Editor’s Comments – December 2007
Dust and bread are basic parameters of our lives, both literally and metaphorically. Steffen Horstmann’s ghazal ties the dust to which we’re kin to stars, silence, and wind. Bill Batcher’s bread is the whole symbolic loaf, intricated with Jewish and Christian imagery and tradition.
Which brings us to Baghdad, Babylon, and points further along the Silk Road. Baghdad should resonate for each of us, regardless of our political or religious commitments. A name that goes back, via Uruk, as far as written story goes, to the epic of Gilgamesh the king. The Hebrew and Christian scriptures inveigh against Babylon; Muslim history and tradition celebrate her. In this poem, Baghdad rhymes (as image) with Jupiter, eclipses, the moon, a woman’s (or general’s!) painted fingernails. Silk songs wrap us in our dreams of what might be or might have been.
Note, by the way, that this ghazal of Cathy’s uses a qafiya of consonant repetition, the Arabic microrhyme that David Jalajel writes about. While laid out like a Persian ghazal, “The Truth about Silk Wraps” rhymes in the Arabic manner.
Dust, bread, silk, . . . pearls. What statement do our teeth make? One of us grins widely, teeth on proud display; another speaks with lips drawn over teeth to conceal them. Are your teeth white enough? Too white? Would you have them whiter? Reflect on this ghazal before you answer!
The past, the night, and a dancing woman. “The Past” is about an abstract a noun as you get. Yet Steffen’s ghazal makes it concrete in images such as “that garden with a rusty gate,” “an old crate” “pried open” “with a crowbar.” How abstract is night? Isn’t the experience of night concrete? Isn’t the definition of night also concrete? Yet night is the house of major mysteries for us diurnal bipeds. A familiar place by day becomes strange at night, color drained, shadows heightened, with a kind of underglow that Steffen catches with phrases such as “the sound of waterfalls at night” or the dead “in their black shawls at night.”
This afternoon in our university center, I watched two young women dance as part of an international celebration. In their dancing, their moves mirrored each other. Until the end, they were a few feet apart. As it happens, I know both of them but didn’t recognize them as they danced. Yeats spoke of an awareness in which one cannot tell the “dancer from the dance.” (The last line of “Among School Children” is “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”)
What looks like dancing isn’t (always) dancing — the raindrops, the snowflake, the moonlight — to say these dance is to personify them, to layer them with our dreams, our desires. Yet, “What else is there to do? / Love is grace, and grace is only dancing.”