

    Thanks again.


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